Northern Ireland

Fury at 'sick' Hitler tablecloth sale in Belfast

The Nazi Germany tablecloth and cutlery set Image copyright Bloomfield Auctions

A planned auction of swastika-emblazoned tableware from Nazi Germany has been described as "sick" by a Jewish community leader.

The silver cutlery set, tablecloth and napkins are said to have been produced for Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday.

Bidding was due to open at Bloomfield Auctions in Belfast on Tuesday evening, but was later cancelled.

The Belfast Jewish Community said people would feel uneasy about the sale.

Bloomfield Auctions posted images of the "historically rare" items on its Facebook page.

'Uneasy'

The tablecloth is embroidered with the letters "DR" for Deutsche Reichsbahn - German National Railway - and a swastika.

Four small napkins with similar embroidery form part of the collection.

The silver forks, knives and spoons that are for sale feature the Deutsche Reichsbahn crest.

Bloomfield Auctions said in its Facebook post that the tableware was intended for use in a carriage that was to form part of Hitler's personal train just before the outbreak of World War Two.

In the post, the auction house said the tablecloth was "probably the only one known to exist today".

'Stamp out Nazi trade'

It is not illegal to sell Nazi memorabilia in the UK but such sales are banned in other parts of Europe, including in Germany and Austria.

Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams, three of the world's biggest auction houses, refuse to trade items connected to Nazi Germany.

Jewish leader Mr Black said it was the first time he had been aware of Nazi memorabilia being auctioned in Belfast.

"It's a bit sick when these things come up," he told BBC News NI.

"Most people would feel uneasy about something like this, whether they were Jewish or not.

Image copyright Whyte's Auction House
Image caption A Dublin auction house was criticised in 2017 for listing a Nazi sash

"Nobody is breaking the law with this but the less oxygen these things get, the better."

The Campaign Against Anti-semitism said the auction "plays straight into the hands" of groups that "fetishise relics like these".

"It is incumbent on auction houses to ensure that the trade in Nazi mementos is stamped out," added a spokesman for the campaign group.

"Instead of seeking to earn a commission, the auction house should have had regard for the survivors of the Holocaust and the families of its victims, who will be distressed and repulsed by this sale."

Loo roll and silverware

In 2017, the Irish auction house Whyte's was criticised for its "tasteless" decision to sell items from the Third Reich period, including a Nazi sash.

Oliver Sears, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor and owns a gallery on the Dublin same street as Whyte's, said he thought it was "quite appalling".

But auctioneer Ian Whyte said he believed it was "a form of censorship to say collectors cannot collect what they like, provided it is legal".

Image copyright Charterhouse Auctioneers
Image caption Knives, forks and spoons sold in Dorset last year bore the Nazi eagle, swastika and Hitler's initials

Last year, cutlery made to celebrate Hitler's 50th birthday was sold at auction in England for £12,500.

The silverware was found during a house clearance in Dorset, having belonged to a senior military officer.

Toilet paper issued to the Nazi leader's army during World War Two went up for sale at an auction at Whyte's in Dublin in 2017.

Image copyright Whyte's Auction House
Image caption The toilet roll was described as being in "remarkable unused condition"

The unopened roll of Edelweiss brand paper was valued at up to €120 (£103).

And an "extremely rare" signed copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was sold at auction for £17,000 in Lancashire in 2017, far surpassing its £2,500 estimate.

The swastika-embossed 1935 edition bears the Nazi dictator's signature on the front fly leaf.

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