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Billionaire’s Nazi memorabilia and connection to Justice Thomas raises questions

Under fire for his ties to Clarence Thomas, many people want to know why Texas real estate mogul Harlan Crow has a signed copy of ‘Mein Kampf’

A wealthy Texas real estate developer who was the subject of a recent ProPublica investigation is getting attention for both his uncomfortably close relationship with a Supreme Court justice and his habit of showing off Nazi paraphernalia. 

The ProPublica report focused on Harlan Crow’s decades-long ties to Clarence Thomas, which have included hosting Thomas and his wife aboard his superyacht, at his private resorts and on private jet trips.

According to ProPublica, Thomas did not disclose the trips and other gifts from Crow, a possible violation of ethics laws. In a statement to the news outlet, Crow said he and Thomas were friends and he denied that any lobbying took place.

But the article prompted renewed interest in one of Crow’s hobbies: the collection and display of artifacts from Nazi Germany, including objects directly tied to Adolf Hitler.

According to Washingtonian magazine, Crow’s collection includes a signed copy of Mein Kampf and several paintings made by Hitler, who was a struggling artist in Vienna before coming to power in Germany. Those paintings were reportedly displayed at his home with no context, hung on a wall next to works from famed American painter Norman Rockwell and former President George W. Bush. 

Also included in the collection are embroidered napkins bearing swastikas and an assortment of medals. The property in Highland Park, Texas, just outside of Dallas, also features a garden housing statues of dictators and tyrants, which he has said does not honor historic monsters such as Stalin, Ceausescu and Mao, but instead commemorates their atrocities. 

In 2015, Crow’s collection was the subject of controversy when Sen. Marco Rubio planned a trip to the home on the eve of Yom Kippur. 

Almost 80 years after the end of World War II, a cottage industry has sprung up around relics from the Third Reich. Searches for “Nazi collectibles” turn up thousands of results on eBay alone. Paintings made by Hitler have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars despite critics saying they have “no artistic value.” In 2020, Nazi uniforms and other relics were stolen from several European museums, with experts saying the loot was likely destined for collectors in Russia or Eastern Europe. 

In the past, officials at prominent Holocaust museums like Yad Vashem have said that collecting German World War II-era memorabilia is OK, provided it’s done with the intention of preserving the memory of the Holocaust. In recent years, a number of Jews have begun snatching up everything from issues of Nazi newspapers to antisemitic ashtrays.

However, many on social media found Crow’s collection at the very least distasteful. 

Others came to Crow’s defense. An avowed Republican, Crow has donated millions to candidates and PACs across the United States. However, not included in the recipients of his largesse is former President Donald Trump. Crow’s defenders were largely on the right, though some noted his ties to some prominent Democrats.

Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) tweeted: “It’s not a tribute to evil or something to be mocked. It’s an attempt commemorate the horrors of the 20th century in the spirit of ‘never again.’ Harlan Crow is a deeply honorable, decent, and patriotic person. He’s not the strawman Thomas haters are trying to make him.”

David French (@DavidAFrench) responded to Goldberg’s comment: “I know Harlan also. I’ve participated in several debates at Old Parkland. The idea that he’s a Nazi sympathizer is utterly ludicrous. He abhors tyranny, from fascism to communism to everywhere in between.

Mark Paoletta (@MarkPaoletta) also hailed Goldberg for “calling out this ludicrous & despicable smear of Harlan Crow, who is a good man,” adding that House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) was at Crow’s office complex “a few weeks ago. Harlan gave him a very warm introduction.”

Meanwhile, conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro defended Crow’s collection by saying, “a reason you might own this stuff is to remember the things that you hate.”

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