A Lebanese millionaire living in Switzerland bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi memorabilia to prevent them falling into the hands of the far-Right, it has emerged.
Abdallah Chatila bought the items, which also include a cigar box and typewriter that once belonged to Hitler, for €545,000 (£466,000) at an auction in Munich last week.
“I wanted to buy these objects so that they would not be used for neo-Nazi propaganda purposes,” Mr Chatila told Switzerland’s Le Matin Dimanche newspaper. “My approach is totally apolitical and neutral.”
He said he originally planned to destroy the objects but now intends to donate them to Keren Hayesod, an Israeli fundraising organisation.
“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 to be used by people with dishonest intentions,” he said.
The items bought by Mr Chatila, which include a collapsible opera hat allegedly once worn by Hitler, an embossed special edition of Mein Kampf and a swastika that belonged to Hermann Goering, were among those on offer at a controversial online auction in Munich last week.
Jewish groups condemned the sale, and accused Hermann Historica, the auction house behind it, of trading in “Nazi souvenirs” and enabling people to “glorify the Nazis”.
Hermann Historica is one of a small number of auction houses around the world that trade in Nazi memorabilia, which are turned away by better known auctioneers such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
The auction house insists it vets buyers carefully and does not sell to neo-Nazis, saying most of its customers are serious collectors.
But Felix Klein, the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, said last week the auction had “trivialised the crimes of the Nazis”.
“These items should be burned, but historians think that they should be kept for the collective memory,” Mr Chatila said.
Born in Beirut to a family of Christian jewellers, Mr Chatila made his fortune in diamonds and property investments. He has lived in Geneva for decades and is one of Switzerland’s 300 richest residents.
“The example set by Mr. Chatila is one that deserves as much attention as possible,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, said in a statement.
“We believe that the trade in such items is morally unjustifiable and it seemed, given the uproar and outrage that led up and following the auction and acres of media coverage, that we were not alone.
“We were not prepared, however, in this cynical world in which we live, to expect an act of such kindness, such generosity and such solidarity.”
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