Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other objects linked to the Nazi leader are to be gifted to an Israeli foundation in order to keep the items out of the hands of neo-fascists.
Abdallah Chatila, a Lebanese businessman who has made a fortune from diamonds and real estate in Geneva, told the Matin Dimanche weekly he had “wished to buy these objects so that they could not be used for the purpose of neo-Nazi propaganda”.
“My stance is totally apolitical and neutral,” he said.
The collapsible top hat believed to have belonged to Hitler sold for 50,000 euros ($55,300) at a controversial auction in Munich, Germany on Wednesday.
Chatila said he scooped up as many other Hitler-related articles as he could at the auction and donated them to Keren Hayesod, an Israeli fundraising group.
The head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said he was “bowled over” by the gestures from the businessman.
“In a cynical world, a real act of kindness, of generosity and solidarity,” he said in a statement.
Margolin said Chatila has accepted an invitation to join a visit by 100 European parliamentarians to the site of second world war’s Auschwitz death camp in January to receive an award.
Wednesday’s auction in Munich was organised by Hermann Historica, which has picked up business in Nazi memorabilia that the main houses have largely avoided.
Other items that went under the hammer on Wednesday included a silver-plated copy of Hitler’s anti-Semitic political manifesto, Mein Kampf, that once belonged to senior Nazi, Hermann Goering. It was sold for 130,000 euros ($143,000).
Before the auction, Rabbi Margolin recalled that “it is Germany that leads Europe in the sheer volume of reported anti-Semitic incidents,” urging the German authorities to compel auction houses to divulge the names of those buying such articles and put them on a watch list.
“The Nazis’ crimes are being trivialised here,” the German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein told the Funke newspaper group following the auction.
Many of the items belonging to top Nazi leaders were seized by the US soldiers in the final days of the war.
“Far-right and anti-Semitic populism is advancing throughout Europe and the world,” Margolin told the weekly paper.
Born in Beirut in 1974 into a family of Christian jewellers, Chatila is among Switzerland’s 300 richest people.
He suggested that the items of Nazi memorabilia “should be burned”, while “historians think they should be kept as part of the collective memory,”