The French culture minister prevented the sale by auction of private objects that belonged to Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering, following objections by several Jewish organizations.
Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti queried the auction before the Council of Auctions regulator, asking “Should this sale to be held?” The council complied with the wish of minister to withdraw the objects from sale. “I am pleased with this decision which is necessary, considering both history and ethics,” she told AFP on Monday.
The auction, planned for April 26, was titled “War Prizes of the Second Armored Division – Hitler’s Berghof, May 1945.” The auction was to consist of 40 objects taken from the residence of the fuhrer in the Bavarian Alps and that of Goering, his neighbor. Also included were dishes from the hotel in the nearby market town of Berchtesgaden, where visiting Nazi dignitaries stayed, and stolen objects taken from Goering’s train captured in the town’s railway station. The US 3rd Infantry Division seized the train, while French soldiers of Gen. Philippe Leclerc’s Second Armored Division were the first allied troops to ascend the summit of Obersalzberg and reach the Berghof, Hitler’s vacation residence for 10 years.
During these operations troops, collected “war prizes.” One soldier, who is now 93, told AFP: “I was 25 years old. I took things that I liked on this train... Everyone was taking something. I didn’t know it had some value...
and then after 48 hours, the Americans stopped the looting.”
The sale organized by Maison Vermot de Pas, an auction house located on Rue Rossini in Paris’s 9th Arrondisment was to include, for example: an album from the 19th century of Lucas Cranach’s work, given to Goering for his birthday (valued at €1,000-€2,000), a manuscript with calligraphy from the 17th century also given to Goering (€3,000-€4,000), an ornamental wooden box with Nazi crosses offered to Hitler for his 45th birthday in 1934, and a small napkin with the Nazi eagle, the monogram A.H. and a Nazi cross. Superb French Grand Crus wines were found in Goering’s wine cellar. “We had excellent soirées,” he always boasted.
Last week, the BNVCA (National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism) asked the ministers of culture and interior, and the head of the Paris area police, to prohibit the “obscene” sale, which it said was “offending the victims,” and to seize the objects.
Yves Salmon, a sales expert, told AFP he was surprised by the protest, since he had asked for the advice of the Council of Auctions, which “confirmed to us that we can sell these objects, on condition that those with the Nazi cross were not exhibited publicly.“ He went on to say: ”You can’t know who is buying: collectors, institutions or ex-Nazis.”
In a similar sale held previously, a young woman bought four books from Berchtesgaden, he said.
Before Filippetti canceled the auction, CRIF, the French Jewish umbrella organization, said that “to trade in public with these kinds of objects is to give them an unhealthy symbolic value in something close to cynicism.”
After the sale was prohibited, Jonathan Arfi, vice president of CRIF, told Le Monde he was “worried that in these kinds of events, buyers are not all of them concerned with history.”
“Only museums, institutions should be involved,” he said.