While the country reels from the arrest of a neo-Nazi cell in
central Israel, a vibrant underground trade of Holocaust-era items continues to thrive.
Bravery citations, identification papers, handguns, daggers, helmets and other wartime mementos belonging to Third Reich soldiers have all been the highlights of secretive auctions and private exchanges over the past 10 years.
An SS uniform can cost anywhere between $1,500- $10,000, medals and citations cost around $100-$200 and helmets can cost up to $1,500. The price of similar items varies greatly and depends on the seniority (or notoriety) of its original owner.
The practice continues to be shrouded in silence and few are willing to discuss their hobby.
"No one knows about the existence of my collection," says A, one of the most prolific traders in Israel, "I don't talk about it, it's harmless and I certainly don't walk around with it in the street."
The 52-year-old has been collecting Nazi memorabilia for over two decades but despite having invested tens of thousands of dollars in it, his accumulated loot is kept carefully stored away in a dark basement in Ramat Gan.
"Everything the Jewish people have been through stirs me. This is an exceptionally dark and significant period in Jewish and national history and I want to illuminate it with the light of remembrance, not denial. What happened, happened. There is no escaping that. And I chose to memorialize this era in the only way I know – through my collections," he explains.
How much more would A be willing to spend to expand his collection? Quite a bit, he replies: "These items are priceless. And like in any market, it's all a matter of supply and demand and there is very limited supply so you can do the math here."
D is also in the Nazi paraphernalia market – but his story differs greatly from most collectors as he himself is a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family to the Nazi horrors.
"'Remember what Amalek did unto thee' – that's why I collect," he says of the private museum he's built for himself.
MK Colette Avital (Labor) recently proposed a bill that would ban the use of all Nazi terminology and symbols. "The State should not accept the use of neo-Nazi symbols," she said, "as for collectors who wish to study these pieces – as long as they aren't displaying it in public, it's their business. Personally, I find it perverted."