A tattoo kit — part of a series of equipment used to tattoo Polish prisoners at the notorious Auschwitz death camp — was briefly auctioned online until a New York-based auction house stepped in to halt the sale on concerns it could be used as a Nazi souvenir.
The kit is an FK-4 tool used to tattoo prisoners and was included in a collection of tattoo kit memorabilia that was briefly up for auction on March 16-17. A New York auction house stepped in to block the sale after customers in Poland contacted them about the auction, which had attracted about $18,000 in bids.
The auction house said the kit sold by an Ohio-based vendor was authentic and recently purchased from a German dentist who in 1999 testified in a U.S. criminal trial against members of a gang accused of carrying out the anti-Semitic “Final Solution,” the AP reported.
“We had no idea that this is what it was made for, that Auschwitz is one of the last places in the world to have these devices,” Alfredo Rodriquez, director of business development for Infra Auction Co., told the AP. “Obviously, there was nothing we could do to make it not go on the auction block.”
The gang was charged in New York with transporting refugees from Germany to death camps in the Nazi-occupied area of Poland. Seven people went to trial and one — Adolf Eichmann — was sentenced to death and executed. The defendants were convicted, but the judge imposed a gag order on the case.
The auction company said the device could be easily confused with thousands of other similar items.
Auctioneer Alexander Gorlin, in a news release, pointed out the kits are sold online.
“It is a well-known fact that tattooing is not supported by the Catholic Church and that those with tattoos have an increased risk of cancer,” Gorlin said. “However, even so, the fact that the auction in question is included in an auction catalog of various medical kits appears to be another matter.”
News of the auction sparked a debate on the auction website.
A comment on one of the auction listings titled “Anne Frank Tattoo Kit,” garnered a number of angry reactions. One person wrote, “How is this for a Nazi souvenir?!?! Was she against sterilization as well? How do we know she was Jewish? And I am not that freaked out about this…”
Another said, “I’m really shocked at the fact that this story is even a part of the current headlines!”
The maker of the FK-4 kit, Lothar Derbla, 62, sold the kits in the ’90s when he was living in the West German city of Dortmund, but has since moved to Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Reuters reported that some kits contained labels saying “victims of Aryan War,” while others listed the serial numbers of trains.
Derbla said he made up to 50 kits a month and sold them in containers decorated with the number 70, as that was how many Auschwitz death camp prisoners were tattooed by the FK-4 machine.
According to AP, Auschwitz was used by German Nazi troops from 1941 to 1945. An estimated 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, died at the death camp in southern Poland.
Weeks after its liberation, a number of veterans from World War II brought armaments from the camp to the United States.