A Quebec City auction house is refusing to withdraw from sale Nazi memorabilia despite objection from the Jewish community.
“We reiterate our call to the owners of Encan en Ville to look to their conscience and, in the interest of civic responsibility, to have these symbols of hatred and the destruction of innocent lives removed from auction and donated to institutions that can present them in an appropriate educational context,” stated Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Quebec co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
The offending items, listed on the website of Encan en Ville, are two Nazi honorary medals, as well as another medal and a penknife that CIJA says are associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
One of the Nazi medals is a double-sworded War Merit Cross, which, according to Holocaust historian Dieter Pohl, was a distinction awarded to Nazi killers from the Waffen-SS and concentration camp staff.
CIJA says it held lengthy discussion with Encan en Ville co-owner Nicolas Marcoux, but was unable to change his mind.
Rabbi Poupko said, “While trading Nazi memorabilia and other items related to racist ideologies is not illegal in Canada, it is morally indefensible to allow entities to profit from items emblematic of the genocide of Jews and the murderous persecution of African Americans.
“Furthermore, trading such items may make them available to extremists for the purposes of hate propaganda.”
Marcoux told Radio-Canada that he went ahead with dealing in these items out of “a duty to memory.”
“The objects recall things. They remind us of the obligation to be better informed, to better understand what has passed,” Marcoux said.
Marcoux said he understands the reaction these items arouse in people and that they could be misused.
That is the reason cautions were placed with each of the controversial items about what they represent and the company requires any interested buyers to clearly identify themselves on the platform.
“If we knew that it could fall into the hands of someone who wanted to make a promotion, we would terminate the transaction,” he said.
In February, Avi Benlolo, CEO of the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, said he had been successful in persuading a Montreal auctioneer to remove Nazi memorabilia for sale.
On Feb. 12, Encans en Ligne Montreal withdrew advertisements it had posted to the online QuebecHiBid.com after being contacted by Benlolo.
The items included metal badges with swastikas, a figurine of a Nazi eagle, and two daggers, one inscribed with “Alles Für Deutschland” and the other with its English translation, “Everything for Germany.”
The company told CBC the items had been received on consignment and it was not aware of their significance.
They were returned to the client, who had told Encans en Ligne they were Second World War items that he had inherited.
Benlolo said the sale of Nazi memorabilia is growing in Canada.
“That’s partly because there is a rising tide of Nazi movements and white supremacist movements collecting and venerating and celebrating this kind of ideology,” Benlolo said. “I think we, as a society, should think about whether there should be laws against collecting this memorabilia.”