British auctioneer’s Holocaust letter may be a fake

Letter describes the transportation of 5,000 Jews daily to the Treblinka extermination camp.

August 9, 2013 23:45
1 minute read.
Israeli high school students at Treblinka

Israeli high school students at Treblinka 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

An auction house in Britain is investigating the authenticity of a letter said to detail Jewish transports during the Holocaust.

The letter, which is set to be auctioned off August 21, describes the transportation of 5,000 Jews daily to the Treblinka extermination camp. But doubts have been cast on its authenticity, leading the auction house, Mullock’s, to investigate its provenance.

“I shall be investigating this with the vendor and making inquiries,” said Richard Westwood-Brookes, an expert with the auction house, according to the Jewish Chronicle of London. “We are obviously putting it up for auction in good faith. If I can’t get to the bottom of this we will withdraw it pending further investigations.”

Dated July 19, 1942, the letter was purportedly sent by German railway boss Theodor Ganzenmuller to Karl Wolff, chief of staff for Heinrich Himmler, a leading figure in the Nazi party. But the document, which is expected to fetch about $930, is an almost identical copy of another letter used in evidence at the Nuremberg Trials and dated nine days later.

Ben Barkow, the director of the Wiener Library, one of the world’s most extensive archives on the Holocaust, told the Jewish Chronicle of London that the letter’s wording and grammar “are riddled with mistakes” and that a fuller accounting of its history is in order.

“Without a satisfactory account of the history of this document since 1945, I believe that few historians would feel able to have confidence in its authenticity,” Barkow said.

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