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Dutch War Hero's 270-Year-Old Menorah Auctions Off For $440K

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

An auction house in the Netherlands was the site of a bidding war over an 18th-century menorah. The menorah, which Jews around the world are lighting on this second night of Hanukkah, was owned by the family of a famous Dutch resistance fighter killed by the Nazis. This menorah ended up selling for $440,000. To find out more about it, we reached Annelies de Boer. She's with the Auction House of the Notaries in The Hague, which sold the menorah.

Welcome, Annalise.

ANNELIES DE BOER: Hello. Good morning.

CHANG: So can you first tell us a little bit about this menorah? What does it look like?

DE BOER: Yeah. The menorah is a silver piece. It's about 40 centimeters high.

CHANG: That's quite large.

DE BOER: Yeah, it's quite large because underneath - it used to be pinned on the wall. And underneath, you'll find eight lamps for oil. And it has a decoration of shells and small angels in a typically Louis XIV style.

CHANG: So the menorah doesn't look traditionally Jewish. It was more the style of the day?

DE BOER: Yeah. It was the style of the day. And there were no Jewish decorations at all - no Star of David or, yeah, what you can expect for a Jewish religious decoration. But that was really en vogue at the time and especially with the Jews with a Portuguese background, the Sephardic Jews. Yeah. They were, at that time, already modern in their taste. There is an engraved monogram. And the monogram - the letters are very difficult to see. So - yeah, we don't know to whom it belonged at first.

CHANG: Can you tell me a little bit about the family that last owned the menorah - the Maduros, right?

DE BOER: Yes. Rebecca Maduro - her estate, we had on sale in our auction. The son George Maduro is very famous and especially in The Hague because he lived here and he fought here in the beginning of the second world war. He was an officer in the army and then he joined the resistance. And unfortunately, at the end of the war, he was betrayed only a few weeks before the liberation. And he was deported to Dachau, and that's where he died.

CHANG: Were you expecting an international bidding frenzy to break out over this menorah?

DE BOER: Yeah. In the first week that the item was online, we had so many reactions through the email and by phone. And people asked us to visit the auction house to see the lamp and to hold it and to look at the marks.

CHANG: Annelies de Boer from the Auction House of the Notary in The Hague.

Thank you so much for joining us.

DE BOER: And thank you very much for the interview. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.