Irish auctioneer defends sale of Nazi memorabilia

‘It is history. I defend the right of collectors to collect what they like,’ says Ian Whyte

A Dublin auction house has defended its right to sell Nazi memorabilia despite an objection from the son of a holocaust survivor.

Nine items of Nazi memorabilia will go on auction as part of Whyte’s The Eclectic Collector auction on Saturday which consists of 576 lots.

These include a Nazi sash, an Anschluss campaign leaflet, a child’s helmet and various German army daggers.

Oliver Sears said seeing Nazi memorabilia on display in the window of Whyte's before a similar auction last year was "nauseating".


The Oliver Sears Gallery is just four doors down from Whyte’s on Molesworth Street.

His mother Monika Sears (76) was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. At the age of six, she was placed on a train to Treblinka, but escaped. His great-grandparents and great-uncle all died in Auschwitz .

He described the trade in Nazi memorabilia as “utterly tasteless” and a “foolish thing to do”.

It was particularly tasteless, he said, given what had happened with neo-Nazis in the United States recently.

"We have had Charlottesville and, rather than insulate himself from current political trends, I would urge Mr Whyte again to pluck up the two microns worth of courage required to put morality before cheap, financial gain," he said.

Mr Sears raised the issue of Whyte's selling Nazi memorabilia with its proprietor Ian Whyte last year.

He said the sale of Nazi memorabilia was in an “altogether different league” to all other historical memorabilia given the crimes committed by the Nazi regime.

The swastika was a “symbol of absolute terror” for his family.

“The attitude is not what these represent, but the bottom line which is making money. No one I have spoken to disagrees with me about this.”

Historical interest

Mr Whyte responded by stating these were items of historical interest only and his auction house sold military memorabilia from Roman times to the present.

He found it “puzzling” that he has received “a few complaints” about selling Nazi memorabilia.

He added: "We have never received complaints about selling militaria of the Soviet Union, South American dictatorships, the IRA, UVF or other controversial organisations or regimes.

“All our buyers are genuine collectors who have a passion for history and the artefacts that bring it alive for them, and who will preserve and pass them on for posterity.

“It is history. You can find terrible atrocities from the British and the French if you look back 100 to 150 years ago. I defend the right of collectors to collect what they like. I don’t see any harm in it.”

He pointed out that he also had a Soviet-era NKVD secret police badge for sale on Saturday and Stalin’s secret police had killed millions.

Most of the major auction houses in London have a policy of not selling Nazi memorabilia.

A Christie's Spokesperson said: "Christie's has a well-established, specific policy that it does not sell Nazi memorabilia or works of art that are by Adolf Hitler. "

However, Mr Whyte said they were being disingenuous as they do not deal in the military memorabilia of the type he is selling at auction.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times