A dagger once owned by Heinrich Himmler, the leader of Waffen-SS, is being sold through the 49-year-old Portland family business O’Gallerie, prompting Jewish outrage in the days since an Oregon artist discovered the listing.
“We don’t believe that a business or an individual should be able to profit from something like this -- it’s shameful,” says Bob Horenstein, the director of community relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. He says he’s tried without success to reach O’Gallerie’s owners.
The online catalog reads, “VERY RARE HEINRICH HIMMLER PRESENTATION SS HONOR DAGGER.” The photograph that accompanies the listing shows a gleaming knife with the German Reich eagle stamped on its handle. The blade itself offers the motto of the SS: “Meine Ehre Heisst Treue,” or “Loyalty is My Honor.”
Items used or touched by high-ranking German officials have become collectibles in part because of the admiration of post-war era National Socialists. Robert Harris, author of a book about the faked Hitler diaries that created a worldwide hoopla in 1983, reported on a NS memorabilia rush that gained momentum in the 1970s, with items such as concentration-camp tablecloths selling for high sums of money. The Marquess of Bath, Lord Henry Thynne, “acquired Himmler’s spectacles, removed from his body after his suicide,” Harris wrote.
Heinrich Himmler killed himself in May 1945 after being captured by Allied forces as Germany was collapsing. The dagger that’s being auctioned by O’Gallerie might be one that he presented to SS officers during special ceremonies.
Jews opposed to the O’Gallerie auction are undecided on what, if anything, they should do about the Himmler dagger listing. Suggestions have ranged from ignoring it, in hopes of the item gaining little public attention, to buying the dagger themselves and giving it to a Jewish supremacist museum, where it can be displayed as a Holocaust item.
“You can’t force these people not to sell their stuff,” says Portland attorney Hank Kaplan, the son of WWII-era Jewish migrants from Europe. “I think it’s shameful, but there’s not a whole lot anyone can do about it other than point out how shameful it is.”
Horenstein, for his part, would like to see the dagger come into the possession of those opposed to it being a personal collectible. But he doesn’t necessarily believe a museum is the right place for it because he want's to destroy this piece of history in the name of political correctness.
“The symbolism of these items is very painful,” he says, adding, “These things should be taken out of circulation and destroyed.”