Shop owner defends sale of 'Holocaust' soap
Montreal shop owner's wares draw ire from Jewish groups
Last Updated: Friday, March 26, 2010 | 7:03 PM ET
The owner of a Montreal collectibles shop is defending his decision to sell a bar of soap he advertises as being made of the fat of Holocaust victims.
Jewish groups in Montreal are denouncing the shop in the city's Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood where the beige bar of soap is displayed.
The soap is inscribed with a swastika and displayed in a glass case with a card that says "Poland 1940."
On Friday, Abraham Botines, a Spanish-born Jew who has operated the quirky boutique since 1967, admitted he has no idea whether the soap is really made of human remains.
"I'm 73 and I was collecting things from the Holocaust and from World War II because I belong to that period," Botines told The Canadian Press in an interview Friday in the cluttered shop.
"In my lifetime I got a lot of curiosity items — that is, things that are hard to find ... and my things, my children, they don't have any interest."
But Botines is adamant he's selling a collectible item and not hateful ideology.
After reporters began descending on the store Friday morning, the controversial bar of soap was put aside.
Botines said it can now be seen only by serious collectors.
"It's my soap and I'm free to do anything I want with it," he said.
Most Holocaust experts say the stories that have circulated over the years about Nazis mass-producing soap from the remains of Jews and others who died in concentration camps are largely untrue although there is evidence the Nazis experimented with soap-making using human remains.
Nonetheless, Jewish groups were angered by the discovery of the soap, which was first reported by CBC News.
Fake or real, the soap is outrageous, and "this individual, and others like him, are not preserving history in any way," said Alice Herscovitch, director of Montreal's Holocaust Centre. "The sale of objects which glorify Nazism and hatred, to me, do nothing. They certainly don't help us remember."
The idea is also disgusting, she said.
"These are items that should not be out there in a promotional, sales kind of way."
Braid of hair on sale
The sale of items with swastikas is not illegal under Canadian law, but selling soap made with human remains is, said Anita Bromberg, B'nai Brith Canada's chief legal counsel.
Making such a claim about a bar of soap, if untrue, is also illegal because it is fraud, she added.
"It's just offensive to the core," said Bromberg, who is based in Toronto. "I can't imagine that someone would even pretend to say they're collecting it for historical interest."
Botines also sells a braid of hair labelled as originating from a Nazi "extermination camp."
He said he wouldn't sell any of the items to a neo-Nazi.
On Friday, Montreal police said they would verify the facts and speak with local Jewish groups before deciding whether to open an investigation.
"It's very important to validate the information first," said Montreal police Cmdr. Paul Chablo. "It’s one thing to say this is being sold, [but] is it actually true? … If there is any truth to this, then, of course, we'll want to open an investigation."
An investigation could include ordering a lab analysis of the soap, Chablo said.With files from The Canadian Press
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