He prosecuted the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials, but now, nearly 40 years after his death, Moses Kove is exacting another kind of price against Hitler’s henchmen.
An auction price.
Some 100 artifacts from Kove’s personal collection, including many he brought back to the United States after he completed his prosecutorial assignment in Europe, will go on sale Monday, May 14 at J. Greenstein & Co.’s auction of Rare Antique and Artisan Judaica in Cedarhurst, L.I. The collection — Lot 171 — includes original photographs from the trials of high-ranking Nazi officials, ghetto currency, Stars of David that Jews in Germany and France were forced to wear, a postcard sent from Terezin, an arrest document from Lodz, as well as photographs of Kove with David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir.
The collection spent the last 76 years in Kove’s closet on the Upper West Side and in a bank vault in New Jersey owned by his step-daughter Meridyth Mischel Webber, who is selling the items.
Kove gave the items to Webber when his health started to fail, she said. “He told me, ‘I want you to sell them — don’t you donate them.’” Webber said her stepfather told her, “The Germans had my blood.” In other words, prosecuting the directors of the I.G. Farben Chemical and Pharmaceutical Conglomerate and acting as an observer at the trial of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss had taken an emotional toll on him; selling these items would exact a symbolic price.
Jonathan Greenstein, owner of the auction firm, became interested in the Judaica field while working in an antique shop in Brooklyn 36 years ago, and called Kove’s artifacts “the most incredible documentation of what happened at the Nuremberg Trials … it’s part of our history.” He said the collection is the first of its type to be sold by the 14-year-old auction house (jgreenstein.com).
Most lots in Monday’s auction are traditional items like menorahs and kiddush cups, artworks and autographs of leaders of the 12th Zionist Congress.
Greenstein said several museums, which he declined to name, have expressed interest in buying Kove’s possessions.
Kove, a lay leader in B’nai B’rith, was among several other members of the prosecuting team who returned home from Europe with various memorabilia, Ben Ferencz, the only living Nuremberg prosecutor in this country, told The Jewish Week.
The sale of items that had been in Jewish or Nazi hands during the years of the Shoah often becomes a matter of controversy. In recent years, auctions of similar objects in Israel, England, Germany, Argentina, Canada, Ireland and Maryland, and online auctions, have drawn heavy criticism, especially from Jewish leaders who question their propriety.
Such artifacts should be donated to a museum or historical institution, said attorney Menachem Rosensaft, a child of Holocaust survivors who has been active in “second generation” activities, echoing the feelings of Holocaust expert Michael Berenbaum.
The ongoing interest in buying purported Nazi objects — especially among people with neo-Nazi leanings — have raised questions about the objects’ authenticity. “The majority are forgeries and fakes,” said Abe Kugielsky, gallery director at J. Greenstein, who verified the items collected by Kove. “Knowing where they came from, there’s no question about their authenticity.”