Outrage as private auctioneer sells stamps used to tattoo Auschwitz inmates: ‘Despicable’

Leaders of the Jewish community condemn the auction and question authenticity of the stamps

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 03 November 2021 11:10
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<p>Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman displays his number tattoo at the Jewish Museum in London, England</p>

Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman displays his number tattoo at the Jewish Museum in London, England

An auction to sell tools used to tattoo prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust has led to outrage in the Jewish community.

The tools, including 14 stamps and an instruction booklet for branding cattle from manufacturer Aesculap, are valued at $30,000-40,000 (£22,011-29,348) by the Tzolmans auction house in Jerusalem.

The auction is set to close on 9 November and the leading bid as of Wednesday stood at $3,400 (£2,495).

“The collection of seals symbolises... the most horrific tragedy and the Holocaust of our people known to the horrors,” the auction house wrote on their website.

The Nazis tattooed prisoners with numbers and letters on their arms, a permanent marking of the Holocaust’s horrors that survivors still carry with them.

Jewish prisoners were tattooed with stamps consisting of needles arranged in the shape of numbers. These were punched onto inmates’ skins after which ink was rubbed into wounds to make them appear prominently, according to the US’s Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler killed at least 1.1 million people at the Auschwitz concentration camp and a total of six million Jews across Europe during the Second World War.

The set of tools is reportedly one of three known kits that survived the war. While one of them is stored at a military museum in Russia’s St Petersburg, the third one is on display at the concentration camp.

Leaders of the Jewish community condemned the auction and questioned the authenticity of the stamps.

Dani Dayan, the chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem National Holocaust Memorial, tweeted in Hebrew that they “oppose the existence of a market for Jewish or Nazi objects”.

“On principle, Yad Vashem opposes the existence of a market for Jewish or Nazi objects from the time of the Holocaust and therefore does not purchase such items. Fortunately, the number of items donated to Yad Vashem is dozens of times higher than those traded,” he said.

In another statement quoted by Haaretz, Mr Dayan said that “the trade of these items is morally unacceptable and only encourages the proliferation of counterfeits. Yad Vashem opposes the sale and urges both auction sites and online sellers to stop selling these historic items from the Holocaust.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, has also written to Israel’s justice minister asking him to stop the “despicable sale”.

The auctioneer, however, maintains that the sale is meant to increase awareness about the Holocaust.

“I am the last to underestimate or diminish the value of the Holocaust. I want to make sure that the item gets into the right hands and does not disappear from the pages of history,” auctioneer Meir Tzolman told Army Radio, an Israeli radio network.

Earlier in 2019, the Tel Aviv district court blocked the sale of a letter written by a young girl who was killed in the Holocaust.

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