The Holocaust Education Trust has decided to accept a £25,000 donation offered by eBay after the online auction site sought to apologise for selling personal items from the Holocaust.
The company issued a grovelling apology after being exposed as selling more than 30 items, including shoes, suitcases, a Polish baker’s Auschwitz uniform and a yellow Star of David armband. It said it would make a donation to charity and chose HET as its preferred recipient. However, HET confirmed it would only accept the donation if eBay bosses signed up to an educational programme and policy review.
“That items of this nature could have slipped through eBay’s monitoring is deeply worrying,” the group said in statement. “However, we appreciate eBay’s swift action on this issue and its assurance that it will not only review their policies, with our guidance, but also commit to a longer term educational programme.”
The auction giant sought to make amends after the Mail on Sunday reported the insensitive sale, saying: “We are very sorry these items have been listed on eBay and we are removing them… We have made a donation to charity to reflect our concern.”
A spokesman for eBay added: “We didn’t live up to our own standards.” The UK-based charity was initially unsure whether to accept the money, but agreed after several discussions with stakeholders. To some, the damage had been done. Historian Simon Schama was among those criticising eBay’s actions, calling it “an unspeakable act of moral cretinousness”.
He added: “This is absolutely beyond belief. Plainly there is no moral atrocity to which eBay will not descend to make a buck.” The items, which were quickly removed, had been posted by Viktor Kempf, a Ukrainian-born resident of Vancouver, who said he had sold another set of clothes linked to Auschwitz for £11,200.
“I have had criticism in the past and I find it upsetting,” said Kempf, who explained he was selling the items to fund book projects. “I don’t want people to think I’m just doing it for the money. These periods in history are horrific, nobody should ever forget them.” The sale of materials from the Holocaust is illegal in Germany, Austria, and France. It is unclear whether eBay violated any of those laws.