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.”


Arab and world leaders react to the death of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak

Updated 16 min 4 sec ago

Arab and world leaders react to the death of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak

  • The Egyptian leader passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91

CAIRO: World leaders have paid tribute to Egypt’s longest serving President Hosni Mubarak, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91, ending his days after a swift and ignominious tumble from power. 

The Egyptian leader was for nearly 30 years the resolute face of stability in the Middle East before being forced by the military to resign after nationwide protests that were part of the Arab world's 2011 pro-democracy upheaval. 

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi King Salman has expressed his sincere condolences to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi over the death of the country’s former leader Mubarak, according to the Saudi Press Agency. 

Also, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent his heartfelt condolences in a cable to Sisi, where he paid tribute to Mubarak and expressed condolences to the leader’s family.

UAE

Rulers of the United Arab Emirates have expressed their condolences and solace on the death of Mubarak, a statement on state-run news agency WAM said. The country will also lower flags for one day in mourning. 

ISRAEL

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mubarak for delivering "peace and security" to his people and for achieving "peace with Israel". 

"In the name of Israel's citizens and government, I'd like to express deep sorrow over the passing of president Hosni Mubarak," Netanyahu said, calling the long-serving Egyptian leader "a personal friend.. who brought his people to peace and security (and) to peace with Israel."

PALESTINE

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas hailed the former Egyptian president as a supporter of the Palestinian cause. 

A statement from Abbas's office said he mourned the death "with great sorrow" and hailed the "late president's positions in support of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people in achieving their freedom and independence".

KUWAIT

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al-Sabah also expressed sincere condolences on the death of Mubarak.

Al-AZHAR INSTITUTE 

Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb of Egypt's premier Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, has paid tribute to Mubarak, praising his national role and his prominent role as a hero in the October war in 1973.