Australian politicians bought Nazi artifacts in auction

An Australian auction house has defended their sale of Nazi memorabilia by claiming that politicians were among those who purchased the items.

A Nazi armband with a swastika displayed in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A Nazi armband with a swastika displayed in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An Australian auction house, Danielle Elizabeth Auctions, that sold an extensive collection of Nazi paraphernalia earlier this month online defended the sale this week by stating “many politicians” were among the buyers.

The items sold included a striped cap from a concentration camp, a winter coat with a yellow star, photo albums of dead soldiers and prisoners of war, personal photo albums of SS officers, and signed photos of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Erwin Rommel.

Other artifacts sold included Nazi uniforms, helmets, and daggers, a Nazi vase, anti-Semitic propaganda posters, and Hitler posters.

The auction house, which is based in Southport, Queensland, promoted the sale using the slogan, “Huge Militaria Sale. Get it Before History is Banned & Erased.”

The slogan references a recently introduced bill that would see the Australian federal government ban public display of Nazi symbols across Australia.

Jewish groups such as the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and Anti-Defamation Commission were supportive of the bill and were outraged by Danielle Elizabeth Auctions’ decision to move forward with the auction.

A man wearing a Swastika [Illustrative] (credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
A man wearing a Swastika [Illustrative] (credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)

Auction house defends sale

Dustin Sweeney, the managing director of Danielle Elizabeth Auctions, dismissed the criticism and defended the auction, claiming that it was not illegal and that Australian politicians had purchased items in the sale.

“I can honestly say I’ve never even met a neo-Nazi. The people buying our historical artifacts are collectors, politicians, lawyers, emergency doctors and history professors,” he told Guardian Australia. “It’s legal, it isn’t illegal, we aren’t selling drugs to kids.”

Sweeney refused to provide further details about the identity of the politicians, stating that auction house did not reveal personal information about their clients.

“There are lots of politicians, but I can’t divulge names or what they buy, or how much they spend. Quite often we have buyers’ agents who make purchases for people’s collections, where they don’t want people out there screaming about it,” he said.

“Everyone is now trying to dig and find out who it is to point fingers, but I can’t divulge names or information about our buyers.”

The auction house’s description of Lot 158 - Jewish Concentration Camp and Atrocity Photos - reads as follows: “Many of these are very disturbing, to put it mildly…there are a number of very gruesome photos including execution photos, piles of dead bodies, firing squad pictures, photos inside the concentration camps including many prisoner profile pictures, and there is even an original Jewish passport included.”

Following instructions on how to bid, the item description ends: “Thank You, and enjoy the sale.”

This is not the first time that Danielle Elizabeth Auctions has come under fire for selling Nazi paraphernalia. In 2022 they had held an auction selling items such as various badges, an Adolf Hitler support clip, a Luftwaffe general’s set of rank boards and collar tabs, a general’s cockade (hat pin), and wreath.

Sweeney claimed he had received over 100 death threats in response to the auctions.

“The first time we had it I received 136 death threats and had to disconnect our phone for three days,” Sweeney stated. “I tell them this: If they want to stop the world trading in this militaria then they need to change legislation, not bash small business.”

Jewish groups speak out

Dvir Abramovich, chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, has spoken out against Danielle Auction House for their sale of Nazi memorabilia on multiple occasions.

Following their most recent auction, he called on Australian politicians to disclose if they had bought any of the items and asked them to explain why they would take part in such a sale.

“I call on every member of the federal parliament to disclose whether they own Nazi memorabilia or obtained these blood-stained items from last weekend’s revolting auction,” he said. “If they have, they need to explain why it is OK for the extermination and dehumanization of millions to have a tag price and be offered to the highest bidder.”

Mark Dreyfus, Australia’s federal attorney general, criticized the sale as well.

“The government’s position on this could not be clearer,” Dreyfus stated. “I’d have to ask why anybody would want to own these symbols that glorify hatred and the horrors of the Holocaust.”

Darren Bark, chief executive of the New South Wales (NSW) Jewish Board of Deputies, said that such items should only be available for education purposes and supported the legislation to ban the trade and display of Nazi memorabilia.

He stated that such artifacts were an affront to the Jewish community, Australian soldiers who fought the Nazis in World War II, their descendants, the LGBTQ+ community and democratic values.

“The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies welcomes the proposed federal legislation banning the trade of these symbols and continues to work to ensure that these disgusting auctions are illegal in NSW,” Bark said.

“Unless used for educational purposes or in other reasonable settings, Nazi symbols are a threat to our entire country and have no place in our tolerant, multicultural society.”

“These symbols are chilling reminders of a horrific period in history and belong in museums to remember the horrors of the Holocaust, not flogged off to the highest bidder at auction.”

Victoria and NSW have already criminalized the display and distribution of Nazi symbols.