Which was the ultimate irony, some wondered — the fact that an auction that included six items illustrated or signed by Hitler was held in a church, or that it took place in a city with one of the world’s largest communities of Holocaust survivors? Despite a glut of publicity, much of it negative, Montreal auction house Iegore-Hotel des Encans went ahead with its art auction Tuesday evening, selling almost all of its 212 lots, including the six Hitler items.
The auction house came into possession of the items — two signed greeting cards on personalized Adolf Hitler Third Reich stationary, and four architectural drawings done by the amateur artist and future dictator — through a party who wished to remain anonymous.
When the auction became public several weeks ago, auctioneer Iegor de Saint Hippolyte, 57, a Russian immigrant who came to Canada in 1983, was thrown on the defensive.
“I understand why some people might be upset,” he was quoted as saying. “My own grandfather was in a concentration camp. But I’m doing it for the same reason I would sell a poster of Lenin or Trotsky. . . it is part of history and also my job.”
Members of the Jewish community didn’t share that reasoning.
“We find it deplorable that these objects, originally belonging to one of the most reviled mass-murderers in history, would financially benefit either the seller or the purchaser,” said Ann Ungar, executive director of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center and Museum. “Without a doubt, these objects should be given to an institution devoted to education and research, for the benefit of the general public.”
The three-hour auction included several Miros, a Picasso that was pulled because it was thought to be fake and a Warhol, among other items. But none of those mattered to those who came to see what happened to the Hitler works.
“Members of the media will have to leave the room,” Saint Hippolyte announced in French five minutes before the Hitler lots came up. The winning bids, which all came from the same unidentified person, were placed by phone.
Hitler’s pencil-on-paper drawing called “House Wachenfeld,” or Mountain House, went for $7,000, as did “Monument,” a charcoal drawing on paper.
The next two items — a greeting card signed in 1935 and another from 1938 — went for $2,100 and $2,300, respectively.
A pencil-on-paper drawing by Hitler associate Albert Speer of the Linz Opera House — which Hitler later “corrected” — went for $7,500, while a pencil-on-paper sketch called “German School” sold for $6,500.
In all, the Hitler items sold for a total of $32,400.
There was one other Nazi-related item, a black-and-white photo of the Christian Nazi Socialist Party of Canada, taken at an organizational assembly on June 20, 1938, that sold for $250.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.