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Auction of late Knut zookeeper's effects sparks ugly family fight

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Auction of late Knut zookeeper's effects sparks ugly family fight
Photo: DPA
16:21 CET+01:00
The children of late zookeeper Thomas Dörflein have put some of their father's personal effects for sale on eBay. But his former fiancée has called the auctions "tasteless" and accused them of trading on Dörflein's celebrity.

On the online auction site, interested parties can bid on a Dörflein's ten-year-old car, a book on Elvis including a CD, a sleeping bag and other items. The most popular item is a pocketknife once belonging to the zookeeper, who entered the public eye as Knut the polar bear's “foster father” and, along with his furry white charge, became something of a celebrity himself.

The auctions have sparked a bitter fight in the media between the family and Dörflein's former fiancée, Daniela. Speaking to the daily newspaper Bild, she said she was disappointed in the family's actions.

“They just can't go around hawking his name, not with personal effects like this,” she said.

Dörflein, 44, died unexpectedly in Berlin on September 22 from a heart attack.

His 18-year-old son David said he regrets putting some of his father's personal possessions up for sale, but that he needs the money to cover the costs of maintaining Dörflein's grave.

“None of the proceeds are going to me,” he told Bild. “Everything is for the grave.”

Daniela. said the car currently up for auction was one she and Dörflein shared when he was alive, but that the family took it away because it was in his name. She said she can't afford to buy another one.

But Dörflein's son David said he has no contact with Daniela and saw no reason to get her permission regarding his father's personal belongings.

“Why should I?” he told Bild.

The Dörflein eBay auction has inspired imitators. Another seller on the same site put a watch up for sale that was supposed to have belonged to the zookeeper. In response, Dörflein's children added a comment to their own eBay pages stating they were upset that others were trying to cash in on their auctions.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the highest bid for Dörflein's car was €3,010. The most popular item was the pocketknife, which had attracted 59 bids, the highest being €535. The auctions end on January 3 at 5 pm.

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