Ebay’s Disturbing Trade in Holocaust Souvenirs: Outrage Over Death Camp Relic AuctionsPosted: November 2, 2013
Items for sale include the clothes of concentration camp victims. Among dozens of sick souvenirs on offer last week was a striped uniform thought to have belonged to a Polish baker who died in Auschwitz, which was on sale for £11,200.
It was one of dozens of offensive items uncovered by a Mail on Sunday investigation. And within hours of being alerted to the item by this newspaper, eBay removed it from sale after conducting an ‘urgent investigation’.
The striped pyjama-style concentration camp uniform was worn by death camp inmates
Among dozens of sick souvenirs on offer last week was a striped uniform thought to have belonged to a Polish baker
The internet giant apologised and vowed to give £25,000 to a suitable charity, before removing more than 30 other death camp souvenirs which it said had evaded its strict vetting process.
eBay, the world’s largest online marketplace, admitted it had no idea how long it has been helping sell items linked to genocide, but one Nazi memorabilia dealer boasted of selling an Auschwitz victim’s uniform for thousands of pounds on the site last year.
The company receives a commission on items sold, as well as charging a listing fee.
Last night Holocaust survivors, politicians and campaigners around the globe reacted to The Mail on
Sunday’s findings with revulsion and disbelief.
Eva Clarke, 68, from Cambridge, who was born in a concentration camp in 1945 and lost 15 members of her family at Auschwitz-Birkenau, said: ‘I am at a loss for words how a mainstream site like eBay could profit from this.
‘It is so disrespectful to the victims.’
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: ‘I applaud The Mail on Sunday for exposing this vile and repulsive trade.
‘Websites need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that this kind of thing is not made available.’
Among the items we found for sale on eBay last week were:
- A pair of shoes belonging to a death camp victim advertised for £940.
- Yellow Star of David armbands singling out Jews for persecution.
- A Holocaust victim’s battered suitcase priced at £492.
- A £145 ‘concentration camp toothbrush’.
Meanwhile, other sites were offering gas chamber ‘handles’ adorned with swastikas from Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
The most offensive item on eBay was a complete Auschwitz prisoner uniform, including striped shirt, trousers, cap and wooden shoes, with the seller including an armband from Dachau along with the sale.
he item was accompanied by a haunting image of a pile of garments from camp victims.
The seller, Viktor Kempf, a Ukranian now living in Vancouver, Canada, claimed the uniform once belonged to a ‘Wolf Gierson Grundmann’ whose serial number ‘9489’ is stitched to the breast of his shirt. Mr Grundmann’s name can be found on a database of concentration camp victims held by the Yad Vashem centre for Holocaust research in Jerusalem.
Kempf, who describes himself as historian, said he bought the clothes, which he insists are genuine, from a reputable dealer in America. It wasn’t immediately possible for experts to confirm their authenticity last night.
Kempf said: ‘I understand why people may think profiting is wrong but I sell these items to document [them] and to fund my book projects. If I was a descendant of a victim, I would want to see how my relatives lived. I would want to buy these items to remember them. I run the prisoner numbers on the items through a database to get the names but I personally haven’t had any contact with any of the families. It’s not my place to go searching for these people.
‘I have had criticism in the past and I find it upsetting. I don’t want people to think I’m just doing it for the money. These periods in history are horrific, nobody should ever forget them.’
Last week Kempf was also selling concentration camp ‘trousers’ with an estimate price of between £5,000 and £5,600 and boasted: ‘Last year the uniform from concentration camp sold on eBay for $18,000!! [£11,200]’ The trousers are said to have belonged to a Dawid Bittersfeld, who died at Auschwitz, and were ‘bought many years ago in Krakow, Poland’ from his family.
Experts believe Nazi and Holocaust memorabilia is becoming increasingly accessible as those who lived through the war are dying, leaving artifacts behind. To some they are simply collectible items, but to others the objects glorify the horrors of the Nazi regime.
The internet giant apologised and vowed to give £25,000 to a suitable charity, before removing more than 30 other death camp souvenirs which it said had evaded its strict vetting process
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, said: ‘It is flat out disgusting for eBay, to profit from the prison garbs of Holocaust victims. They are on the same page as advertisements for major companies like Kia and McDonald’s. This is taking the sale of Nazi death camp memorabilia to the mainstream. It is deplorable.
‘These precious items only belong in museums because they are witnesses to history. This trade is demeaning to everyone who died in the Holocaust.’
eBay has broken no UK laws by selling materials from the Holocaust. But the same trade is banned in Germany, Austria and France. In 2000 Yahoo was sued in France for allowing an auction of Nazi memorabilia.
Mrs Clarke, whose father was shot just a week before Auschwitz was liberated by Russian soldiers in 1945, said: ‘Many survivors of Auschwitz burnt their uniforms. But I do know of some who kept theirs, and other mementoes.
‘I have a yellow badge with the word Jude, which is German for Jew, written on it, which I would never sell as it was given to me by another survivor. To buy or sell this memorabilia is morbid, it sends shivers down my spine.’
TV historian Simon Schama said: ‘This is absolutely beyond belief. Plainly there is no moral atrocity to which eBay will not descend to make a buck. This is an unspeakable act of moral cretinousness.’ Founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s global revenue in 2012 was £9 billion. Its first president was Canadian Jeffrey Skoll, who is from a Jewish family.
The company bans the sale of Nazi paraphernalia, but said in these cases that the items had ‘slipped through the net’.
eBay’s vice-president for UK marketplaces, Tanya Lawler, was unavailable for comment last night, but in a statement the company said: ‘We are very sorry these items have been listed on eBay and we are removing them. We don’t allow listings of this nature, and dedicate thousands of staff to policing our site and use the latest technology to detect items that shouldn’t be for sale.
‘We very much regret that we didn’t live up to our own standards.’
Additional reporting: Ian Gallagher
Who wants to profit from symbols of the camps?
BY GERALD KAUFMAN, MP FOR MANCHESTER, GORTON
Q&A ON HOLOCAUST AUCTION
‘HOLOCAUST’ SALES: WHY CAN’T EBAY STOP THEM?
The company said it uses a filter system which is supposed to pick up restricted items uploaded by sellers, but admitted that goods can slip through the net. eBay said that in light of The Mail on Sunday’s findings, it would be redoubling its efforts to remove items of concern.
HOW MUCH DOES EBAY MAKE FROM THEM?
The site makes ten per cent from the final sale price of items and receives a listing fee ranging from free to a few pounds depending on type of sale and country which it is being sold from. In the case of the concentration camp uniform priced at $18,000, the company would receive a listing fee of 50 cents (31p) and royalties of $1,800 (£1,125) should the item sell for its full price.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
The authenticity or origin of Holocaust items cannot be immediately verified, but the sellers claim the memorabilia is genuine and in some cases have stated that it was originally sourced from the victims’ families.
IS IT ILLEGAL?
The sale of Holocaust memorabilia is legal in the UK but outlawed in Germany, France and Austria.
For me this is personal. It is impossible for me to know exactly how many members of my family were murdered in the Holocaust, the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews. Some never even got as far as the death camps.
My mother’s mother was shot dead in her bed, in the Polish town of Staszow, during the Second World War.
The German occupation forces decided she was not fit enough to be marched to the railway station, from which that day the Jews of the town were being shipped to the camps.
What goes for me goes for very many other survivor families – and, far more so, for still-living survivors of the camps. I visited one not long ago, in Greater Manchester, to share his memories of his ghastly experiences.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Holocaust was one of the greatest atrocities in all human history.
The filmed news reports of the liberation of those camps, as Allied forces reached them during the final period of the war, in 1945, showed piles of emaciated corpses clad in those obscene camp uniforms, and still living – but only just – survivors of this mass slaughter.
I am appalled that relics of that crime should have been put up for profitable sale.
It was absolutely right that eBay, when it discovered what was going on, should have put a stop to the sales and offered some sort of compensation.
Yet what was going on in the minds of whoever was trying to make financial gain from the visible symbols of the camps?
Those uniforms, those Stars of David that symbolised the religion of the victimised Jews.
While Jews formed the overwhelming majority of prisoners in the camps, there were other, non-Jewish victims, such as gypsies and homosexuals.
In one way, I suppose, we should be grateful to the vendors of the relics.
Whatever their motives, they have reminded current generations of these Nazi bestialities.
We must never forget.
- Holocaust memorabilia found on eBay: UK newspaper report (reuters.com)
- Holocaust Memorabilia Found on eBay: UK Newspaper Report (nytimes.com)
- Holocaust memorabilia found on eBay: UK newspaper report (scooprocket.com)
- EBay: Nazi Holocaust Memorabilia Removed (news.sky.com)
- EBay sorry over Holocaust listings (bbc.co.uk)
- eBay takes down 30 items of holocaust memorabilia listed for sale (firstpost.com)
- EBay sorry over Holocaust listings (oddonion.com)
- What is Holocaust denial? (pauleisen.blogspot.com)
- Ebay’s sick trade in Holocaust souvenirs: Outrage over auctions of Death Camp relics (thisismoney.co.uk)
- Ebay’s sick trade in Holocaust souvenirs: Outrage over auctions of Death Camp relics (dailymail.co.uk)