EBay has cancelled the auction of drawings supposedly done by a concentration camp prisoner after a backlash.
The online auction site pulled the items after a protest that it was “offensive and immoral” to profit off the misery of war prisoners.
The series of sketches were said to have been drawn by an artist at the Japanese American internment camp at Manzanar in California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were locked up there during the Second World War between 1942 and 1945 as the two countries were in conflict.
Shirley Higuchi, author of Setsuko’s Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration, said: “It seems unethical and immoral to put this artwork up on eBay to the highest bidder.
“When you sell artwork created during an oppressive time for money, that’s against what our society feels is moral.”
In a letter to eBay, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and the Japanese American Citizens League cited the current wave of attacks on Asian Americans in the US worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
They wrote: “Sales of our history are never a good thing but are especially hurtful now, when we hear cries of ‘go back to your country,’ exactly what we were told during World War II.”
Huge numbers of Japanese American citizens were forced into concentration camps on the groundless claim that they might betray America in the Second World War.
The artwork that had been on sale on eBay comprised 20 pencil sketches drawn between 1942 and 1943 with the name “Matsumura” written at the bottom, along with the word “Manzanar”.
The drawings depict mostly what appear to be Japanese landscapes, including one of the iconic Mount Fuji.
Japanese American groups suggested the artist could be Giichi Matsumura, a prisoner who died in a storm while sketching and painting in the final days of the war.
Several families with the same surname were held at the camp 180 miles north of Los Angeles.
Arts and crafts created in the 10 Japanese American concentration camps have often resurfaced at sales or auctions over the years.
Mr Matsumura’s granddaughter Lori said she had a mixed reaction to the sale being halted.
She said: “I feel I may never see those sketches again. It depends how the seller reacts.”
Ms Higuchi said eBay would contact the seller and put one of the groups in touch to try to obtain the collection.
Parmita Choudhury, spokeswoman for eBay, said the company removed the auction because it violated an artifacts policy prohibiting the sale of items from government or protected land.