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Friday, 10 February 2012

Nazi surgical set withdrawn from auction after organisers reveal 'really unpleasant' threats from families of people who died in the war

A Nazi surgical equipment set owned by an SS commandant and war criminal has been withdrawn from a sale today after phone and e-mail threats.
The wooden box of tools belonged to Anton Burger, a major in the SS who worked at the Theresienstadt concentration camp between July 1943 and February 1944, where 140,000 Jews were held  -  and 33,000 of them died.
The set had been due to go under the hammer at Villa Hall Auctions in Bude, Cornwall, tomorrow.

The wooden box of tools belonged to Anton Burger, a major in the SS who worked at the Theresienstadt concentration camp between July 1943 and February 1944
The wooden box of tools belonged to Anton Burger, a major in the SS who oversaw the Theresienstadt concentration camp between July 1943 and February 1944
Disturbingly, given the contents of the box, there is no evidence that Sturmbannfuhrer Burger ever received medical training. A separate layer above the forked hooks reveals a sinister set of scissors
Disturbingly, given the contents of the box, there is no evidence that Sturmbannfuhrer Burger ever received medical training. A separate layer above the forked hooks reveals a sinister set of scissors
The case is marked 'instrumente gemischte', German for 'mixed instruments'. This has led to the theory it may have been part of the deception to fool the Red Cross into thinking it was for musical instruments
The case is marked 'instrumente gemischte', German for 'mixed instruments'. This has led to the theory it may have been part of the deception to fool the Red Cross into thinking it was for musical instruments
Austrian-born Burger was sentenced to death after the war but fled and lived under an assumed name, eventually dying in Germany in 1991 at the age of 80
Austrian-born Burger was sentenced to death after the war but fled and lived under an assumed name, eventually dying in Germany in 1991 at the age of 80
The police said the messages prompted safety concerns for staff and there will be a police presence at the auction even though the controversial lot has been withdrawn.
The set contains instruments that would have been used in amputations including a saw and scalpels.
It belonged to a late Jewish man whose wife is the current owner. The man's own parents survived the camp where they were held and married.
Grace Cloke, partner at the Bude auction house, said: 'We've had phone calls and e mails which were not of a particular nice nature.
'Some were pretty threatening and the police were concerned that an activist group might turn up. Some of the contact was from people who had lost family members during the war and were not happy with the auction.
'But there were a few that were really unpleasant. One said "I hope you die of cancer".
'It's shame as our vendor was going to donate the money to the War Child charity. None of us felt particularly comfortable about the sale but the money was going to a good cause.'
The set had a guide price of £2,000 and it had been hoped a museum would have bought it.
News of the sale provoked outrage in the Jewish community. Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, the main representative body of British Jews, said that 'to seek to profit from such ghoulish objects is deeply troubling'.

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