Jewish groups condemn $150m Nazi-linked jewel sale

Jewish groups have condemned the sale of jewels belonging to billionaire Heidi Horten

Jewish groups have condemned the sale of jewels belonging to billionaire Heidi Horten

Jewish groups have condemned the sale of jewels belonging to billionaire Heidi Horten, whose husband amassed his fortune in Nazi Germany.

Heidi Horten, an Austrian heiress, wedded Helmut Horten, who was formerly affiliated with the Nazi party.

During the 1930s in Germany, Helmut Horten actively seized control of businesses owned by Jewish individuals as they faced compelled departure.

Christie’s auction house is currently preparing to auction off 700 pieces of jewelry, with an estimated value exceeding $150 million (£118 million).

The proceeds will go to charity, including Holocaust research, and Christie’s will also make a “significant contribution” to good causes.

Mrs Horten died last year aged 81, with a fortune of $2.9 billion, according to Forbes.

Her husband, who died in Switzerland in 1987, took over textile company Alsberg after its Jewish owners fled in 1936.

This marked the initial acquisition of numerous Jewish businesses he obtained under Nazi rule. His department store Horten AG became one of the biggest in Germany.

According to a recent report commissioned by the Horten Foundation, historians discovered that Helmut Horten had been a member of the Nazi party before facing expulsion.

The pieces going on sale include the 90-carat “Briolette of India” diamond necklace by Harry Winston, and the Sunrise Ruby, a diamond ring by Cartier that is worth up to an estimated $20 million.

On Wednesday, Geneva will witness the sale of nearly 100 pieces, followed by another 150 pieces on Friday. Additional sales will take place online later in the year.

Jewish groups have expressed anger and called for the halt of the auction, citing their objections to the sale.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights group, demanded that Christie’s not go ahead with the sale.

“The Hortens’

“The Hortens’ billions used to build this collection were also the sum of profits from Nazi ‘aryanization’ of Jewish department stores,” it wrote in a latter to the auction house.

The Nazis used the term “Aryanisation” to describe the process of seizing property from Jews and transferring it to non-Jews, as well as the act of excluding Jews from participating in business activities.

The American Jewish Committee expressed that the contribution of proceeds to charities and Holocaust education was insufficient.

“Instead, the auction should be put on hold until a serious effort is made to determine what portion of this wealth came from Nazi victims,” it said.

Christie’s should then direct the Horten riches “to the needy and infirm Holocaust survivors who are still among us and the educational programs that tell their stories,” the group added.

Meanwhile, Yonathan Arfi from the Council of Jewish Institutions in France said: “Not only did the funds that allowed the purchase of this jewellery come in part from the Ayranisation of Jewish property… this sale is also to finance a foundation [the Horten Foundation] with the mission to safeguard the name of a former Nazi for posterity.” But Christie’s have defended the sale.

“The foundation and Christie’s know that all of the proceeds are going towards charities, the charities are child protection and welfare, medical research and access to the arts,” its international head of jewellery Rahul Kadakia told the AFP news agency.

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