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Saturday, 27 March 2010

Jewish store owner defends Nazi soap sale (Canada)

Abraham Botines will be the first to tell you he has no idea if a bar of swastika-engraved soap he owns from the Nazi era is really made of human remains.

But the owner of an eclectic curiosity shop in a trendy Montreal neighbourhood makes no apologies about wanting to sell the item — a rarity that has caused a mini-storm in the Jewish community.
Botines, a Spanish-born Jew who has operated the quirky boutique since 1967, said Friday that no one in his family wants the soap or other controversial war-era items.
So the feisty store owner has decided, given his advanced age and weakening health, that it is time to sell the soap that he bought at top dollar from a retired Canadian soldier.

"I’m 73 and I was collecting things from the Holocaust and from World War II because I belong to that period," Botines said in an interview Friday in the cluttered shop.
"In my lifetime I got a lot of curiosity items — that is, things that are hard to find . . . and my things, my children, they don’t have any interest."
But Botines is adamant he’s selling a collectible item and not hateful ideology.
After reporters began descending on the store Friday morning, the controversial bar of soap was put aside.

Botines said it can now be seen only by serious collectors or those willing to pony up the starting asking price of $300.
"It’s my soap and I’m free to do anything I want with it," he said.
CBC initially reported the existence of the beige bar of soap alleged to be from Poland from about 1940.

Different Jewish groups have raised concerns about the sale of the Nazi-era soap purportedly made from Holocaust victims. They agree that selling the object is offensive.
B’nai Brith Canada sent a representative to the shop on Friday and said it would like Montreal police to investigate.
At best, Jewish community groups said the soap and other Nazi-era objects belong in a museum to be used as educational tools.
"The only appropriate place for such items is a museum where they’re serving a public education purpose," said Anita Bromberg, B’nai Brith’s legal counsel, from Toronto.
Botines said the items are historical and prove the Holocaust actually happened.

His son Ivan, who-co-owns the store, doesn’t like having the soap around but respects his father’s wishes.
"We’re not doing this to promote ideology," said Ivan Botines. "We want people to be conscious of this period, not to forget it."
Both father and son have been careful and have refused to sell items to neo-Nazis in the past.

In 2009, B’nai Brith had five complaints across Canada about the sale of controversial items on the Internet and in flea markets, No charges were laid.
It is not illegal to sell items bearing a swastika in Canada.