Nazi paraphernalia went up for sale. Neo-Nazis, however, were pointedly outsmarted.
We were right on board with Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association, who condemned the auction of Nazi items belonging to Hitler and other Nazi leaders by the Hermann Historica auction house in Munich. The rabbi begged the auction house not to conduct the sale. The auction house came back with the lame response that among the potential purchasers were museum and “serious collectors,” as if this derailed the rabbi’s concern about the glorification of Nazism and Nazis leaders.
Look what happened. It was not a “serious” collector who stepped up, but — we can think of no other term — a serious anti-collector. A person whose goal was the exact opposite of the glorification ofNazis and Nazism. Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila put down $50,000 for a Hitler’s top hat and an additional $551,000 for assorted other Nazi paraphernalia, all for the express purpose of donating these items to a major Jewish entity. That is, for the purpose of keeping these items out of the hands of neo-Nazis and their ilk.
Chatila purchased Hitler’s cigar box and typewriter, a silver-plated copy of Mein Kampf that once belonged to senior Nazi Hermann Goering — may their names and memory be blotted out — and other Nazi items. He paid top dollar for all these items because, as he told a Swiss newspaper:
“I wanted to buy these objects so that they couldn’t be used for neo-Nazi propaganda purposes. Far-right populism and anti-Semitism are advancing throughout Europe and world. I didn’t want these objects to fall into the wrong hands and be used by people with dishonest intentions.
Chatila is estimated to be worth about $200.5 million. He said he would donate the objects to Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal.
Rabbi Margolin was more than pleased to eat crow. “We were not prepared in this cynical world in which we live to expect an act of such kindness, such generosity and such solidarity as demonstrated by Mr. Chatila. It is clear he understood our aggravation and hurt at the sale and decided to do something about it in a way that nobody foresaw.
“We greatly appreciate his understanding that such items have no place on the market and should ultimately be destroyed. But that he chose to give the items to Jews shows a remarkable conscience and understanding.”
To which we can only say: Amen.
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