eBay blocks the sale of a Mercedes owned by a Nazi leader

A Florida company is restoring the custom-built car owned by Hermann Göring.

Thad Rueter

EBay Inc. won’t let a Florida car restorer list for sale a 1941 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet B owned by Hermann Göring, head of the German air force during World War II and the designated successor to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during most of that conflict.

A spokesman for the online marketplace cites eBay’s policy that prohibits “the sale of offensive materials and content, which includes listings that promote or glorify hatred, violence or racial, sexual or religious intolerance” as the reason why restorer David Rathbun, co-owner of High Velocity Classics in Pompano Beach, won’t be able to sell the vehicle on eBay.

“Our community is a diverse, international group of users with varied backgrounds and beliefs,” the eBay spokesman says. “Given the diversity of our community, it is easy to imagine that some listings might be offensive to some of our users.”

EBay relies on complaints from consumers and what the spokesman calls “dedicated teams focused on enforcing policies both proactively and reactively and …sophisticated technology and tools” to weed out controversial products. He could not immediately point to a similar recent instance when eBay prohibited a sale of the controversial product.

Göring, a World War I flying ace and one of the earliest members of the Nazi party, was a confidant of Hitler until falling out with him during the Allied bombing of Germany in the early 1940s. Göring attempted to take over leadership of the country during the Soviet assault on Berlin in spring 1945, at which point Hitler considered him a traitor. Göring was found guilty of war crimes in 1946 at the Nuremburg trials and killed himself in prison before he could be hanged. His charges included crimes against humanity for his part in the murder of Jews and other civilians.

At the end of the war, the U.S. Army captured Göring’s custom-built car, and it eventually made its way to the United States, ending up as the property of a man in North Carolina, according to an account published on the High Velocity Classics web site.

Rathbun says his company found the car by talking with a “car guy” at a bar a few years back. That guy claimed to own the Mercedes—a boast that turned out to be a lie, Rathbun tells Internet Retailer. Eventually High Velocity Classics tracked down the vehicle and confirmed its authenticity through paperwork held by the owner’s family and verification of serial numbers by Mercedes-Benz, which is part of Germany-based Daimler AG.

High Velocity Classics has sold numerous vehicles through eBay, Rathbun says. The online marketplace informed him a couple of weeks ago by e-mail and phone that it would not allow a listing for Göring’s Mercedes. Speaking with a reporter today, Rathbun hardly sounded frustrated or angry. After all, he expects the press coverage of the prohibited sale to drum up international interest in the car. Fully restored, the 1941 Mercedes could fetch at auction between $5 million and $7 million, he says.

“Whatever profit we make, we will give a significant portion to a Jewish cause,” Rathbun said.


car restoration, controversial products, e-commerce, eBay, Hermann Göring, High Velocity Classics, online marketplace, Policy