Switzerland-based Lebanese businessman bought $55,300 Hitler top hat donates it to Israeli foundation

Switzerland-based Lebanese businessman bought $55,300 Hitler top hat donates it to Israeli foundation
A Lebanese businessman who bought a $55,300 Hitler top hat at an auction said he will donate it to an Israeli foundation to keep it away from neo-fascists.
4 min read
25 November, 2019
The top hat fetched $55,300 at the auction [Getty]
A Lebanese businessman will donate Adolf Hitler's top hat and other objects linked to the Nazi leader to an Israeli foundation in order to keep the items out of the hands of neo-fascists, according to reports.

Abdallah Chatila, who has made a fortune from diamonds and real estate in Geneva, told the Matin Dimanche weekly that he had "wished to buy these objects so that they could not be used for the purpose of neo-Nazi propaganda".

"My stance is totally apolitical and neutral," he added.

The collapsible top hat believed to have belonged to Nazi leader Adolph Hitler sold for 50,000 euros ($55,300) at a controversial Munich-based auction on Wednesday.

Chatila scooped up as many other Hitler-related articles as he could at the auction and has donated them to the Keren Hayesod Association, an Israeli fundraising group.

Comment: We told you the threat is white supremacy, you ignored us

The head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said he was "bowled over" by the gestures from the businessman.

"In a cynical world, a real act of kindness, of generosity and solidarity," he said in a statement on Sunday.

Margolin added that Chatila had accepted an invitation to join a visit by 100 European parliamentarians to the site of the World War II Auschwitz death camp in January to receive an award.

Born in Beirut in 1974 into a family of Christian jewellers, Chatila is among Switzerland's 300 richest people.

He suggested that the items of Nazi memorabilia "should be burned", while "historians think they should be kept as part of the collective memory".

Nazis' crimes 'trivialised'

Wednesday's auction in Munich was organised by Hermann Historica, which has picked up business in Nazi memorabilia that the main houses have largely avoided.

Other items that went under the hammer on Wednesday included a silver-plated copy of Hitler's anti-Semitic political manifesto Mein Kampf that once belonged to senior Nazi Hermann Goering. It was sold for 130,000 euros.

Ahead of the auction, Rabbi Margolin recalled that "it is Germany that leads Europe in the sheer volume of reported anti-Semitic incidents", urging the German authorities to compel auction houses to divulge the names of those buying such articles and put them on a watch list.

"The Nazis' crimes are being trivialised here," the German government's anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein told the Funke newspaper group following the auction.

Many of the items belonging to top Nazi leaders were seized by US soldiers in the final days of World War II.

"Far-right and anti-Semitic populism is advancing throughout Europe and the world," Margolin told the weekly paper.

Far-right threat

In September, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it "as big a threat as radical Islamism".

The warning was shortly followed by a deadly anti-Semitic gun attack on the holy day of Yom Kippur which underscored the rising threat of neo-Nazi violence in the country.

At least two people were shot dead in the eastern German city of Halle, with a synagogue among the targets. The suspect, identified by German media as 27-year-old German Stephan Balliet, filmed the assault and posted the video online.

The rampage was streamed live for 35 minutes on Twitch, and eventually seen by some 2,200 people, the online platform said, in a chilling reminder of the mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand last March which was also online in real-time.

Ronald Lauder, who heads the World Jewish Congress, also stressed: "We need action not words" as he called for round the clock security for Jewish sites.

"We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being.

"The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes."

In a copy of a 35-minute video obtained by AFP the gunman filmed himself launching into a diatribe against women and Jews, before carrying out the attack.

The video's authenticity has been confirmed by the SITE monitoring group but not by police.

The gunman also published an anti-Semitic "manifesto" online more than a week ago, according to SITE director Rita Katz, who said the document showed pictures of the weapons and ammunition he used.

The shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.

Luebcke's killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.

Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst's neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay connected