Online auction site eBay decided to remove Holocaust memorabilia from its website on Sunday.
Among the 30 items listed was the striped uniform of a Polish baker who died at Auschwitz priced at $18,000. Yellow Star of David armbands, a victim’s battered suitcase, and a “concentration camp toothbrush” were also being auctioned for the last week.
The items were being listed in US dollars and sold by a Ukrainian man living in Vancouver, Canada, named Victor Kempf, according to the Daily Mail. He said he wasn’t “doing it for the money,” but thought the “descendants” of Holocaust victims would want to buy the items to remember their relatives.
After an “urgent investigation” eBay apologized for the listings on Sunday and removed them from the site.
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“We don’t allow listings of this nature, and dedicate thousands of staff to policing our site and use the latest technology to detect items that shouldn’t be for sale,” eBay said in a statement.
“We very much regret that we didn’t live up to our own standards,” the world’s biggest online marketplace said, promising to make a $40,000 donation to an appropriate charity.
Somehow the items evaded eBay’s vetting efforts and the site admitted it was unsure how long it was helping Kempf sell mass genocide memorabilia.
The striped uniform, Kempf wrote on eBay, belonged to serial number 9489, Wolf Gierson Grundmann, whose name appears on a database of concentration camp victims at the Yad Vashem World Center For Holocaust Research in Jerusalem.
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Last week he was selling a pair of trousers from a concentration camp for more than $8,000. They apparently belonged to Dawid Bittersfeld who also died at Auschwitz.
Kempf, who calls himself a historian, allegedly bought the items from a dealer in America.
“I understand why people may think profiting is wrong but I sell these items to document [them] and to fund my book projects,” Kempf wrote. “If I was a descendant of a victim, I would want to see how my relatives lived. I would want to buy these items to remember them. I run the prisoner numbers on the items through a database to get the names but I personally haven’t had any contact with any of the families. It’s not my place to go searching for these people.”
“I have had criticism in the past and I find it upsetting,” he added. “I don’t want people to think I’m just doing it for the money. These periods in history are horrific, nobody should ever forget them.”
“I applaud The Mail on Sunday for exposing this vile and repulsive trade,” said UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. “Websites need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that this kind of thing is not made available.”