German auction sells handwritten Hitler notes despite Jewish group’s objections

BERLIN — Handwritten speech notes by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler sold at auction in Munich on Friday despite objections from Jewish groups that they could encourage neo-Nazis.

The Hermann Historica auction house defended the sale of the manuscripts, all dated to before the outbreak of World War II, saying they were of historical significance and belong preserved in a museum.

The documents all sold to anonymous bidders for well above their starting prices.

A nine-page manuscript by Hitler outlining his speech to new military officers in Berlin in 1939, about eight months before the beginning of World War II, fetched the top price of 34,000 euros ($40,300).

The speech notes are directed to Nazi-party organizations and contributors at various functions, and make reference to preparing Germany for war and the “Jewish problem,” said Bernhard Pacher, the managing director of the Hermann Historica.

“These are handwritten notes from Adolf Hitler, where if you analyze what he wrote… you can prove he was publicly speaking about going to war, about ‘resolving the Jewish problem,’” Pacher told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“If we destroy these things and they do not go into a museum for experts to work on them, you will leave the interpretation of what was happening to the right-wing Nazi apologists, who will say Hitler never said that. The man was preparing the Germans that there would be a war and those who didn’t want to see that must have been totally blind — it’s in there.”

On Tuesday, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, said the auction “defies logic, decency and humanity” to put them on the market.

Margolin said the auction was particularly worrisome amid recent figures showing rising anti-Semitism in Germany, and could encourage neo-Nazis.

“I cannot get my head around the sheer irresponsibility and insensitivity, in such a febrile climate, of selling items such as the ramblings of the world’s biggest killer of Jews to the highest bidder,” he said in a statement.

“What auctions like this do [is to] helps legitimize Hitler enthusiasts who thrive on this sort of stuff.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

The auction house has come under fire in the past for its sale of Nazi-era items, and maintains it goes to great lengths to ensure that they are not being sold to neo-Nazis, and are usually bought by museums and research facilities.

In 2016, it auctioned off one of Hitler’s uniforms for 275,000 euros ($325,000) and previously sold a typewriter and dozens of other items owned by the Nazi leader, among other things.

Perhaps most famously, last year a Lebanese-born Swiss real estate mogul purchased Hitler’s top hat, a silver-plated edition of “Mein Kampf” and other items the auction house offered in order to keep them out of the hands of neo-Nazis, and donated them to a Jewish group.

The auction house has also dealt in many other items owned by famous historical figures, including Napoleon Bonaparte’s silver and gold-plated toothbrush, a saber that belonged to British naval hero Adm. Horatio Nelson, and a sword that once belonged to famed Italian seducer Giacomo Casanova.

Margolin called the businessman’s intervention to purchase the items last year “a miracle,” but said “we cannot rely on miracles going forwards” and urged the auction house to pull the speeches ahead of the sale on Friday.

“It defies logic, decency and humanity for the very same auction house that came under fire less than a year ago for selling disgusting lots of Nazi memorabilia that they should do so again,” he said.

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