1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Outrage over Australian sale of Nazi artefacts

December 2, 2018

An auction of Nazi German artefacts, including what were described as "great pictures of Hitler," has stirred controversy in Australia. The local Jewish community called the event outrageous.

An auction hammer sitting on a desk
Image: picture alliance/imageBROKER

Some 75 Nazi artefacts, including a portrait of Adolf Hitler, were sold at the weekend auction in the southeastern Australian town of Bredbo, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of the capital Canberra.

The event was hosted by David Smith Auctions, which said it had "great pictures of Hitler," and described several of the items of memorabilia in its catalogue as "magnificent." 

Photos posted to the auctioneer's Facebook page showed daggers emblazoned with swastikas, as well as badges, signs, newspapers, documents and helmets from Germany's Nazi regime.

Read moreNazi crimes prosecutor: 'Time is running out'

Museum spotlights looted art

'Kick in the stomach'

The auction drew an angry response from the chair of the Jewish community's Anti-Defamation Commission, who told The Australian newspaper the spectacle was grotesque and outrageous.

"It is a kick in the stomach to the victims, to the survivors who suffered and who lost relatives in the Holocaust, and to the Australian soldiers who died fighting to vanquish the Nazi regime," Chairman Dvir Abramovich said.

"The Nazis committed monstrous crimes using the imagery and symbols being offered here, and trying to profit from these bloodstained items is abhorrent and demonstrates a lack of decency."

Read moreNazi-looted art: Why are restitutions still the exception?

Divided opinion

Public opinion was divided on Facebook, where some users suggested the artefacts should be donated to a museum rather than sold for profit.

One person wrote on the auction site's page that "Third Reich items should be destroyed," adding that the sale was "glorifying an evil regime that poisoned many with its ideology."

Other users supported the auction, saying that the Nazi party was part of our history and needed to be preserved so that "it's there for future generations to learn from."

Read moreDutch trains to compensate descendants of Jews deported to Nazi camps

The auctioneer, David Smith, rejected the idea that the trade was "blood money," or that the items glorified the Nazi regime. However, he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) he would not use the word "magnificent" in future catalogues.

"Our servicemen, our diggers, went over and fought and they actually liberated the Jewish people," Smith told the ABC.

"It's the Jewish people that are the ones up in arms about it but we actually liberated them, and then they brought back souvenirs to say, 'Well, we won the war.' And now when those people pass on, [the Jewish community] expects us to destroy history."

International auction house Sothebys has banned the sale of Nazi memorabilia. In October, Melbourne auction house Downies removed Nazi artefacts from sale after a backlash from Jewish groups.

Camp survivor tells story