The market for historical objects has grown significantly in recent years, with more and more individuals who are not keen collectors offering pieces inherited from their family for sale, sometimes without knowing their value. Of particular interest are historical objects from the Nazi period and World War II, the sale of which raises moral and ethical questions regarding the memory of the Holocaust and the history of the Jewish people.
Although his father was a collector and no stranger to the world of collectibles, Eyal Ilya started collecting and selling historical items almost by accident. It was his previous occupation in the field of security cracking that drew him into this world. “I used to buy old, neglected safes — mostly from the estates of the deceased, most of them closed — in order to refurbish them and resell them on second-hand sites,” he says. “Most of the safes were obviously empty, but sometimes a safe with an exciting surprise would appear.
Initially, Ilya sold the items he found in the safes to major auction houses in Israel, with the help of his good friend, illusionist Uri Geller. Later, following successful sales, he decided to establish the Pentagon Auction House.
Ilya first discovered Holocaust collectibles through a large collection inherited from his father, which sparked his curiosity to explore the stories of the objects. By examining and studying his collection, Ilya learned of a market for anti-Semitic memorabilia, mainly from the period after World War I until the fall of the Nazi regime. Collectibles included anti-Semitic tracts, items from concentration and extermination camps, Nazi stamps, and many other paraphernalia used by the Nazis themselves.
“For me, I consider collecting these objects as a mission for several reasons. First of all, to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. By provoking discussions and emotions with these sales, I believe I am doing a good service. in preserving the memory of the Holocaust,” he said. “Furthermore, I have set myself a goal: to purchase as many of these items as possible, so that they do not end up in the hands of anti-Semites or anti-Jewish organizations, and to preserve them as educational tools.
Who collects these objects?
Ilya points out that he sells the private property of people who are interested in it. “It may surprise you, but the collectors of these objects are themselves Holocaust survivors or children of Holocaust survivors. I find it difficult to explain this phenomenon, but it is a fact. I understand the people looking to buy yellow badge [which were used to identify Jewish people during the Nazi period] or something like that, but sometimes I don’t understand when Holocaust survivors buy Nazi items.
Some collectors explain that their goal is to preserve the memory of the horror that they themselves or their parents have experienced. Some seek to buy the coins for educational purposes and because they fear they will end up in the wrong hands. And some do it out of a strong desire to document these objects and preserve their memory and the memory of the Holocaust.
When asked if he has also come across any anti-Semitic organizations in Israel or around the world that have tried to purchase such items through him, Ilya replies, “I have never been approached by such an organization. There are many collectors who buy from me, and all of them, without exception, are Jews and almost all the objects remain in Israel.”
Which coins are most sought after by collectors?
“It is actually the personal items of Jews that are most in demand – yellow badges and prisoner uniforms are the items that fetch the highest prices,” Ilya says. Recently, the auction house sold a yellow badge for around $1,700. The yellow badge is an icon; this is the most recognizable thing when talking about the Jewish Holocaust. There is hardly anyone in the world who will see a yellow badge and not recognize it,” says Ilya.
Many auction houses sell items from the Holocaust period. Like many other areas of collectibles, a counterfeit industry has also developed for these items. Some counterfeiters make fake yellow badges or manage to find old fabrics, which can still be found in Eastern Europe, and attempt to forge old inmate uniforms. “There is a way to detect counterfeits,” says Ilya. “First of all, there are certificates that must be attached to the particular object, cross-checking with other objects to identify an original is also part of the authentication process. There must be evidence of the authenticity of the item. Once I was offered a document that was totally ragged on the outside and quite new on the inside, and this immediately aroused the suspicion that it was a fake , and after careful examination it turned out I was surprised to find that the fake was produced in Israel by someone who claimed it was not a fake, by a “fancy”. ‘There had never been such certificates, and that he invented them, inspired by the Holocaust. He put a Nazi stamp on a photo and created the document. There is money to be made here , and people take advantage of it
Ilya adds: “In markets all over Bulgaria you can find a lot of fake yellow badges, and in Poland they also produce a lot of fakes from fabrics that are almost 100 years old. They seek out Jewish tourists in the markets and try to sell them the counterfeits, falsely claiming that they are genuine items, along with other Judaica products. In Israel, I met only one counterfeiter”.
Pentagon Auction House sales take place online, at least once a month, for several hours during which hundreds of items are sold. The next auction, for example, which will take place on February 13 on the Bidspirit portal, will include a decorated Nazi Navy knife that has a starting price of $600 and currently stands at $750. Also up for sale at the same auction is a set of knives with swastikas, clothes pins, an SS officer’s helmet and more.
The auction page reads: ‘Dear friends and collectors, the Nazi items in the auction come from the collection of a Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor who for years bought all the items Nazis he could find so neo-Nazis wouldn’t get their hands on them. them. Now items are offered for sale, including items that have never been and probably never will be on Bidspirit again.
Ilya concludes: “All the items for sale come from the same Jew, who accumulated and bought them for many years, until he finally decided to sell them. Thousands of people have already registered for the sale at the auction, but anyone can participate and watch. I will be the person running the auction.”
The entire auction process can be viewed without prior registration.