(JTA) — The Maryland auction house that faced fierce criticism last week for auctioning off Nazi memorabilia says a Jewish buyer took home a watch that belonged to Adolf Hitler.
The watch sold for $1.1 million on the auction’s first day, and its buyer was a European Jew, the president of Alexander Historical Auctions, Bill Panagopulos, told the Washington Post. He declined to name the buyer.
Panagopulos also told the newspaper that he and his family had received death threats amid criticism of the two-day auction of Nazi memorabilia. The European Jewish Association was among multiple groups to condemn the sale, saying that allowing the items to enter private hands trivializes the Holocaust and enriches Nazi sympathizers.
Panagopulos told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before the sale that those critiques did not resonate with him. “What we sell is criminal evidence, no matter how insignificant. It is tangible, real in-your-face proof that Hitler and Nazis lived, and also persecuted and killed tens of millions of people. To destroy or in any way impede the display or protection of this material is a crime against history,” Panagopulos wrote. The buyers, he added, “are NOT neo-Nazis, who are too poor and too stupid to appreciate any kind of historic material.”
Alexander Historical Auctions has drawn criticism before for its willingness to sell Nazi memorabilia, which many auction houses eschew. In 2011, for example, the company said an Orthodox Jewish collector was the buyer of diaries penned after the Holocaust by Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor, despite fierce resistance to the sale.
While some Nazi relics wind up in the hands of people who want them because they admire Nazism, others are purchased by museums and academic institutions or occasionally by people who want to have the right to destroy the objects. Earlier this year, a Jewish businessman in Argentina offered to buy an 800-pound statue from a former Nazi ship and blow it up. The statue had been set for auction until the German government and Jewish groups protested.