Jewish group condemns auction of Hitler speeches in Germany

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FILE – An undated file picture shows the leader of the National Socialists Adolf Hitler, gesturing during a speech. A prominent European Jewish organization is criticizing a Munich auction house’s decision to sell several of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s handwritten speeches, saying it “defies logic, decency and humanity” to put them on the market(dpa via AP, file)

BERLIN (AP) — A prominent European Jewish organization slammed a Munich auction house’s decision to sell several of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s handwritten speech notes, saying Tuesday it “defies logic, decency and humanity” to put them on the market.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, said the upcoming sale of the manuscripts is particularly worrisome amid recent figures showing rising anti-Semitism in Germany, and could encourage neo-Nazis.

“I cannot get my head around the sheer irresponsibility and insensitivity, in such a febrile climate, of selling items such as the ramblings of the world’s biggest killer of Jews to the highest bidder,” he said in a statement. “What auctions like this do help legitimize Hitler enthusiasts who thrive on this sort of stuff.”

The speech notes being offered, all dated before World War II, are directed to Nazi-party organizations and contributors at various functions, and make reference to preparing Germany for war and the “Jewish problem,” said Bernhard Pacher, the managing director of the Hermann Historica auction house where they go on sale Friday.

He defended the sale, saying the papers belong in a museum or in the hands of researchers as historical documents.

“These are handwritten notes from Adolf Hitler, where if you analyze what he wrote … you can prove he was publicly speaking about going to war, about ‘resolving the Jewish problem,’” Pacher told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“If we destroy these things and they do not go into a museum for experts to work on them, you will leave the interpretation of what was happening to the right-wing Nazi apologists, who will say Hitler never said that. The man was preparing the Germans that there would be a war and those who didn’t want to see that must have been totally blind — it’s in there.”

The auction house has come under fire in the past for its sale of Nazi-era items, and maintains it goes to great lengths to ensure that they are not being sold to neo-Nazis, and are usually bought by museums and research facilities.

In 2016, it auctioned off one of Hitler’s uniforms for 275,000 euros ($325,000) and previously sold a typewriter and dozens of other items owned by the Nazi leader, among other things.

Perhaps most famously, last year a Lebanese-born Swiss real estate mogul purchased Hitler’s top hat, a silver-plated edition of “Mein Kampf” and other items the auction house offered in order to keep them out of the hands of neo-Nazis, and donated them to a Jewish group.

The auction house has also dealt in many other items owned by famous historical figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte’s silver and gold-plated toothbrush, a sabre that belonged to British naval hero Adm. Horatio Nelson, and a sword that once belonged to famed Italian seducer Giacomo Casanova.

Margolin called the businessman’s intervention to purchase the items last year “a miracle,” but said “we cannot rely on miracles going forwards” and urged the auction house to pull the speeches from the upcoming sale.

“It defies logic, decency and humanity for the very same auction house that came under fire less than a year ago for selling disgusting lots of Nazi memorabilia that they should do so again,” he said.

Starting prices for the speech notes range between 2,500 euros and 7,500 euros ($3,000-8,800), which Pacher said is a deterrent in and of itself to them being purchased by right-wing extremists.

“For neo-Nazi purposes, you don’t spend 10,000 on these things, you get yourself a copy,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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