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Israeli court halts auction of Auschwitz branding kit

November 3, 2021

A court in Israel has issued an injunction stopping the sale of a branding kit used at the Auschwitz death camp. Auctioneer Meir Tzolman said he is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor.

The entrance to Birkenau
Over 1 million Jewish people were branded with numbers in an act of dehumanization by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau Image: picture-alliance/Schoening

The Tel Aviv district court issued an injunction Wednesday, halting the sale of a partial branding kit used to tattoo inmates with numbers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, following an outcry from Holocaust survivors.

Though Israel does not have any laws specifically barring the sale of Holocaust memorabilia, the court's decision came after an appeal from survivors. The "temporary injunction" issued against auctioneer Meir Tzolman and Tzolman's Auctions in Jerusalem set the date of November 16 for an "urgent hearing" on the case.

The court's spokesperson did not clarify the legal basis for issuing the injunction.

'The most shocking Holocaust item'

Tzolman's auctions had listed eight original numerical digit stamps that had been used to brand inmates at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where nearly 1 million Jewish people were killed, along with tens of thousands of Polish Catholics, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war from 1940 to 1945.

Tzolman told an interviewer prior to the auction that he was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. He said the auction was a way to ensure the objects found their way to "the right hands."

"The seller is determined to sell any way necessary," Tzolman said. "We received calls from tens of people who want to bid on this item and donate it," he added. "Each one noted a name of a different museum related to the Holocaust."

Tzolman would also receive 25% commission on the sale.

He had listed the items on his auction website with the descriptor "The most shocking Holocaust item" and a note that only three such stamp kits were known to exist in the world. The one he was selling was the largest.

Tzolman put the expected sale value at $30,000 to $40,000 (€25,900-€34,500). Bidding had reached $3,400 by Wednesday when the website shut the sale down on account of the court-ordered suspension.

Object of evil that belongs to humanity

The Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel successfully filed with the Tel Aviv district court to have the sale blocked for now.

The group's attorney, David Fohrer, wrote in his appeal that "such an evil item can't have an owner," adding that it "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."

Colette Avital, head of the organization, told AFP that "these are objects that were used for especially cruel crimes to turn people from humans into numbers."

Pawel Sawicki, a press officer at the Auschwitz memorial in Poland, told Reuters that "if they would be authentic, then the very fact that such unique historical items are put up for auction — and not given to an institution that commemorates the victims and educates about the tragedy of Auschwitz — deserves the words of protest and condemnation."

Memories of the Holocaust

ar/nm (AFP, Reuters)

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