An Israeli court ordered an auction house to suspend the sale of a photo-cassette cassette from the Auschwitz death camp on Friday, citing World War II-era laws barring the circulation of Nazi propaganda.
The Holocaust Documentation Center, which conducted the sale at an auction in Haifa, had expected to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from the cassette labeled “Auschwitz – PC” or “European Main Line – Donato Rorabon.”
Documents supporting the auction were “invalid and inadmissible as evidence because they are attributable to unofficial Nazi propaganda sources, which are considered to be inadmissible by the (World War II) Nuremberg Charter and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,” the judges wrote in their decision.
Oded Ben-Yosef, the lawyer representing the archive, said the ruling was a surprise and suggested that the court considered the cassette only for its pockmarks.
“This is a victory of common sense and the position of the Holocaust survivors’ community, not by caving in to pressure,” he said. “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court stood up for justice.”
Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial has long condemned attempts to profit from Nazi memorabilia. During World War II, some Jewish men were forced to take part in Nazi slave labor and were ordered to carry pictures of occupied European capitals, as a reminder of Allied intentions to expand their control over those cities.
“This is evidence of camp atrocities and punishable under German law, as it may be used by future German authorities to justify deportations, crimes against humanity, or war crimes,” the Holocaust Documentation Center said in a statement.
The center found that the cassette’s serial number, which matches two cassette tapes on file with the Yad Vashem center, was signed as Rorabon by an Auschwitz guard. The center identified him through a missing serial number, as well as documents showing that he was working at Auschwitz and that he had one pock mark on his thumb.
It said the cassette’s authenticity had already been questioned after the initial auction in June of 2018. A few days later, the auction house announced the sale had been suspended and the cassette was destroyed. The newest court ruling only required a short delay in the auction.
At the auction, the center had also sold a metal radio and a t-shirt with the image of a Nazi eagle, both thought to have been used by guards at the camp.
The Clements Auction Center and Auction House said that the appeal to the Israeli court stemmed from a grievance filed by Yad Vashem, which operates a registry for Nazi memorabilia and the auction of such items.
Yad Vashem had announced after the first auction that it sought to halt the sale and had demanded that the evidence of sale be destroyed.
Ben-Yosef said that while the Auschwitz cassette may not have been used to carry out atrocities, “it was certainly used by the guards of Auschwitz to send their orders to Jews, gypsies and others.”
The sale had gone through despite opposition from Yad Vashem and Israel’s state broadcaster Israel Radio.
The Auschwitz death camp was in the occupied Polish territory until May 14, 1989, when the Soviet Union fell. The camp’s staff was transferred to the U.S. Army’s 60th Signal Brigade at a special ceremony last Friday at the camp, where Israel’s president and first lady were present, according to Yad Vashem.
After the war, Rorabon fled to Denmark where he married a Danish Jew and made aliyah. He died in 1988.
According to Yad Vashem, more than 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz while guards worked on forced labor and propaganda.