JERUSALEM, Israel - A wealthy Lebanese Christian businessman spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Nazi memorabilia at a controversial auction in Munich, Germany on Wednesday – not because he admires Hitler – but to keep the artifacts out of the hands of those who do.
Abdallah Chatila says he will donate the items, including Hitler's very own top hat, to a Jewish organization to make sure neo-Nazis will never get a chance to touch them.
"I wanted to buy these objects so that they would not be used for neo-Nazi propaganda purposes," Chatila, a mogul who has made millions from diamonds and real estate in Geneva, told Switzerland's Le Matin Dimanche newspaper.
"My approach is totally apolitical and neutral," he added.
Along with Hitler's top hat, Chatila purchased a copy of Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto "Mein Kampf" and his lover Eva Braun's cocktail dress.
Chatila will donate the items to Keren Hayesod, an Israeli fundraising organization that works to help Jews immigrate to Israel and thrive in the land.
"Far-Right populism and anti-Semitism are spreading all over Europe and the world, I did not want these objects to fall into the wrong hands and to be used by people with dishonest intentions," he said.
Keren Hayesod's European director told France's Le Point magazine that the items will likely be given to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
European Jewish Association founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin was moved by Chatila's actions.
He called it "a real act of kindness, of generosity and solidarity."
Margolin also said Chatila has also agreed to join 100 European lawmakers on a trip to the Auschwitz death camp in January to receive an award.
"Such a conscience, such an act of selfless generosity to do something that you feel strongly about is the equivalent of finding a precious diamond in an Everest of coal," Margolin wrote Chatila in a letter, as reported by the Associated Press.
"You have set an example for the world to follow when it comes to this macabre and sickening trade in Nazi trinkets," he added.
Chatila's bold act against anti-Semitism comes as Europe is seeing a rise in anti-Jewish bigotry. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a survey last week that reveals nearly 25 percent of Europeans hold anti-Semitic beliefs.
Specifically in Germany, that number is 15 percent.
German Ambassador to Israel Dr. Susanne Wasum-Rainer said at a conference in Jerusalem last week that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the birthplace of the Third Reich.
"We are now witnessing, let me say, a new wave of anti-Semitism in Germany," said Wasum-Rainer.
One way Germany is combating this rise is by pushing to criminalize "hate speech" and anti-Semitism on and offline.
Earlier this year, Germany's top intelligence agency released a 40-page report, titled "Antisemitism in Islamism," which identities Muslim immigrant communities as a source of significant anti-Semitic violence against Jews in Germany.
According to the report, most anti-Semitic crimes in Germany are committed by far-right extremists and relatively few anti-Semitic crimes are attributed to Islamism. However, the agency warns that radicalization and calls for anti-Semitic violence among the Islamists "form the breeding ground for violent escalations."
"We consider any anti-Semitic incident as targeting the Jews and non-Jews of Europe," said Wasum-Rainer. "There is zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism, and hatred in Germany."