Man buys Hitler's top hat and Nazi memorabilia for £513,000 and donates it all to a Jewish organisation

‘I did not want these objects to fall into the wrong hands and be used by people with dishonest intentions,’ said businessman Abdallah Chatila

Kate Ng
Monday 25 November 2019 18:01
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A Lebanese businessman has donated Nazi memorabilia purchased from an auction to a Jewish organisation to keep them out of the hands of Neo-Nazis.

Abdallah Chatila, a diamond and real estate magnate based in Geneva, spent about £513,000 on 10 items, including Adolf Hitler’s own top hat, cigar box, and typewriter, as well as a silver-plated edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The items were purchased at Munich-based auction house, Hermann Historica.

Chatila initially intended to destroy the items after reading objections from Jewish groups to the sale, reported The Associated Press.

But he decided instead to donate them to a Jewish organisation and reached out to the Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal group.

He told Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche: “Far-right populism and anti-Semitism are spreading all over Europe and the world.

“I did not want these objects to fall into the wrong hands and be used by people with dishonest intentions.”

Mr Chatila will not see the items he purchased as they will be sent directly to the group.

Keren Haseyod's European director said no final decision has been made on what they will do with the items, and they will likely be sent to the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel where a selection of Nazi artefacts reside.

The head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said he was “bowled over” by the businessman’s gesture, adding that it was a “noble act of kindness, generosity and solidarity”.

He also said that Mr Chatila agreed to join a visit by 100 European parliament members to World War Two death camp Auschwitz in January, and will be presented with an award.

Mr Chatila is one of Switzerland’s 300 wealthiest people. He was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers in 1974.

The auction featured over 800 German historical collectibles, with 147 items specifically connected to Nazi Germany.

Despite protests from Jewish groups, it is legal to sell Nazi objects in Germany, except Nazi symbols including the swastika, which are banned.

Hermann Historica’s owner, Berhard Pacher, told German TV station NTV that most buyers that acquire Nazi memorabilia are museums, state collections and private collectors.

He added that the auction house is responsible for ensuring the items do not fall into the wrong hands.

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