The European Parliament mistakenly shipped rare artifacts from the post-World War II Nuremberg trials — on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum — to the doorstep of a private art collector in the Netherlands.
Nuremberg trial (1946)
Four sets of headphones used for translation by Nazi defendants in the 1945-1946 trials were intended for display in the House of European History, a museum the Parliament is preparing to open in Brussels after long delays. But according to Parliament officials the items were briefly misplaced last month when they were mistakenly sent to the art collector, who was expecting to receive a shipment of his own materials from the museum.
The headsets have since been recovered by the Parliament and will be part of the new museum’s permanent display, though a date for its opening has been put off indefinitely over construction and security concerns.
The bungle happened after the collector, who declined to be identified because of concerns about his reputation in the art world, demanded the return of 25 protective folders he had sent along with 6,500 posters he sold to the Parliament. The posters, part of a collection depicting European solidarity and integration, will be exhibited in the House of European History.
After a year of demands from the collector to return the folders, worth €5,000, the Parliament agreed to send them via an art handling service that has been storing items purchased and loaned from various museums around the globe for the museum.
But instead of sending the folders, the service accidentally shipped a wooden crate marked with the label “Holocaust Museum” to the dealer’s studio in an Amsterdam suburb. The collector’s business partner opened the container to find four headsets used by Nazis Alfred Rosenberg, Baldur von Schirach, Albert Speer and Walther Funk, when they were on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg. The box also included ration cards, whistles, letters, ID tags and other artifacts from concentration camps.
The items were on loan to the European Parliament from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The private art collector said he immediately called the Holocaust Museum’s curator about the mix-up.
“It’s a devastating article,” the dealer said of the headsets. “Through these phones, the horrors had been going through the brain of those perpetrators. It doesn’t get more tangible than this. They are priceless.”
The art collector said the mixup reflected the Parliament’s mismanagement of the museum project. [...]
Some critics have called the museum a “vanity project,” and have accused the Parliament of being ill-equipped to manage a museum. Others are fearful that the exhibits will tell a revisionist and pro-EU story of European history.