PARIS (AP) — A Paris auction house has dropped plans to sell a swastika-covered box that once belonged to Adolf Hitler and dozens of other Nazi-owned objects that were collected as war spoils from World War II, blaming "political pressure."
The Vermot de Pas house on Monday canceled the April 26 sale of some 40 items that French forces seized from Hitler's Bavaria home in the waning days of Nazi Germany in May 1945. Passports of Hermann Goering, an aviator's watch, pictures of Hitler and silverware were among the items that were to go under the block.
"It was not our goal to stir a scandal," said Laudine de Pas, a co-manager of the auction house. "We were pitching this as part of the responsibility to remember — but in no way to shock or create a polemic." She said the auction was called off due to "political pressure" and after the house received "insulting" phone calls and e-mails.
Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti sent a letter Monday to France's auctions authority calling the sale "morally reprehensible" and asking for it to be canceled. She also noted France's official ban on the public display of objects linked to Nazi ideology.
The swastika-covered wooden box, which Hitler received as a birthday gift, features an inscription about the importance of roads for an empire. Slightly larger than a shoe box, it was expected to sell for more than 3,000 euros ($4,100).
France's best-known association of Jewish groups, CRIF, denounced the sale as "harming the memory of victims of Nazi barbarity." In a statement, CRIF said that trading in such objects gives them "unhealthy symbolic value that resembles cynicism and a form of moral indecency."
Four people, including former French soldiers or their relatives, had put the objects up for the sale, De Pas said, insisting that none of the items had been used as tools of propaganda. Some sale proceeds were expected to go to an association linked to Auschwitz deportees, according to the auction house's website.