Some dealers don’t touch it. Other auction houses specialise in it. And Jewish Museums are among the biggest buyers…
Given that last fact, it may surprise you that I’m talking about Nazi memorabilia.
Needless to say, Nazi memorabilia is among the strangest and most controversial areas of collecting (it’s actually illegal to buy or sell the stuff in Germany). Yet Adolf Hitler’s collectibles are never far from the newspapers…
It seems that every other month sees fresh reports of Nazi artefacts appearing for sale. And the latest news concerns a document that is very contentious indeed…
Apparently, the Tolerance Museum of Los Angeles is exhibiting the only existing written statement by Hitler in which he states his plans to exterminate the Jewish population.
It surprised me to learn this, but apparently Hitler’s thoughts on the subject aren’t known to have been committed to paper anywhere else. Which certainly makes this piece unique…
Despite its foreboding content, the letter was written when Hitler was an unknown 30-year-old and working for a German army propaganda unit. Dated September 16, 1919, it contains young Hitler’s response to a query from one Adolf Gemlich about the so-called “Jewish Question.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the letter soon descends into an anti-Semitic diatribe. Hitler describes the Jewish people as “pure materialists in thought and aspirations” and likens their effect to a “racial tuberculosis on the nation.”
His letter also mentions “the uncompromising removal of the Jews altogether.”
All very unpleasant… Yet also remarkable considering that the letter’s owner paid a whopping $150,000 for it… and happens to be none other than the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a global Jewish human rights organisation.
It’s well-known that Nazi memorabilia attracts all kinds of undesirable people. So why an earth would a Jewish institution want to buy this particular letter for such a substantial sum?
Well, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s reason for buying the letter actually makes perfect sense. It is hoped that displaying the letter with both educate future generations and counter Holocaust denial.
In fact, the Tolerance Museum’s display of Hitler’s letter is only the latest example of how collectors are re-appropriating Hitler’s memorabilia to educate people and ensure that the horrors of the Nazi era are never forgotten.
So what do you think? Is the Tolerance Museum right to preserve Hitler’s darkest thoughts, or should Nazi memorabilia be consigned to history’s scrapheap? Leave your comments below.