Collecting Nazi memorabilia may be an unpleasant hobby but it is not illegal in France.
Displaying Nazi insignia in public is banned. Is it, then, legal or illegal to sell by auction objects which were looted by French soldiers from Adolf Hitler’s Bavarian hideaway?
Technically, it is legal because even a public auction is a private event. Even so, the Vermot de Pas auction house in Paris has been forced by a political outcry and pressure from Jewish groups to cancel a sale of looted objects, including a Swastika-engraved box given to Hitler for his birthday. The 40 objects had been offered for sale by anonymous French soldiers – or the descendants of French soldiers – who captured and looted Hitler’s Bavarian mountain home, the Berghof, in May 1945. The lots included the passports of the Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering and his wife, an aviator’s watch and silverware.
“How is it that French soldiers pocketed these things rather than pass them to the military authorities?” asked Samuel Gozlan, president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. The auction catalogue said part of the profits were to go to a French organisation for Auschwitz survivors. Is the organisation’s secretary, Roger Herman, disappointed to lose the money? He said he was never approached.