Kiwi Jews slam 'tasteless' Nazi memorabilia auction

Jewish student union leader says sale of items bearing swastikas is a "slap in the face" to New Zealand's Jewish community.

A motorcycle helmet with Nazi swastika sign for sale 370 (photo credit: reuters)
A motorcycle helmet with Nazi swastika sign for sale 370
(photo credit: reuters)
An auction of Nazi memorabilia in New Zealand's Dunedin has sparked the ire of Jewish community leaders, according to a report in the Kiwi newspaper Otago Daily Times.
The auction of pre-1945 German military and Nazi items were up for bidding on Wednesday at  Hayward's Auction House, according to the report.
The selection includes belts, pins, helmets and Nazi flags, the latter two which were expected to rake in between $500 and $600 for the anonymous vendor.
According to the Otago Daily Times, Australasian Union of Jewish Students Dunedin branch president Ben Isaacs responded to news of the auction, saying that the sale of anything with a swastika is harmful to the memory of those who died as a result of Nazi persecution.
''The decision to run this auction shows a lack of taste and sensitivity to those who lived through these atrocities and their families,'' he was quoted as saying. ''It is a slap in the face to the Dunedin Jewish community and New Zealand Jewish community."
Hayward's co-proprietor Kevin Hayward told the newspaper that he was not concerned that the event would attract nationalists and white supremacists as he opined that for them, the items would "be too expensive anyway."
While the sale of Nazi memorabilia is prohibited in parts of Europe, it is legal in New Zealand and Australia, and Kiwi Jews have faced this issue before. In 2009, the New Zealand Jewish Council blasted an online auction site selling Nazi memorabilia.
Zillion, operated by Kiwis since 2005, had scores of items for sale listed under “Nazi,” including pins, badges, armbands and medals, as well as two Nazi officers’ hats bearing the eagle and the swastika.
New Zealand Jewish Council President Stephen Goodman said the sale of items from the Third Reich was disgraceful.
“There is, of course, a balance between the freedom of choice and censorship, but profiting from the sale of these items is abhorrent,” he told The Press newspaper at the time.
“In many ways, we’d like it to be made illegal, but that said, doing so might give it publicity that would only encourage certain elements.”
Zillion’s competitor, Trade Me, banned the sale of Nazi memorabilia in 2005.
A Zillion spokesman defended the right of individuals to sell what they want, although he stressed that the auction site did not endorse the Nazi regime.
“We do not feel that it is Zillion’s place to act as a moral censor,” the spokesman said.
JTA contributed to this report