Auschwitz tattoo stamp auction in Jerusalem sparks fury

Tattoo stamps and instruction booklet
The tattoo stamps are being auctioned with an instruction booklet from the manufacturer, Aesculap

The head of Israel’s Holocaust memorial has criticised plans by a Jerusalem auctioneer to sell tools used to tattoo inmates at the Auschwitz death camp.

The set of stamps made from needles is “the most shocking Holocaust item”, Tzolsman auction house says on its online auction page. The Nazis branded prisoners with numbers and letters on their arms, and survivors still bear them decades on.

The auctioneer, Meir Tzolman, said the sale was meant to “increase awareness”.

“I am the last to underestimate or diminish the value of the Holocaust,” the Times of Israel quoted him as telling Army Radio. “I want to make sure that the item gets into the right hands and does not disappear from the pages of history.”

The lot consists of 14 stamps and an instruction booklet from the manufacturer, Aesculap.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, prisoners were originally tattooed with stamps consisting of interchangeable needles arranged in the shape of numbers, which were punched onto inmates’ skin and ink rubbed into the wound.

The tattoo was permanent and such markings have become one of the grimmest symbols of the Nazi Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were systematically murdered by Adolf Hitler’s regime across Europe during World War Two.

According to the auction house, the set for sale is one of only three known to exist. It says one is held at the Military Medical Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, and the other at the Auschwitz Museum, which has memorialized the site of the camp in what was then Nazi-occupied Poland.

Jewish leaders and organisations have condemned the planned sale as immoral. The chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem national Holocaust memorial, Dani Dayan, tweeted that the institution “opposes the existence of a market for Jewish or Nazi objects from the time of the Holocaust”, adding that “greedy traders” only serve to encourage this kind of activity.

The head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, has written to Israel’s justice minister urging him to put a stop to what he called the “despicable sale”, according to Hamodia newspaper. The auction for the items is due to take place on 9 November.

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