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Can you spot a fake?

Star of David armband worn by ghetto police (fake) and Jewish ghetto police desk seal (fake)

If you were shopping in a market in Thailand and came across a cheap Kate Spade handbag, you would probably be right in thinking that the bag is a reproduction or a fake. When you can’t afford the real thing but you want it anyway, a fake is a good stand in.

But what when the fake is Holocaust related and how can you tell the difference between a fake and a real item from the Holocaust?

This question was brought home to me recently when a lovely man came in to the Sydney Jewish Museum to donate items that he purchased from an antique store in NSW, believing them to be Holocaust memorabilia.

As a curator in a history Museum I have a duty to ensure that what we collect and display is authentic. There is a difference between a fake and a replica – and that is intention. A fake is presented as an original object and is intended to mislead or deceive. A replica or facsimile on the other hand, is something the Museum supports in preserving our original material.

We get donations from the public who are unaware that they have purchased a fake and we also get donations from the public who wish to remove fakes from circulation to avoid any long term confusion with it being genuine. So we have decided to collect these fakes even though we will not formerly process them into the collection nor ever display them.

There is a proliferation of fakes on the market and we wish to spread the word to the public to be skeptical and to recognise the importance of provenance to the integrity of an artefact. The vast majority of our collection consists of artefacts donated directly by Holocaust survivors or their descendants and thus there is a direct link between the object, the survivor and the memory that goes along with it.

Fakes do not memorialise the Holocaust. Merchandising any aspect of the Holocaust serves no purpose other than to earn money from the suffering of others.

Author: Roslyn Sugarman, Head Curator