update deskWorld News

‘Ethicist’ advises on what to do with inherited World War II-era German helmet 

A widow expressed her recent discomfort with an antique, given the resurgence in antisemitism.

Leibstandarte SS troops wearing refurbished World War I Stahlhelme during a drill inspection in Berlin, Nov., 22 1938. Credit: German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons.
Leibstandarte SS troops wearing refurbished World War I Stahlhelme during a drill inspection in Berlin, Nov., 22 1938. Credit: German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

The delicate situation of how to handle a historical item associated with the German Third Reich and the Nazi Party has made headlines before. This week, The New York Times weighed in on its approach to the possession and possible sale of what might be viewed as a morally tainted object.

The April 3 edition of “The Ethicist” Times newsletter began with a widow asking what to do with the Nazi helmet inherited from her deceased husband, who received it from his father. She felt that it was wrong to sell the antique, writing that she was at the same time “very uncomfortable” owning it, given “the resurgence in white supremacy, neo-fascism and antisemitism.”

Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, responded to her dilemma. 

Appiah dismissed the likelihood that a neo-Nazi would buy the helmet—most collectors are military enthusiasts indifferent to the ideologies behind their pieces, he said—and the item in question, he added, is not uncommon on the market.

Further, Appiah rejected the idea that because some antisemite might appreciate the helmet meant that the item was somehow tainted and unethical for someone else to purchase.

“Keep it, donate it, sell it—just don’t endow the helmet with talismanic powers,” he wrote.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates