‘Plug-ugly’ Honecker yacht fetches €130,000

A businessman snapped up the former German Democratic Republic leader's dock-bound motor launch at an auction on Sunday.

'Plug-ugly' Honecker yacht fetches €130,000
The Vineta has a new owner - but still can't sail. Photo: DPA

It is no longer licensed to sail and won't make much of a tourist attraction, since the original fittings were stripped out years ago.

But that did not deter six anonymous telephone bidders from trying to land the 40-year-old, 36-metre Vineta, one of four state motor launches at the disposal of former East German leader Erich Honecker.  

Originally named the A. Köbis after a sailor executed in WWI for mutiny, the Vineta went under the hammer amid insolvency proceedings for the shipyard that acquired it after the 1989 collapse of the GDR.

Formally classed as a 'sports boat' suited only to inland waterways, it has a large conference room but no sleeping cabins.

It also needs extensive technical refitting before it can operate again, bidders were warned.

And flashy it is not: Compared to the stylish wood-fitted launch used by Honecker's predecessor Walther Ulbricht, the Vineta is a "plug-ugly, rectangular steel box", said GDR boat-building expert Uwe Giesler.  

The vessel's rich history is one indisputable feature, though. With a capacity for 50 guests, it hosted floating receptions for dignitaries like Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega and Cuba's Fidel Castro – although the latter's trip was overshadowed by a mid-voyage collision with a Berlin bridge.

Launched in 1974 with a bottle of Romanian sparkling wine, the Vineta's austere lines and furnishings reflected GDR values. But it also had a West German engine and a British radar system.

Initially valued five years ago at €200,000, it has been in dry dock since September 2013. 

Many notable relics of the GDR period have been sold off in recent years. In 2011, Honecker's Soviet-built Ilyushin 18 plane was bought by a Dutch entrepreneur, taken to the Netherlands and converted into a hotel that sleeps two. Overnight stays start from €350 per person.

SEE ALSO: State sells Warhols as critics mourn 'black day'

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Millionaire buys up Hitler items to keep them away from far-right

A Lebanese businessman has decided to donate Adolf Hitler's top hat and other objects linked to the Nazi leader to an Israeli foundation in order to keep the items out of the hands of neo-fascists.

Millionaire buys up Hitler items to keep them away from far-right
Adolf Hitler's top hat. Photo: DPA

Abdallah Chatila, who has made a fortune from diamonds and real estate in Geneva, told the Matin Dimanche weekly that he had “wished to buy this objects
so that they could not be used for the purpose of neo-Nazi propaganda.

“My stance is totally apolitical and neutral,” he added

A collapsible top hat, believed to have belonged to Nazi leader Hitler sold for €50,000 at a controversial Munich-based auction on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Hitler memorabilia auction rakes in thousands of euros despite protests

Chatila scooped up as many other Hitler-related articles as he could at the auction and has donated them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group.

European Jewish Association head, rabbi Menachem Margolin, said he was “bowled over” by the gestures from the businessman.

“In a cynical world, a real act of kindness, of generosity and solidarity,” he said in a statement Sunday.

Margolin added that Chatila had accepted an invitation to join a visit by 100 European parliamentarians to the site of the World War II Auschwitz death camp in January to receive a prize.

Nazis' crimes 'trivialized'

Wednesday's auction in Munich was organised by Hermann Historica, one of the auction houses to have picked up business in Nazi memorabilia the main houses have steered clear of.

Other items that went under the hammer on Wednesday included a silver-plated copy of Hitler's antisemitic political manifesto Mein Kampf that once belonged to senior Nazi Hermann Goering. It was sold for €130,000.

Ahead of the auction, Rabbi Margolin recalled that “it is Germany that leads Europe in the sheer volume of reported anti-Semitic incidents”, urging the German authorities to compel auction houses to divulge the names of those buying such articles and put them on a watch list.

“The Nazis' crimes are being trivialized here,” the German government's anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein told the Funke newspaper group following
the auction .

Many of the items belonging to top Nazi leaders were seized by US soldiers in the final days of World War II.

“Far-right and antisemitic populism is advancing throughout Europe and the world,” Margolin told the weekly paper.

Born in Beirut in 1974 into a family of Christian jewellers, Chatila is among the top 300 richest people in Switzerland. In 2012 it was estimated that he had a net worth of up to €136 million. 

He suggested that the items of Nazi memorabilia “should be burned” but added that “historians think they should be kept as part of the collective memory”.