Skip to content

BEHIND THE SCENES: Educational or hateful?; Nazi war artifacts at Cambridge shop stir debate

CambridgeToday reporter Matt Betts takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here

Today's spotlight is on's Matt Betts, whose story 'Educational or hateful?; Nazi war artifacts at Cambridge shop stir debate' was published on Nov. 8.

Here is the original story if you need to catch up:

For $450 you can buy a gold Nazi war medal, Swastika and all, at Southworks Antiques on Water Street in Galt.

And while the sale of such items isn't illegal, nor is owning them, it begs the moral question of why someone would make such a purchase.

A collector or sympathizer?

Is it educational or hateful?

Nicole Robert, manager at Southworks, believes the former.

She said what people put in their display cases for sale is their prerogative and her stance is history should be learned from, not erased.

To aid in the education, each case is supposed to be accompanied by a written blurb to explain the historical context of the items inside.

That historical context is not part of this display, nor was the vendor available to speak about the collection which is sold on consignment by Southworks.

"We have 150 booth owners and they can put whatever they want in their booth," Robert said.

"History is what it is and we don't try to change it. There's a Jewish society that works closely with us and writes the blurbs to help educate people."

Robert admits there is a line they won't cross as far as what's put on display, such as graphic non-war related images and pornography.

She's also very much aware and sensitive to the emotions these types of items bring up.

"We know these items do evoke feelings with people," she said.

"I’ve had Jewish people who appreciate us not letting the history be forgotten. I’m sad for people who have gone through this and I do sympathize. A lot of cultures have hate and we don't want to forget the mistakes humans have made."

As for who's buying these items, Robert said war historians, museums and people looking for items for tv and movie sets are the most common.

But Dan Panneton, director of allyship and community engagement at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies in Toronto, isn't buying it.

"We acknowledge it's not illegal but we also agree that it's immoral and shouldn't be done," Panneton said of buying and selling Nazi items.

"Education is commonly used as a defence to profiting from these materials. If they cared, they'd donate it to a museum."

Panneton said anyone who's an "expert" doesn't need to collect the items to be one.

It's not uncommon for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center to reach out to shops to discuss why they think it's wrong and to discuss the best course of action.

Panneton pointed to the recent Nazi tunic that was on display at a St. Jacob's market this past summer for $6,500 as an example.

The fact these items aren't illegal creates a moral dilemma people must face, he said.

"Because the sale is not illegal, it falls upon the community to speak up and reject the sale and collection of such items," Panneton said.

"Given the escalation of hate crimes and speech, any example like this is concerning and makes the Jewish community feel unsafe. Any individual thinking of collecting such items should consider the impact."