June 22, 2023
An Australian auction house that sold an extensive collection of Nazi artefacts online has defended the sale by stating politicians were among the buyers.
Jewish groups are outraged at the sale of the “blood-stained items” that included signed pictures of Hitler, Himmler and Rommel, a striped concentration camp cap, a “Jewish winter overcoat” with yellow star attached, picture albums of dead soldiers and PoWs and personal photo albums of SS officers.
Danielle Elizabeth Auctions, based in Southport on the Gold Coast, promoted last weekend’s auction of 240 items under the banner: “Huge Militaria Sale. Get it Before History is Banned & Erased.”
The artefacts also included posters of Hitler, uniforms, helmets, daggers, antisemitic propaganda posters and a Nazi vase.
Danielle Elizabeth Auctions’ managing director, Dustin Sweeny, defended the Nazi sale, saying it was not illegal and “lots of politicians” had bought items.
“I can honestly say I’ve never even met a neo-Nazi. The people buying our historical artefacts are collectors, politicians, lawyers, emergency doctors and history professors,” he told Guardian Australia. “It’s legal, it isn’t illegal, we aren’t selling drugs to kids.”
When asked who the politicians were, Sweeny refused to provide further details, stating the auction house didn’t divulge the identity of purchasers.
“There are lots of politicians, but I can’t divulge names or what they buy, or how much they spend. Quite often we have buyers’ agents who make purchases for people’s collections, where they don’t want people out there screaming about it,” he said.
“Everyone is now trying to dig and find out who it is to point fingers, but I can’t divulge names or information about our buyers.”
The auction house’s description of Lot 158 – Jewish Concentration Camp and Atrocity Photos – reads in part: “Many of these are very disturbing to put it mildly … there are a number of very gruesome photos including Execution Photos, Piles of Dead Bodies, Firing Squad pictures, photos inside the Concentration camps including many prisoner profile pictures, and there is even an Original Jewish Passport included.” Following instructions on how to bid, the item description ends: “Thk You, and enjoy the sale.”
There is legislation before the federal parliament to ban the public display and sale of Nazi symbols.
The bill, introduced in mid-June, will make it an offence to seek to profit from such material in stores or online. It will not ban private ownership or transfers of artefacts that are not for profit.
The federal attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said on Thursday evening: “The government’s position on this could not be clearer. I’d have to ask why anybody would want to own these symbols that glorify hatred and the horrors of the Holocaust.”
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive, Darren Bark, said he supported the legislation and such items should be used for “educational purposes” only.
“The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies welcomes the proposed federal legislation banning the trade of these symbols and continues to work to ensure that these disgusting auctions are illegal in NSW,” he said.
“Unless used for educational purposes or in other reasonable settings, Nazi symbols are a threat to our entire country and have no place in our tolerant, multicultural society.
“These symbols are chilling reminders of a horrific period in history and belong in museums to remember the horrors of the Holocaust, not flogged off to the highest bidder at auction.”
Bark said the artefacts were an affront to the Jewish community, Australian soldiers who fought the Nazis, their descendants, the LGBTQ+ community and “our democratic values”.
Another auction by David G Smith Auctions of Bathurst – scheduled for this weekend – also features Nazi memorabilia including helmets, pins, daggers and badges.
The auction house declined to comment when contacted on Thursday.
NSW, Victoria, Queensland, WA and Tasmania have all moved to ban the display of Nazi symbols in recent years in a bid to curb far-right extremism.