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Hitler’s typewriter should be destroyed, not displayed

  • 2b-Letter7
I’m appalled that the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre (JHGC) has agreed to display a typewriter loaned to it by Absa that formally belonged to Adolf Hitler on the spurious justification that the carefully preserved object of veneration will have “positive educational potential”. (“Hitler’s typewriter released from SA bank vault” – SA Jewish Report, 24 January 2020.)
by Estelle Pfeiffer, Cape Town | Feb 06, 2020

What possible educational potential can this typewriter serve, knowing that it had been used by the man singlehandedly responsible for enabling the destruction of a third of European Jewry? An object that for the past 90 years has been owned and cherished by Nazi sympathisers?

It’s only now in an era of public condemnation at the alarming rise of anti-Semitism that Absa has decided that the continued display of its cherished typewriter has become politically embarrassing. It would be face saving to loan it to the JHGC. Not give it, loan it, because Absa obviously still regards this as a valuable asset. Absa should be ashamed to own it.

Furthermore, much white washing and prevarication seems to have taken place in the SA Jewish Report’s article. The typewriter’s possession is justified because it was used before Hitler became chancellor – as though Hitler had no anti-Semitic ideas or bullying Brownshirts before that time. It’s justified on the grounds that the purchaser, Hitler’s baker friend, moved to South Africa and married a South African woman – as though Hitler’s friend wasn’t a Nazi who was delighted to buy a typewriter that had belonged to his hero. Next comes the rationalisation that it was sold to Snyman, a “respected historian”. There were many respected historians, jurists, academics, and journalists willing to join the Nazi party and expel their Jewish competitors. Being a historian doesn’t preclude Snyman from being a Nazi sympathiser – why else would he want to own Hitler’s typewriter?

Next, the typewriter became the proud possession of Volkskas Bank, a forerunner of Absa. Volkskas was started by the Broederbond in 1933 to serve the Afrikaans community, at the height of Afrikaans anti-Semitism in South Africa, with all its board members being Broederbond members. Many Broederbond members were also members of anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi movements like the Greyshirts and Ossewabrandwag. Is it any surprise that Volkskas was proud to add Hitler’s typewriter to its museum even though it didn’t fit into a financial theme?

Absa’s museum curator, Dr Bayliss, believes that even if it means that the Absa museum has to give up certain items, it needs to find the right place for it, and the JHGC is the right place. It should be equally embarrassing for the centre to house the typewriter, the possession of which would have appalled the victims commemorated in the centre.

Like many of Hitler’s victims were, Hitler’s typewriter should be incinerated. Its ashes should be scattered over the smelliest of Johannesburg’s sewage farms.

Certain items don’t deserve to be preserved and exhibited anywhere. Its possession brings honour neither to Absa nor to the JHGC. 

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