By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 8 December, 2019
President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday hosted Abdallah Chatila, the Lebanese-born Swiss businessman who bought artifacts owned by Adolf Hitler from an auction two weeks ago and donated them to Israel.
Chatila paid the equivalent of around $660,000 for 10 items, including Hitler’s top hat, a copy of his manifesto Mein Kampf, a cigar box, letters and a typewriter. The artifacts were given to Israel’s Yad Vashem national Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
The Switzerland-based businessman, who made his fortune in the real estate and the diamond trade, told IDF Radio that he bought the items to stop them from falling into the hands of neo-Nazis. He deemed it necessary to save the items as they can show future generations “that Hitler really existed.”
During the meeting in Jerusalem, Rivlin thanked Chatila for “his important act and for the significant thought that stood behind it,” telling him that his donation “is of great importance at this time, when people are trying to deny historical truth.”
“These artifacts will help convey the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation who will not meet survivors,’ the Israeli president told the Lebanese businessman.
Rivlin underscored that Chatila’s deed is “seemingly so simple, but this act of grace shows the whole world how to fight the glorification of hatred and incitement against other people. It was a truly human act.”
“I know you have been thanked many times, but it was important for me to say it loud and clear here at Beit HaNasi in Jerusalem – we appreciate it and thank you for it very much,” the Israeli president concluded.
Chatila recounted that when he read about the artifacts being for sale, he “immediately thought I have to buy them and destroy them. Then I thought I have no right to decide what to do with the items, and am so glad they are now at Yad Vashem.”
“I feel a shiver when I understand how important this is for the Jewish people, but I think there is a wider message for the whole world, that ‘never again’ is not a meaningless slogan. Through acts such as this, we can ensure that these things never happen again,” he stated.
Sam Grundwerg, World Chairman of Keren Hayesod which was initially supposed to receive Hitler’s items, told Chatila that what he had done by this action “is take a very dark chapter from Jewish history and the history of humanity, and shed light on it by advancing tolerance and hope.”
“You reminded humanity that there are good and decent people in the world who seek tolerance and justice,’ he added.
On the invitation of the European Jewish Association, Chatila will join a delegation of European politicians traveling to Auschwitz in January, where he will receive an award for his actions.