Jewish Owner of Montreal Store Selling Holocaust Soap
Jewish groups disgusted by sale of soap allegedly made from fat of Holocaust victims.
The Jewish owner of a Montreal curiosity shop has sparked outrage by selling a bar of soap purportedly made from the fat of Holocaust victims.
The beige bar of soap has a Swastika stamped on it and was housed in a glass case with a card that said “Poland 1940” next to Nazi cigarette packs and mezuzahs.
“The very notion that a store would see a commercial value and put this out for sale is disturbing and disgusting. It turns my stomach,” said Anita Bromberg, B’nai Brith Legal Cousel.
CBC reported that Abraham Botines said the soap was “made out of people… the fat of people.” He said that selling such items was a way to ensure people remember the Holocaust.
Botines opened the Boutique du collectionneur Botines in 1967 in the Plateau-Mont-Royal area.
He claimed to have purchased the bar of soap from a retired Canadian soldier who discovered it in a concentration camp.
After a group of reporters assembled outside the store on Friday morning, the soap was removed from the glass case in the front window.
The media was first contacted about the item the day before by a concerned Jewish person.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Botines said that he will not show the soap to anyone unless they are serious about purchasing it for $300. “It’s my soap and I’m free to do anything I want with it.”
He added that he attempted to sell the bar of soap to a Holocaust museum but they were not interested.
“Should we put the atrocities aside for crass commercialization? I don’t think we should ever be ready for that,” said Bromberg. “The store owner apparently said, ‘Don’t worry I won’t sell it to a neo-Nazi.’ Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt (but) you tell me how you spot a neo-Nazi. It’s a ridiculous statement.”
Heidi Oppen, B’nai Brith Quebec Regional Director, visited the store on Friday pretending to be shopping for paintings. She described to Shalom Life the shock of finding the bar of soap and 10 Nazi cigarette packs beside mezuzahs in a glass display case.
“I was disgusted. I thought it was awful. The fact that the guy in the store didn’t find it offensive at all and he is Jewish, that really bothered me,” said Oppen.
Initially, Openn spoke to Botines’ son and store co-owner, Ivan, whom she described as “very friendly”.
Ivan refused to tell her how much the bar of soap cost except that it was “expensive.” He told her that he was Jewish and didn’t think it was offensive to be selling the soap.
Ivan explained that he was not certain what the soap is made from.
“I can only tell you what (my father) told me, which is it was probably made from human fat or grease,” he said in an interview with CTV News.
Oppen also inquired about reports that the store was selling a braid of hair labeled as being from a Nazi “extermination camp.” But she saw no evidence that item was in the store.
She briefly spoke to Abraham Botines who told her he did not understand what all the fuss was about. When she tried to ask additional questions, he became aggressive and shouted “Get out!”
Oppen said that Botines and his son should understand how disturbing the sale of the soap is, especially as they are Jewish.
“I’m beyond disgusted in these people. They just see this as another collector’s item,” she said.
B’nai Brith has asked police to investigate.
It is not illegal in Canada to sell items that have swastikas on them. Bromberg said that B’nai Brith gets a number of calls each year pertaining to the sale of Nazi memorabilia, the majority dealing with flags and uniforms. Five complaints in 2009 did not result in criminal charges.
However, Bromberg noted that if the soap is authentic, selling it would violate Canadian laws forbidding the sale of human body parts. If conversely, the soap is not authentic, claiming it was made out of human remains would be fraudulent and also illegal.
Jewish historians and Holocaust experts acknowledge that the Nazis had a program that experimented with using fat from the remains of concentration camp victims to make soap but there is no evidence there was ever a program of mass production.
“The only appropriate place for such items is in a museum where it’s there for educating the public of the true meaning of Never Again,” said Bromberg.