Nazi memorabilia auction plan in Nelson sparks concern

Lipscombe Auction House owner an auctioneer Warwick Savage in action during an earlier auction in November 2016.

BRADEN FASTIER/Stuff

Lipscombe Auction House owner an auctioneer Warwick Savage in action during an earlier auction in November 2016.

The planned auction of Nazi memorabilia has sparked multiple calls for the items to be withdrawn from sale.

Lipscombe Auction House in central Nelson has several items of Nazi memorabilia listed as part of a “Militaria, Model Ships & Police Unclaimed Auction”, which is scheduled to run online and in house on Sunday between 11am and 2pm.

Flags and badges featuring the swastika are included in the online list.

“Nazi memorabilia carries with it a history of hate and intolerance,” said Nelson human rights activist Sarah Sharp, one of several people who have called for the items to be withdrawn from the auction.

“In a New Zealand context, it is a regime with which we spent six years engaged in a bloody conflict in defence of democracy and to support the victims of the Nazi regime’s war on the people of Europe.”

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Sarah Sharp, back right, pictured in 2019 when she helped organise a gig by Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot, says she has shared her concerns about the Nazi memorabilia with Lipscombe Auction House.

Braden Fastier/Nelson Mail

Sarah Sharp, back right, pictured in 2019 when she helped organise a gig by Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot, says she has shared her concerns about the Nazi memorabilia with Lipscombe Auction House.

That “dark history” was the reason the memorabilia was worth money.

“I believe we must question the morality of making money from selling Nazi items,” Sharp said. “Suggesting that people should not buy or sell these artefacts is not denying history, it is recognising that these are powerful and enduring symbols of oppression for people of colour, LGBTQ, Jews and many others who suffered. This includes many Germans who carry this history as a burden.”

Sharp said she wanted to personally apologise to a German friend, “who now calls Whakatū (Nelson) her home, and is exposed to our ignorance”.

It was illegal to trade Nazi memorabilia in Germany “where they have made a huge effort to come to terms with their history”.

“So why is it acceptable here?”

Nelson lawyer Sally Gepp described the items as “symbols of hate and white supremacy … over anyone who didn’t fit the white supremacist mould”.

“It’s the opposite of the inclusive society we want in New Zealand,” Gepp said.

The place for such Nazi memorabilia was a museum where the items could be seen “in relation to the atrocities they relate to”.

Nelson lawyer Sally Gepp, pictured in 2017, described the items as “symbols of hate and white supremacy”.

MARION VAN DIJK/Stuff

Nelson lawyer Sally Gepp, pictured in 2017, described the items as “symbols of hate and white supremacy”.

Their inclusion in a planned auction at Nelson was a surprise and the timing was also of concern “so close to the time when a white supremacist killed 51 people so close to us”, Gepp said, referring to the Christchurch terror attack in March 2019.

“I just think it would be more respectful if they [items of Nazi memorabilia] were withdrawn from sale,” she said.

Nelson resident Ian Morris backed calls for the items to be withdrawn from the auction, saying he was “very concerned and disturbed” about their inclusion.

“While it is not against the law in New Zealand, it is deeply offensive to the Jewish community within New Zealand and globally,” Morris said. “It promotes a fascist and racist ideology and fuels and feeds into the neo-Nazi and white supremacy that we are seeing grow within the United States of America at this current time.”

Juliet Moses says it is disturbing to see flags emblazoned with swastikas for sale in Aotearoa.

Stuff

Juliet Moses says it is disturbing to see flags emblazoned with swastikas for sale in Aotearoa.

In a statement, police confirmed it was “not illegal” to sell or buy Nazi memorabilia in New Zealand.

“We acknowledge that the auction is taking place,” police said.

On behalf of the New Zealand Jewish Council, Juliet Moses said that while it was not illegal, “it is disturbing to see flags emblazoned with swastikas for sale in Aotearoa”.

“These flags are emblematic of the abhorrent Nazi regime and have no military interest,” Moses said. “I hope whoever buys them does not use them to glorify that regime and is cognisant of all those who lost their lives due to the Nazis, including six million Jews, as well as Roma, Slavs, homosexuals and indeed Kiwis who were sent to fight them.”

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When he was called by Stuff on Saturday, Lipscombe Auction House owner and auctioneer Warwick Savage said he had “no comment to make at all”.

A post dated October 1 on the Lipscombe Auction House Facebook page about the auction says: “In compliance with Facebook’s rules we are not in a position to show images of a great deal of the goods in this auction.” Visitors are referred to an online link to see the items.

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