Nazi-era soap a controversial collectible
Published Friday, March 26, 2010 5:52PM EDT
A Montreal store has come under fire from Jewish groups for selling Nazi memorabilia, including a bar of soap that is rumoured to be made from the remains of Holocaust victims.
Inside a cramped collectibles shop on St. Laurent Blvd., Abraham Botines claims he bought the bar of soap off a Canadian soldier who found it in a concentration camp.
Described as yellowish and adorned with a swastika, his son, Ivan, who owns the store, said its ingredients are uncertain, but potentially disturbing.
"I can only tell you what (Abraham) told me, which is it was probably made from human fat or grease," he said.
The elder Botines, who describes himself as an observant Jew, has a collection of Nazi-era artefacts, including cigarettes bearing the Third Reich symbol, medallions and badges.
Both Botines men insist they's not promoting hate, they're simply collectors.
"It makes us different from other stores. It's part of history. It's not something I would want to be forgotten," said Ivan Botines.
Soap a myth?
During World War II, it was widely believed soap was being mass-produced from the bodies of Jewish victims.
Many historians, however, say it's not true.
"We have never found any evidence that soap was made from the remains of murdered Jews," said Frank Chalk, a history professor at Concordia University.
Jewish groups outraged
That the store even sells such an object outrages Jewish groups, like B'Nai Brith.
"We think this is an indignity," said Heidi Oppen of B'nai Brith Canada. "This is a disappointment to the Jewish community and to non-Jews, especially with Holocaust Remembrance Day around the corner. This is just awful."
Botines said he tried to sell the soap to the Holocaust Museum, but they refused to pay because they feel profiting off such objects is disrespectful to Holocaust survivors.
"Seeing those objects sold and valued, I find that actually horrifying. That shows a great lack of respect for society -- for human life," said Alice Herscovitch of the Montreal Holocaust Centre.