AFRICANGLOBE – Online auction site eBay is facing an international storm of outrage after it was revealed to be profiting from the repulsive trade in Holocaust memorabilia.
Items for sale include the clothes of concentration camp victims. Among dozens of sick souvenirs on offer last week was a striped uniform thought to have belonged to a Polish baker who died in Auschwitz, which was on sale for £11,200. It was one of dozens of offensive items uncovered by a Mail on Sunday investigation. And within hours of being alerted to the item by this newspaper, eBay removed it from sale after conducting an ‘urgent investigation’.
The internet giant apologised and vowed to give £25,000 to a suitable charity, before removing more than 30 other death camp souvenirs which it said had evaded its strict vetting process.
eBay, the world’s largest online marketplace, admitted it had no idea how long it has been helping sell items linked to genocide, but one Nazi memorabilia dealer boasted of selling an Auschwitz victim’s uniform for thousands of pounds on the site last year.
The company receives a commission on items sold, as well as charging a listing fee.
Who owns history? This question is philosophical: how are all human beings part of a larger global family? The question of “ownership” and “history” is also practical: are there some objects which are so sacred and personal to a particular group’s experience(s) that only its members should own such items?
Apparently, eBay has decided that “memorabilia” related to the Jewish Holocaust–and which eBay sells for profit–violate norms of good taste and the site’s rules regarding how it will not profit from genocide.
The Daily Mail has spearheaded an effort to pressure Ebay to remove items such as:
- A pair of shoes belonging to a death camp victim advertised for £940.
- Yellow Star of David armbands singling out Jews for persecution.
- A Holocaust victim’s battered suitcase priced at £492.
- A £145 ‘concentration camp toothbrush’.
Meanwhile, other sites were offering gas chamber ‘handles’ adorned with swastikas from Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
The most offensive item on eBay was a complete Auschwitz prisoner uniform, including striped shirt, trousers, cap and wooden shoes, with the seller including an armband from Dachau along with the sale.
The item was accompanied by a haunting image of a pile of garments from camp victims.
The seller, Viktor Kempf, a Ukranian now living in Vancouver, Canada, claimed the uniform once belonged to a ‘Wolf Gierson Grundmann’ whose serial number ‘9489’ is stitched to the breast of his shirt. Mr Grundmann’s name can be found on a database of concentration camp victims held by the Yad Vashem centre for Holocaust research in Jerusalem.
It says Mr Grundmann was born in 1912 and lists his occupation as ‘baker’.
On my site We Are Respectable Negroes, we have discussed how eBay provides a space for selling artifacts related to the chattel slavery of Black Americans. My original plan there was to purchase some of the chains, slave tags, and other physical artifacts related to the Black Holocaust. Such an effort was more complicated than I had imagined at the time.
Public pressure has forced eBay to pull items related to the Jewish Holocaust. I wonder if similar means could be used to compel eBay to remove artifacts related to the enslavement of Black Americans?
The Jewish Holocaust was a crime against humanity; there are many people, in the United States and elsewhere–Black, White, and other–who will not acknowledge that the many millions killed by the Middle Passage and centuries of slavery across the Black Atlantic also constitutes one of history’s great crimes.
Some of them are ignorant. Others are ashamed that their people were held as slaves–thus, to acknowledge such a crime, brings even more embarrassment and denial. And there are many individuals who are so wrapped up in the socio-political-historical knot that is White victimology, White privilege, White racism, and American Exceptionalism that to admit to the particular and special crime which was committed against Black people in this country, is a personal affront, one tied to a sense of racial supremacy and a mistaken belief in the inherently benign nature of Whiteness.
Consequently, an “I take responsibility for my connection to this history in the present”, and/or “black enslavement in the United States was a crime against humanity”, are simply impossible statements for some people to utter, accept, and own.
eBay can sell the sacred objects of Black Americans because the latter’s enslavement in the Americas was (apparently) not a real crime. eBay should remove those items related to the Jewish Holocaust because to sell them is distasteful.
It would seem that racism and shame are great aids for reconciling what should be contradictory statements, that together, ought to generate a state of profound cognitive dissonance in the psyches of reasonable and moral human beings.
By: Chauncey DeVega