Six decades after the end of the Holocaust, Nazi paraphernalia is becoming increasingly available over the Internet, offering Web users an array of Nazi memorabilia in an ongoing battle that pits lucrative and borderless global Internet commerce and the principle of freedom of speech against opaque Internet jurisdiction laws.
A quick search of two popular Internet sites, eBay and Yahoo, on Tuesday revealed an array of Nazi paraphernalia for sale, including medallions and swastika-emblazoned battle flags, often being sold at 99 cents an item.
Available on eBay were an assortment of Nazi coins and banknotes and an array of Hitler and Nazi stamps, Nazi. The California-based Yahoo shopping site, which, like eBay, is protected by US freedom of speech laws, included Nazi patches for $4 and a swastika armband at $12.40.
The same search offers buyers anti-Nazi T-shirts and a book called Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File.
The issue of Holocaust paraphernalia for auction on the Internet is a "complex and problematic" one which is difficult to regulate but must be dealt with, said the director of Yad Vashem library, Dr. Robert Rozett.
Rozett noted that the range of buyers and sellers of Holocaust memorabilia includes both neo-Nazi skinheads attempting to glorify the Nazi regime and legitimate collectors. "The question is, where does freedom of speech impinge on someone else's rights and feelings?" he said.
The issue of Nazi memorabilia on the Internet came to the fore in France five years ago, when France's Union of Jewish Students and the International Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism League sued Yahoo for allowing Nazi collectables to be sold on its auction pages under a French law that bars the display or sale of racist material.
The case led to a landmark ruling in France, with a court ordering Yahoo to block Internet surfers in France from accessing auctions that sell Nazi memorabilia.
Earlier this year, a Paris appeals court upheld a decision that absolved Yahoo of any legal responsibility for auctions of Nazi paraphernalia through its Web site.