Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

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Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila (L), who purchased items belonging to Adolf Hitler at a public auction in Europe to ensure that they do not get into neo-Nazi hands, visits the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on December 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Lebanese-Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila has made a fortune from diamonds and real estate in Geneva, donated Hitler's top hat and other objects linked to the Nazi leader to Keren Hayesod-UIA, which works in partnership with the golbal Jewish Community, in order to keep the items out of the hands of neo-fascists. The items will be transferred to the Yad Vasehm Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2019

Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

  • Abdallah Chatila spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler
  • He said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market

JERUSALEM: wealthy Lebanese-Swiss businessman said Sunday he had bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi artifacts to give them to Jewish groups and prevent them falling into the hands of a resurgent far-right.
Abdallah Chatila said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market because of the rising anti-Semitism, populism and racism he was witnessing in Europe.
He spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler, including the collapsible top hat, in a November 20 sale at a Munich auction house, originally planning to burn them all.
But he then decided to give them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group, which has resolved to hand them to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.
Chatila told a Jerusalem press conference it had been a “very easy” decision to purchase the items when he saw the “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.”
“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” he added.
“What happened in the last five years in Europe showed us that anti-Semitism, that populism, that racism is going stronger and stronger, and we are here to fight it and show people we’re not scared.
“Today — with the fake news, with the media, with the power that people could have with the Internet, with social media — somebody else could use that small window” of time to manipulate the public, he said.
He said he had worried the Nazi-era artifacts could be used by neo-Nazi groups or those seeking to stoke anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.
“That’s why I felt I had to do it,” he said of his purchase.
The items, still in Munich, are to be eventually delivered to Yad Vashem, where they will be part of a collection of Nazi artifacts crucial to countering Holocaust denial, but not be put on regular display, said Avner Shalev, the institute’s director.
Chatila also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visited Yad Vashem.
Chatila was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers and moved to Switzerland at the age of two.
Now among Switzerland’s richest 300 people, he supports charities and causes, including many relating to Lebanon and Syrian refugees.
The auction was brought to Chatila’s attention by the European Jewish Association, which has sought to sway public opinion against the trade in Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Mehachem Margolin, head of the association, said Chatila’s surprise act had raised attention to such auctions.
He said it was a powerful statement against racism and xenophobia, especially coming from a non-Jew of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and Lebanese people are banned from communication with Israelis.
“There is no question that a message that comes from you is 10 times, or 100 times stronger than a message that comes from us,” Margolin told Chatila.
The message was not only about solidarity among people, but also “how one person can make such a huge change,” Margolin said.
“There’s a place for optimism.”


Ukraine says Iran to hand over downed jet’s black boxes

Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

Ukraine says Iran to hand over downed jet’s black boxes

  • Ukraine’s FM said Iran would grant a team of investigators from Iran and Canada as the countries that have lost the most nationals access to the recorders
  • “We just want to know that nobody will be tampering with the recordings themselves,” Prystaiko said

KIEV: Ukraine said Friday Iran was ready to hand over the black box flight recorders of the Ukrainian passenger plane downed by an Iranian missile.
The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737, crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran last Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board, mostly Iranian and Canadian citizens.
Ukraine's foreign minister said Iran would grant a team of investigators from Iran and Canada as the countries that have lost the most nationals access to the recorders.
“After that, the Iranian side is ready to separately transfer the black boxes to Ukraine,” Vadym Prystaiko told lawmakers during a parliamentary session.
“This is consistent with international standards, although we still demand that they be given to us immediately to ensure the independence and objectivity of the investigation,” Prystaiko said.
After initial denials, Iran admitted it has shot down the plane “unintentionally” while on high alert after firing missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani by a US strike.
Prystaiko told CNN on Wednesday that Kiev has “good cooperation” with Tehran on the crash probe, but lacked “access to the information stored in the black boxes.”
“We just want to know that nobody will be tampering with the recordings themselves,” he said.
Prystaiko said an Iranian official will visit Kiev next week “to apologize officially and provide explanations.”
On Thursday, Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain issued a five-point plan for cooperation with Iran during the investigation, calling for “full and unhindered access” for foreign officials.