eBay rejects auction of Nazi chief’s car

Auction website eBay has refused to list a World War II-era Mercedes Benz once owned Hermann Goering, a Nazi leader who commanded the German air force, citing a policy prohibiting the sale of offensive items.

The 1941 Mercedes Benz 540 K Cabriolet B, custom built by Daimler-Benz for Adolf Hitler's close confidant, is currently in pieces in a high-end south Florida automobile shop, where owners said they plan to spend about $750,000 to restore it to working condition.

“We've located all the replacement parts and we can make parts,” said High Velocity Classics co-owner David Rathbun.

eBay, however, asked the owners to take down the auction after learning it would go live in early July.

“eBay has policies in place that prohibit the sale of offensive materials and content, which includes listings that promote or glorify hatred, violence or racial, sexual or religious intolerance,” spokesman Ryan Moore wrote in an email.

According to Rathbun, the car was seized by the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division in Berchtesgaden, a town in the Bavarian Alps where Hitler built a sprawling residence.

After the war it became army surplus and was eventually sold by the head of a psychology institution in Heilbronn to Master Sergeant Sam Hosier, who drove it in occupied Germany. Hosier brought it to the United States and in 1955 sold it to a North Carolina man, who owned it until this year.

The owners would not say how much they paid for the car, only that they hope it will sell for $5 million to $7 million.

Another of Goering's cars, a convertible Mercedes 540 K nicknamed the Blue Goose, was auctioned in 2011 in Italy by Ontario, Canada-based RM Auctions for about $2 million.

The owners lamented having to turn to traditional high-end auto sales auctions to sell the stretch coupe once work is finished.

“eBay is all over the world, it has hundreds of millions of users, and it was the biggest venue anyone could find,” Rathbun said.

Editing by David Adams and Jim Loney

Report: Original Schindler’s List to be sold on eBay for $3 million

A list of names of 801 Jews rescued by German industrialist Oskar Schindler are set to be auctioned off on eBay.

The New York Post on Friday reported that the 14 pages containing the original Schindler’s List will be auctioned off Friday by California collectors Gary Zimet and Eric Gazin, who set the reserve price at $3 million but are hoping to sell it for $5 million.

The date April 18, 1945 is written in pencil on the first page. Only male names appear on the German-language list, as well as each person’s date of birth and profession.

The list was named for Oskar Schindler, a German businessman credited with saving more than 1,000 Jews from the Nazis by deeming them essential workers for his enamel works factories.

His story reached worldwide attention after the release of the 1993 feature film “Schindler’s List.” Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie was based on the Booker Prize-winning novel “Schindler’s Ark,” which Australian novelist Thomas Keneally published in 1982.

Of the seven original versions of the list, only four are known to still exist — including two at Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Museum, and one at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the Post reported.

The sellers said the copy being offered for sale on eBay is located in Israel, according to the paper.

“It is extremely rare that a document of this historical significance is put on the market,” Zimet said. “Many of the survivors on this list and their descendants moved to the United States, and there are names on this list which will sound very familiar to New Yorkers.”

eBay’s Israel social center

Online auctioneer eBay’s hot new social commerce platforms aren’t coming from the giant Internet marketplace’s California headquarters. They’re conceptualized and launched by a team of 14 young Israeli geeks (and Marti, their “inspiration dog”) on Tel Aviv’s yuppified Rothschild Boulevard.

Marti is the first to greet visitors to eBay’s Israel Social Center (ISC), opened in July last year. Right on the dog’s four heels comes Ron Gura, the former Israeli air force lieutenant who runs the ISC along with his sister-in-law, Maya Gura, and his Haifa childhood chums Matan Bar and Erez Dickman. (Another partner, Guy Schory, now heads new ventures for eBay Inc.)

In 2009, the friends had cooked up The Gifts Project to facilitate online group gifting. After a successful pilot as eBay Group Gifts during the 2010 holiday shopping season, the enterprise was acquired by eBay and morphed into the ISC — a self-contained, offline innovation development center under the purview of Don Bradford, eBay’s social commerce vice president.

Bradford drops by from San Jose once every quarter, and eBay top banana John Donahoe came in September, declaring that “Israel is one of our industry’s leading hubs for technology innovation and talent.” And eBay owns Netanya-based shopping.com, and its PayPal subsidiary bought Tel Aviv’s Fraud Sciences in 2008.

Although eBay Group Gifts remains ISC’s flagship product, other ideas are finding their way to cyberspace from the whiteboard in the office “thinking room.”

“We tapped into a few other low-hanging fruits on the eBay tree,” Gura said. “Maybe the lowest-hanging fruit was what ended up as Go Together, a new product we launched on StubHub, eBay’s $2 billion ticket vertical.”

The assumption underlying Go Together is that nobody goes alone to sporting events and concerts, yet it’s a hassle to get a group of friends organized and paid up. Go Together facilitates onsite group seat selection and payment. It also streamlines carpooling arrangements, suggests nightspots near the venue and helps nab a premium parking spot.

ISC is also piloting Stuff by eBay. It maps online purchases for up to the past seven years, culling all the info it needs (with permission) from the receipts sitting in the user’s e-mail box. This visual e-commerce shopping profile not only makes it easy to keep tabs on purchases but also makes reselling a breeze because it provides a product photo and prefilled spec fields.

Stuff also generates new product recommendations, alerts about price drops and recalls, and data on payment methods, return policies, warranties, shipping tracking and complementary products.

Albert Einstein’s ‘God Letter’ to be auctioned online

A letter handwritten by physicist Albert Einstein a year before his death, expressing his views on religion, will be sold on eBay this month with an opening bid of $3 million, an auction agency said on Tuesday.

Known as the “God Letter,” the correspondence offers insights into the private thoughts about religion, God and tribalism of one of the world's most brilliant minds.

“This letter, in my opinion, is really of historical and cultural significance as these are the personal and private thoughts of arguably the smartest man of the 20th century,” said Eric Gazin, the president of Auction Cause, a Los Angeles-based premier auction agency, which will handle the sale on eBay.

“The letter was written near the end of his life, after a lifetime of learning and thought,” he added.

Einstein wrote the letter in German on January 3, 1954, on Princeton University letterhead to philosopher Erik Gutkind after he read Gutkind's book “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”

“…The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this,” wrote the German-born scientist, who in 1921 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The anonymous seller of the letter, which will be auctioned with the original envelope, stamp and postmark, purchased it from Bloomsbury Auctions in London in 2008 for $404,000.

Since that time the letter has been stored in a temperature-controlled vault at a public institution.

Although the opening bid of the eBay auction is $3 million, Gazin, who handled previous high-profile online auctions, said he expects it will fetch double or triple that amount during the Oct. 8-18 auction at www.einsteinletter.com

“eBay has the widest possible audience and it is so global and so accessible,” he explained, adding that 10 years ago the last major Einstein letter sold for more than $2 million.

“We feel this is a reasonable starting price given the historic importance and the interest in Einstein,” Gazin added. (Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Christine Kearney and Gunna Dickson)

eBay to expand activity in Israel

eBay is expanding its activity in Israel.

The Internet consumer company said it will unite its two activity centers in Netanya and Tel Aviv into a development center, and will expand the center by recruiting computer engineers, industrial and management engineers, and information system engineers, Ynet reported Monday.

eBay employs more than 200 workers in Israel. The new Israeli development center will focus on building catalogues, creating information on products and developing tools for social commerce aimed at allowing collective purchases and sharing the buying process with other users, according to Ynet.

Last year eBay bought the Israeli startup The Gifts Project, which developed an application for online group gifting.

In addition to five development centers in the United States, eBay has centers in India and China.

Fundraising Just a Mouse Click Away

When Carol Vavra, a major and tactical airlift navigator in the U.S. Air Force, returns home from the Middle East at the end of July, her husband will have a surprise waiting for her.

Paul Vavra, a recently retired Air Force major and an avid classic rock fan, bought his wife a pair of tickets to a Rolling Stones concert for $760 on eBay. In the process, he made a substantial donation to the UJA-Federation of New York.

Last month the federation hosted its first auction on eBay. With about 200 sales of items contributed by donors, the auction raised about $115,000 for the organization.

The initiative reflects a growing trend among Jewish groups to move their fundraising ventures to the Internet, which they say has proven to be far more efficient than more traditional modes of solicitation.

Paul Vavra, who is not Jewish, says he didn’t plan to buy tickets for the sake of donating to the federation, but he’s glad the pricey purchase will benefit a worthy cause.

“I’d like to think that UJA-Federation is not going to stiff me,” he said with a laugh.

In addition to the concert tickets, up for bid were a behind-the-scenes trip to the Fox television show, “24”; tickets to “American Idol” and “Total Request Live”; seats at New York Mets, Yankees and Knicks games, and dining opportunities with historian Deborah Lipstadt and the “As the World Turns” star Anthony Herrera.

Various artworks, jewelry, fine dining and sports memorabilia were also available to the highest bidder.

Some items were even pricier than the Rolling Stones tickets: The day on the set of “24,” which included airfare, went for $16,600; a week at the Canyon Ranch spa in Tucson had a final bid of $14,600, and two tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards sold for $4,100.

“We thought it might be something new and exciting and different for us to do something on eBay,” said Bonnie Shevins, the UJA-Federation’s group vice president.

The auction was part of continuing efforts at online fundraising by the UJA, which has raised more than $1 million through its Web site in the past year.

“The eBay initiative is another notch in our efforts to develop e-philanthropy,” Shevins said. “It’s a really wonderful way of having people connect with us.”

Online fundraising has proven to be auspicious for other types of philanthropy as well. According to Shevins, when the federation launched a campaign to raise money for victims of December’s Southeast Asian tsunami, it raised about $500,000 online — some 15 percent of the $3.25 million total it raised for tsunami relief.

According to Gary Tobin, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research and an expert on Jewish philanthropy and demography, the growth of online solicitation shows that Jewish organizations are willing to adopt less traditional modes of fundraising in response to changing social trends.

“The Jewish community has been relatively slow in developing online philanthropy, but there have been some remarkable successes,” Tobin said, noting, for example, that the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee raised millions of dollars online for tsunami victims.

Tobin says Jewish philanthropists have traditionally focused on working directly with wealthy donors capable of giving large single contributions. The move to online fundraising, he said, reflects a recognition that groups also can attract smaller donations from larger numbers of people with greater efficiency.

“People would rather do it online than go to another dinner,” he said.

According to Michael Charendoff, the president of the Jewish Funders Network, online fundraising is particularly appealing for organizations because it enables them to reduce fundraising costs while educating Web-site visitors about their work.

“I think there’s no question it’s a growing trend,” he said.

Charendoff noted, though, that Internet fundraising tends to favor organizations that are larger and have the resources to maintain an online campaign.

One group that has achieved particular success in online fundraising is the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which raised $1.4 million in fiscal 2004, making it the leading fundraiser among Jewish organizations. The Chronicle of Philanthropy last year rated the JNF the top fundraiser among environmental groups.

The JNF’s communications director, Serena Roffe, attributes this success primarily to the appeal of the organization’s mission and message.

“We have a very clearly identified mission and a very clearly identified product line,” she said. “Our message really resonates with people.”

Most of the JNF’s online fundraising comes from purchases of trees to be planted in Israel. The organization encourages sales through various initiatives, including personalized electronic newsletters and an affiliates program, which enables other Web sites to earn profits from sales by linking to the JNF site.

Another group with lucrative online fundraising programs is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which raised $1.04 million online in 2004.

“We just knew we had to have something better for the people who came to our Web site,” said Diane Dubey, the organization’s director of communications. “We’re really able to share with people the urgency of what’s happening. That’s very advantageous.”

While most contributions are direct donations, Dubey said, visitors to the fellowship’s Web site can also help the group raise money by purchasing e-cards or Israeli-made products.

Raise Funds Online With Help From eBay


Online auctions have gone from an Internet curiosity to a multibillion-dollar enterprise in less than a decade. The phenomenon has changed how we buy and sell, and deal with the junk in our attic. And much like Google, a new verb has entered our vocabulary to describe using the Internet to sell something online: eBay it!
Founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, auction powerhouse eBay is the leader in online auctions with more than $10 billion in goods and services sold during the first three months of 2005, according to CBS MarketWatch. The site features more than 135 million worldwide members buying and selling cars, antiques, clothing — basically anything not found on the company’s prohibited and restricted items list.
The majority of sales on eBay are either private party or small-scale entrepreneurial ventures. But the site also has an outlet for mitzvah mavens to help support their favorite nonprofit, by either buying or selling online, or for nonprofits to sell directly to the global marketplace. The company’s Giving Works department is dedicated to what it calls “compassionate commerce,” providing eBay users and nonprofits with the opportunity to bid in or host an online charitable auction.

Buyers can search the site by event, nonprofit or category, filtering out other products to ensure that the ones being displayed for bidding are intended to benefit a charity. Individual sellers can donate a percentage or all of their profit to a favorite cause through what eBay calls “community selling,” while nonprofits are encourage to register for direct selling and have eBay’s charity partner, Mission Fish, handle their donation processing and tax receipting. Mission Fish is also charged with verifying a charity’s tax-free nonprofit status, so users can rest easy in the knowledge that the charity they’re supporting is valid. Since it was established five years ago, Giving Works has helped raise $40 million for more than 4,500 nonprofits.

A variety of Jewish charities are already making use of eBay’s charity support, including United Jewish Communities; the Anti-Defamation League; American Jewish World Service; Jewish federations in New York, San Francisco, Rockville, Md., and central New Jersey; Los Angeles Sephardic Home for the Aging; National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles; and a variety of synagogues, including Chabad of Miracle Mile.
Most people find that buying on eBay is easier than selling. It only requires registering on the Web site, providing contact information and a credit card in order to verify identity. Additionally, it is recommended to sign up for PayPal, the online service that allows a bidder to pay the seller instantly from a credit card or checking account.
But for local charities looking to increase giving — and which one isn’t? — eBay presents an opportunity to reach a tremendously large donor pool. But before your begin selling on eBay, there are some tricks to ensure an item being presented for bidding will fetch a decent price, and to make sure you avoid online fraud.

Art of the Auction
Selling on eBay is not as hard as some people think. There are some great step-by-step instructions on the site geared for absolute beginner. But the key to getting started selling is to price items appropriately. Even if someone on “Antiques Roadshow” told you an item is worth $1,000, all that matters is what it will sell for on eBay. That “rare” item may have 20 just like it up for auction right now, driving the price way down.
The key is to do a search under “completed items” — simply type the item you are looking for into the box, put a check mark in “completed items” and then click “search.” This technique is also very helpful when shopping on eBay and wanting to be sure what a good “deal” is before making an impulse purchase.

A Little Help Here
For those who want to take advantage of the eBay phenomena but do not necessarily want to go to the trouble of setting up the auction, eBay has “trading assistants,” people experienced in selling who are willing to offer their services to the public for a flat fee or percentage of the sales price. Fees and terms vary, so it is important to check their feedback history on eBay (the number next the user ID), and then make a few calls to compare services. Some of the trading assistants even visit a seller’s home or business, taking photos only and leaving the valuable items at that location until they sell. This is a great way to safely sell items without any worry of it being lost or broken.

Fraud Alert
The biggest fraud concern comes from scams that send eBay members official-looking e-mails appearing to come from eBay or PayPal, telling the member their account has been suspended or some other alarming message. It then requests the recipient to click on a link to fix the problem. The goal of the scam is to capture the user’s ID and password, allowing these criminals to do all kinds of mischief to the account.
The best way to avoid becoming prey is to never click on a link in such an e-mail, but rather log into eBay or PayPal directly and check to see if there really is cause for alarm. Also, a real e-mail from eBay or PayPal will address the member by name and not by their e-mail address or user ID.
For more information about Giving Works and Mission Fish, visit givingworks.ebay.com and ” target=”_blank”>www.auctioncause.com), where he manages charity auctions for nonprofits.


Charity, Going Once, Going Twice…


Artist Joanie Rosenthal will exhibit her latest piece at an unexpected place: eBay.

Rosenthal, a New Jersey artist who has drawn illustrations for Time, U.S. News & World Report and The New York Times Magazine and created book covers for Scholastic, Penguin Putnam and other publishing companies, has decorated a metal tzedakah box as part of a fundraising campaign for the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey.

The eBay auction comes as Jewish groups increasingly turn to online auctions as a way to raise money: This week, the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America announced a new agreement with an Internet company that will make it easier for JCCs in North America to use online auctions for fundraising.

Rosenthal was inspired by the simplicity of the plain, round metal box she was given.

“When I saw the tzedakah box, I appreciated how beautiful it was, standing on its own,” she said.

When deciding how to decorate the box, Rosenthal reflected on her roles as an artist and a volunteer.

“Artists don’t always know why they are creating, they just do,” she said. “No one knows if they’re going to find a gallery to show their work — they might not, but it doesn’t matter, they still create. The same is true of tzedakah. Everyone knows the concrete reasons for doing volunteer work, but they don’t always know why they decide to do it. No one’s going to give them an award, they just keep going.”

Rosenthal saw her project as a way to involve the next generation in the process of giving. Using a metallic paint, she drew the Hebrew word tzedakah on her box.

As part of the greater United Jewish Communities’ mission to encourage “generous living,” cylindrical metal tzedakah boxes were distributed to various federations, with no specific instructions for their use. The Central New Jersey Federation had a novel idea. It distributed the boxes to local artists and asked them to decorate them.

All the artists involved in the project donated their time and materials. Federation representative Naomi Lipstein said that the campaign has not set a financial goal.

“It is very much about raising awareness,” she said. “We are just trying to highlight the federation in general, and how we make a difference in day-to-day life.”

Bidding on the tzedakah boxes begins Thursday morning, March 17, on www.eBay.com, and a launch party will be held that afternoon. Bidding will last for one week, and the minimum bid for each box has been set at $118. — Jordana Rothstein, Jewish Telegraphic Agency