MONTREAL, July 23 (JTA) — Canadian Jewish leaders are outraged by the attempted auction of a bracelet made from a tooth and human hair that may have come from a Nazi concentration camp.
Auctioneer Olivier Chalifoux says he learned the bracelet came from a death camp only shortly before the July 15 auction began — and then pulled the item before it received any bids.
The incident was reported by a local newspaper, which contacted Karen Mock, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights.
“We didn’t hear about this until the reporter called, asking me to comment,” Mock told JTA. “I’m being very careful to use the term alleged, as we have no evidence the object originated in the Holocaust, and we are investigating further.
“I would have hoped someone would have turned this bracelet over to the proper authorities, but apparently, Mr. Chalifoux destroyed it.”
Chalifoux said he “broke off the tooth with one good stomp of my heel, used scissors to cut the hair and tossed it into the garbage.”
Mock called this “an even further indignity,” adding that it could have been properly disposed of, or placed in a museum.
A French-speaking resident of Quebec, Chalifoux says he is president of a local group called the Friends of Israel, which he says has 17 members.
The antique dealer also said he often writes letters in support of Jews.
“I fight Nazism and authoritarianism,” he told a reporter. He said he had not come across Holocaust-related objects on the market in some eight years.
Chalifoux could not be reached by JTA for comment.
Chalifoux unsuccessfully ran as a candidate for the mainstream New Democratic Party in the province’s Frontenac-Megantic district during last year’s federal election.
Reports about the bracelet have brought interested collectors out of the woodwork, according to Chalifoux.
Meanwhile, Mock said B’nai Brith would consider taking action against those responsible for the bracelet if the group’s investigation turns up evidence that the Holocaust allegations are true.
That may prove impossible, however, now that the item has been destroyed.
David Birnbaum, director of the Canadian Jewish Congress’s Quebec region, said the incident trivializes the Holocaust.
He also questions the bracelet’s authenticity.