Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Museum Receives Horrifying Offer from Nazi Relative

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - The offices of Yad Vashem, the Israeli agency that memorializes the six million Jews murdered by their Nazis and their allies, received an extraordinary and even infuriating proposal recently. The grandson of Rudolf Hoess, the notorious commander of the Auschwitz death camp, offered to sell some of his grandfather’s personal effects to the museum.

The letter to the museum, which was sent several months ago and entitled “Rare objects, Auschwitz, Commander Hoess,” was short and succinct, saying: “These are several objects from the estate of Rudolf Hoess, the commander of Auschwitz: A massive, fireproof box with official insignia - a gift from Henrich Himmler, the commander of the SS, weighing 50 kilograms, a letter opener and folders, slides from Auschwitz that have never been seen publicly, letters from his period of imprisonment in Krakow. I would be very grateful for a brief answer. Sincerely, Reiner Hoess.”

The management of Yad Vashem responded with shock to the proposal and rejected it out of hand. The management of the museum expressed disgust over the desire of the criminal’s relative to profit from Holocaust memorabilia.

A high-ranking official of Yad Vashem said, “Here we must ask: did you murder and profit as well?” (The reference is to 1 Kings 21:19-INT)

However, museum officials told Rudolf Hoess’s grandson, Reiner, that he may donate the original items to the museum in order to commemorate the Nazi horror.

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth last night, Mr. Hoess, 44, said the idea of selling the items to Yad Vashem came up following a conversation that he had with a friend, the grandson of Baldur von Schirach, who was the leader of the Nazi youth movement, the Hitler Youth.

“These items were in the family’s possession,” Hoess said in a telephone conversation.

“We knew about them, people outside the family knew about them for a long time as well. Quite a few organizations wanted to buy them from us, including well-known media such as Der Spiegel and the Axel Springer publishing company. In the wake of Mr. von Schirach’s recommendation, I thought that it would be appropriate to sell the items to Yad Vashem. I do not want these items to get into the wrong hands.”

We asked Mr. Hoess: “Would you be willing to donate the items to Yad Vashem?”

He answered, “That is a good question. I can’t make a decision like that on my own. My tendency is to agree to donate the items, but I will need to consult the rest of the family. We want the items to go to a museum that deals with history.”

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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