An eastern suburbs cafe has caused controversy with its Nazi memorabilia display but it’s not the only item with a bloody history on show. FIND OUT WHAT ELSE IS INSIDE!
The Wentworth Courier
May 6, 2021
As good as Sydney’s coffee culture is, our favourite cafes do often all look the same.
But that cannot be said of Paddington’s Café Lautrec which opened last month, next door to Smalls Auctions on Oxford Street.
Rather than your usual shelves packed with soy milk cartons and pretend books, this cafe houses a frankly terrifying collection of Nazi memorabilia.
There are images of Adolf Hitler, an original copy of the Fuhrer’s 1936 speech to the Reichstag, mugshots of top Nazis Rudolf Hess and Albert Speer from the Nuremberg trials, war medals and much more.
But not all is as it seems.
Mark Duff who owns both businesses is no neo-Nazi. He in fact has Jewish heritage and has been running the auction house for four years.
It was during the pandemic he set about transforming part of the auction house space into the cafe.
Mr Duff, who once sold billionaire and Charles Darwin collector Kerry Stokes an artwork painted by the famous biologist’s cabin mate for a five figure sum, told the Wentworth Courier the attention given to his collection of Nazi memorabilia was disappointing.
“They (Nazi items) were the relics of a terrible, terrible time of a terrible regime,” he said. “But we can’t just ignore history.”
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Mr Duff, who was raised as a Catholic but has a grandmother with Jewish heritage, said he’d sold a handful of Nazi memorabilia items to military history buffs and had yet to be contacted by anyone identifying as a white supremacist.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said he had been contacted by a number of people expressing anger and upset at the sale of these artefacts.
However, he said as ever context was critical.
He added: “Any sale of Nazi items is guaranteed to cause hurt and offence, given that the regime represents the ultimate in race hatred, perpetrated the murder of six million Jews, and 27,000 Australian soldiers lost their lives fighting Nazism.
“The difficulty always is finding the appropriate balance between selling such artefacts and glorifying the regime that they represent.
“In this case, the Nazi items comprise a small proportion of the wartime memorabilia on sale and signify a critical chapter of Australian history which we dare not ignore or forget.
“We need to know our history and we need to learn the lessons of history – as long as it is done in a considered and responsible manner.”
The Nazi items are but a small part of Mr Duff’s staggering general historic collection.
He said like all other display items they are not a permanent fixture.
And they are certainly not the only items to raise a few eyebrows.
Mr Duff, who now calls Double Bay home but lived in the Woollahra and Paddington area for 35 years, has amassed a staggering collection of historic artefacts.
Gesturing to a display of pre-Roman Empire era arrowheads and Norman Dynasty axes, Mr Duff said the Nazi pieces were far from the only items with a bloody history.
“There’s probably at least 30 people who have been killed by what’s in that cabinet,” Mr Duff said.
“I’ve got a Japanese samurai sword in the window. How many heads could that have potentially chopped off?”
This isn’t the first time Mr Duff has received complaints about his auction items.
He said his aboriginal artefacts often raised ire as did some harking back to Australia’s often brutal colonial past.
“Do I take off display everything that someone finds objectionable?” Mr Duff said.
“If I did that I’d be selling socks.”