Israel suspends auction of tattoo stamps used at Auschwitz

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Israel suspends auction of tattoo stamps used at Auschwitz

An Israeli court has blocked the auction of tattoo stamps the Nazis used on inmates at the Auschwitz death camp, amid an outcry by Holocaust survivors.

Jerusalem-based Tzolman’s Auctions had listed eight stamps once used to brand serial numbers on the inmates at the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

“The original stamps used to tattoo the numbers on Auschwitz prisoners. The most shocking Holocaust item,” bragged Tzolman’s website, which noted that the collection is the largest of only three sets known in the world, Agence France-Presse reported.

The stamps, made of steel dies lined with pins, were obtained from a private collector.

The projected sale was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, bidding had reached $3,400 when the Tel Aviv District Court granted a request by survivors to order the auction stopped pending a Nov. 16 hearing on whether it should continue.

The dies from a tattoo kit, and a manual, are displayed at an Israeli auction house which says they were used on inmates at Auschwitz.
The dies from a tattoo kit, and a manual, are displayed at an Israeli auction house which says they were used on inmates at Auschwitz.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Auctioneer Meir Tzolman’s website was amended to show the sale had been suspended.

Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, called the sale “morally unacceptable” and said the items should go to them.

“The trade of these items is morally unacceptable and only encourages the proliferation of counterfeits,” Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan said, according to Reuters.

The dies from a tattoo kit, and a manual, are displayed at an Israeli auction house
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, called the sale “morally unacceptable.”
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israel’s Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors had filed the request to the court that the sale be frozen.

The center’s head, Colette Avital, said the stamps belonged in a museum.

“Objects like this shouldn’t be traded, and certainly should not be owned privately,” she told AFP.

“These are objects that were used for especially cruel crimes,” Avital said, used “to turn people from humans into numbers.”

A worker at an Israeli auction house organises dies from a tattoo kit,
A worker at the auction house organizes dies from the tattoo kit.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Attorney David Fohrer wrote in the appeal, “Such an evil item can’t have an owner … Its sale is illegal and goes against the public decency doctrine,” AFP reported.

“This is an item that is not private property, rather a horrific monument belonging to the entire public, and serving as evidence to the crimes of the Nazis and their aides,” he added.

During World War II, more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz, the only facility that tattooed inmates.

Israel has no law banning private sales of Holocaust relics. A court spokesman’s statement did not specify the legal basis for the injunction.

A worker at an Israeli auction house holds a die from a tattoo kit
Israel’s Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors filed the request to the court that the sale be suspended.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
The dies from a tattoo kit, and a manual, are displayed at an Israeli auction house
Israel has no law banning private sales of Holocaust relics.
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Tzolman told Reuters before the injunction that he was the grandson of Holocaust survivors who had been tattooed — and defended the auction as a way to ensure the dies reached “the right hands.”

“The seller is determined to sell any way necessary,” said Tzolman, who would take a 25 percent commission.

“We received calls from tens of people who want to bid on this item and donate it. Each one noted a name of a different museum related to the Holocaust,” he told Reuters.

 

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