newsAntisemitism

B’nai Brith Canada: Shut down auction site hawking Shoah items

The “memorabilia” on offer include an empty canister of Zyklon B.

Hungarian Jews arrive at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. Credit: Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst-Zentralbild (Bild 183), German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons.
Hungarian Jews arrive at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. Credit: Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst-Zentralbild (Bild 183), German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

A Canadian website that is unique for “the sheer number of intimate items morbidly linked to the Holocaust being offered for sale” should be shuttered, Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, tells JNS.

“The proprietor of the website has gone to great lengths to acquire, inventory and retail a staggering catalog that is representative of some of the darkest moments of the Shoah,” Mostyn said of the site, privatecollections.ca.

Items available on the site include uncut “Jude” yellow stars, a leather strap said to have been used in a concentration camp, a “Kapo” armband, a sign reportedly from Auschwitz, a copy of the newspaper Der Stürmer and a wooden Jewish caricature souvenir.

Also for sale for $3,999: an empty can of Zyklon B—the pesticide the Germans and their helpers used to murder approximately 1.1 million people in gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanel and other death camps.

B’nai Brith has been unable to identify the person or people running the site. An “About” page on the site identifies the owner as a “private collector” of 25 years who purchased the items in flea markets and antique stores, and from dealers, in Poland and Germany.

Some Jewish-owned and other auction houses sell what is called “antisemitica,” which can include items related to the Holocaust. A disclaimer on the Canadian site states that it does so “for historical purposes only and should not be viewed as an attempt to glorify the tragic events of World War Two (or any other conflict).”

“I do not support in any way those who would condone or embrace individuals, groups and/or organizations that are intolerant, racist or violent,” the disclaimer states. “This site is respectfully dedicated to all those who suffered and died during the most tragic war in human history, both civilian and military and on all sides.”

B’nai Brith calls that “a weak disclaimer” that “cannot be squared with the unambiguous celebration of Hitler and the Nazi party contained throughout the website.”

Mostyn told JNS that Australia is seeking to legislate bans on displaying swastikas and other Nazi symbols. “There are other jurisdictions in Europe and elsewhere that restrict the sale and display of Nazi memorabilia,” he said.

Canada has no such legislation, although “usage or display of Nazi iconography, in certain circumstances, may violate the provisions of the Criminal Code that prevent ‘hate crimes,’” he said.

It is time to “adapt and modernize our laws to confront online hatred,” Mostyn added, noting that the Canadian Parliament is exploring such legislation. 

“B’nai Brith Canada has provided input to the committees presently engaged in the study of this,” he said. “There remains a need to further examine how online retailers are regulated.”

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