Holocaust memorabilia furore erupts in Israel
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM, April 4 (Reuter) – Israelis reacted with
revulsion on Tuesday to news that memorabilia of the Nazi
Holocaust were on sale in the Jewish state.
The furore erupted after Israeli media reported that a Tel
Aviv shop was planning to auction a bar of soap which its owner
said was made from the bodies of Jews killed in a death camp
during World War Two.
The Zodiac Stamp shop, which originally dealt in philately,
planned to offer the soap and other items such as yellow Stars
of David the Nazis forced Jews to wear, on April 25 — a day
before Israel’s annual memorial day for the six million dead.
“It is simply revolting that some people are making money
from items, clothing and badges of the victims,” said Professor
Yehuda Bauer, a historian specialising in Holocaust studies.
“It is absolutely disgusting.”
Shop owner Menashe Meridack said he was cancelling the
entire auction because of the public outrage and the bar of soap
was back with its owner, the son of a survivor of Buchenwald
“I care a great deal about public sensibilities. Our
auction house is a very honourable one and I will not allow
these kind of things to harm our good name,” Meridack told
Meridack said there was a worldwide trade in Holocaust
memorabilia and most of his inventory came from Eastern Europe.
Israeli experts said it had become clear that the Nazis
never made soap out of Jewish corpses, but had threatened to do
so as part of a psychological warfare campaign.
Bauer told Israel Radio the bar of soap which had been up
for auction and pictured on the front pages of Israeli
newspapers contained no human remains.
“It is poor-quality soap issued to German troops,” he
said. “There were many instances in which the Nazis told their
victims ‘We will turn you into soap’ until the Jews began to
believe it. But it is a myth.”
The word “soap” still evokes strong emotions among many of
the 300,000 Israelis who lived through the Holocaust, said
Yehuda Landsberger, director of Amcha, a support group for
survivors and their families.
Native-born Israelis used the word to mock Jewish refugees
who came to the Jewish state after World War Two. Even today,
“sabon” or soap in Hebrew is slang for “meek.”
Conscious of survivors’ sensitivities, Israel Television
changed the name of the 1970s American comedy show “Soap” to
“We have received a number of calls from survivors today.
They were shocked, as was the entire nation,” Landsberger said.
“One man told us: ‘How can it be that there is no law stopping
people from commercialising the Holocaust?”’
Holocaust survivor Dov Shilansky, now a legislator, said he
would raise the issue in parliament.
Officials at Amcha said that despite the horrors of the war,
many survivors keep Holocaust memorabilia at home as a constant
reminder of the loved ones they lost.
“I still keep a yellow star in a secret place which my
family doesn’t even know about,” said Haim Dasberg, a
psychiatrist and clinical adviser to Amcha.
The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Archive/File: people/b/bauer.yehuda/press reuter.040495i people/s/shilansky.dov/press reuter.040495i