May 10, 2001
Going, Going, Gone
Online auctioneer eBay has promised to ban the sale of all items associated with Nazi Germany, hate groups and murderers, effective May 17.
Earlier, eBay had discontinued the sale of similar hate-filled memorabilia of recent origin but had excepted items over 50 years old and therefore deemed historical.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which had lobbied for the policy change for two years, welcomed the decision, noting that eBay had become the largest online retailer of Nazi material.
"Because eBay charges for auction listings and gets a cut of successful sales, it is morally responsible for what is available on its massive site," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center's associate dean.
Cooper added that in meetings with eBay officials, he had urged the company to follow the stricter European rules on hate material in its U.S. operations. "This is not a matter of free-speech rights; we're talking about commerce," he said.
However, eBay, based in San Jose, will permit the continued sale of German stamps and coins from the 1930s and 1940s, as well as documentary material about World War II.
The new eBay policy also bans material associated with murders committed in the past 100 years, including personal letters, artwork and novelty goods bearing the names and images of notorious criminals.
The change in policy drew protests from Arthur Rosenblatt, a Florida-based collector, who has sold thousands of items related to crime through eBay, according to wire-service reports. Rosenblatt is quoted as saying, moreover, "I'm Jewish, and I think if people want to sell Nazi memorabilia on eBay, that's their business."
Internet portal Yahoo! similarly banned Nazi and Ku Klux Klan memorabilia in January, after adverse court decisions in France and international protests.
Last week, eBay knocked Amazon.com from the top spot as the most-visited e-commerce site.