Lebanese businessman donates Nazi items sold at auction to Israel

“The example set by Mr. Chatila is one that deserves as much attention as possible," said European Jewish Association head Rabbi Menachem Margolin.

Nazi artifacts at a news conference at the Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires (photo credit: REUTERS/AGUSTIN MARCARIAN)
Nazi artifacts at a news conference at the Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires
Geneva-based Lebanese entrepreneur Abdallah Chatila purchased €600,000 worth of Nazi memorabilia at the controversial Hermann Historica auction in Munich, only to donate them to Keren Hayesod.
The Munich auction was met with incredible controversy when it was announced last week that it would be auctioning a veritable treasure trove of Nazi memorabilia, including such items as Adolf Hitler’s top hat, and a silver-plated copy of Mein Kampf that once belonged to senior Nazi Hermann Goering.
In addition to these, Chatila also walked away with Hitler’s personal cigar box, a silver frame offered to SS commander Ulrich Graf, several handwritten letters to Hitler’s childhood friend August Kubizek and the typewriter that Hitler’s assistant, Traudl Junge, used to capture the Nazi leader’s words.
Donating the memorabilia wasn’t Chatila’s original intention.
“I first wanted to buy these objects to destroy them” he told a French newspaper. However, he ultimately decided to donate the items to Keren Hayesod, an Israeli foundation. 
"Keren Hayesod and its leadership around the world is extremely grateful to Mr. Chatila for what he has done to make sure that these items don’t end up in the wrong hands," said Sam Grundwerg, World Chairman of Keren Hayesod. "We are in the process of consulting with the appropriate authorities and institutions, including Yad Vashem and will decide very soon what should be done with these items. We will ensure that they are dealt with in a responsible manner and in a way that is respectful to humanity and the Jewish people."

The European Jewish Association’s head Rabbi Menachem Margolin said he was “bowled over” by Chatila’s generosity.
“We believe that the trade in such items is morally unjustifiable and it seemed, given the uproar and outrage that led up and following the auction and acres of media coverage, that we were not alone,” Margolin said in a statement.
“We were not prepared, however, 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.
“We thank Mr. Chatila on behalf of our association, our members and the hundreds of communities that we represent. Additionally, we are inviting him to attend an upcoming delegation to Auschwitz that we are organizing for 100 MPs from across the continent to see and learn first-hand where the Nazi ideology leads. Mr. Chatila’s inspiring act is a story that deserves to be told at the highest levels, and we invite him, as our guest, to do so there, where we will present him with an award for his act.
“The example set by Mr. Chatila is one that deserves as much attention as possible, we thank him from the bottom of our hearts for showing the world that an act of righteousness such as this has the power to literally and metaphorically burn the dark Nazi past away.”
It is currently unknown what the Jewish community plans to do with the items.
Margolin had earlier urged the auction house to cancel the sale, not wishing to give neo-Nazis material to glorify and venerate the Nazi leader.
Hermann Historica director Bernhard Pacher told the Bild daily: “Yes, Hitler sells, but most of all to customers who are approaching it with serious historical interest.”
Chatila is among the 300 wealthiest people in Switzerland, having been extremely successful in jewelry, real estate and insurance, Swiss Arab Entrepreneurs reported in March 2019. He is estimated to be worth roughly CHF 200 million (around $200.5 million).