Court halts auction of tattoo kit allegedly used in Auschwitz

An Israeli court on Wednesday suspended the auction of a partial tattoo kit said to have been used on inmates at the Auschwitz death camp, following protests by Holocaust survivors.

Obtained from a private collector, the eight fingernail-sized steel dies, each lined with pins to form numbers, would have been pressed into the prisoners’ flesh with ink to mark their serial numbers, according to auctioneer Meir Tzolman.

Its website had called it “the most shocking item in the Holocaust,” with a projected retail value of $ 30,000 to $ 40,000.

The bidding reached $ 3,400 on Wednesday, when the Tel Aviv District Court granted a request from the survivors to order the suspension of the auction pending a hearing on Nov. 16 on whether it should continue. Tzolman’s website was modified to show that the sale had been suspended.

More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz, among a series of camps run by Nazi Germany on occupied Polish soil during World War II. It was the only facility that tattooed prisoners.

THE MASSIVE cemetery-like Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. (credit: BARRY DAVIS)

Israel has no law against the private sale of Holocaust relics. The statement by a court spokesperson did not specify the legal basis for Wednesday’s injunction.

Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem, said it should possess items such as the auctioned dies.

“The trade in these items is morally unacceptable and only encourages the proliferation of counterfeits,” said Dani Dayan, president of Yad Vashem.

Interviewed before the court order, Tzolman said he was the grandson of Holocaust survivors who had gotten tattoos. He defended the auction, for which he would receive a 25% commission, as a means of ensuring that the dies got to “the right hands.”

“The seller is determined to sell in whatever way is necessary,” he said. “We got calls from dozens of people who wanted to bid on this item and donate it. Each one wrote down the name of a different museum related to the Holocaust.”

Tzolman said the dead had been certified to have come from Auschwitz. He did not share such documentation with Reuters.

The website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says that some Auschwitz tattoos were applied with pencil and others with “a special metal stamp, with interchangeable numbers made from needles about one centimeter long.”

The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland said the photographs on the dies looked similar to those in its collection.

“If they were authentic, then the very fact that these unique historical items are being auctioned, and not given to an institution that commemorates the victims and educates about the Auschwitz tragedy, deserves the words of protest and condemnation,” he said. Memorial Press Officer Pawel Sawicki.

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