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May 8, 2023 12:35 pm

Christie’s to Donate Proceeds From Nazi-Linked Jewelry Auction to Holocaust Education


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A Christie’s location in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

The world famous auction house Christie’s has acknowledged the Nazi-era ties of the owner behind a 700-piece jewelry collection valued at over $150 million and said it will make a “significant contribution” from the sale’s final proceeds to Jewish organizations to help further Holocaust research and education, Reuters reported Monday.

The jewelry collection of the late Austrian billionaire and philanthropist Heidi Horten is set to become the largest and most valuable jewelry auction to date, according to Christie’s.

In 1966, Horten, at the age of 19, married her first husband, the late German businessman Helmut Horten. “The business practices of Mr. Horten during the Nazi era, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented,” Christie’s said. The auction house added that when Helmut died in 1987, he left “a significant inheritance to Mrs. Horten, the source of which is a matter of public record.”

“What’s important is that we have been completely transparent,” Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry at Christie’s, told Reuters. “We are selling this collection in its identity with the name Horten. It’s not being sold as an anonymous collection.”

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“Of course we cannot erase history,” added Max Fawcett, head of the jewelry department at Christie’s in Geneva. “But we hope that the funds from this sale will go to do good in the future.”

Christie’s has not revealed the amount it will donate to Jewish organizations.

The announcement, however, was met with criticism by the American Jewish Committee.

“It is not enough that this sale will benefit a charitable foundation or that Christie’s will make an unspecified donation for Holocaust education,” the organization said in a May 5 statement. “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. Once determined, it should instead be directed to support the needy and infirm Holocaust survivors who are still among us and the educational programs that tell their stories.”

Christie’s will auction the first half of the jewelry collection in Geneva on Wednesday and Friday, and also hold an online sale that will be open for bidding from May 3-15. A second online sale for the remaining items in the collection will take place last this year.

The collection includes jewelry from Bulgari, Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels, It could sell for more than $150 million, exceeding the record sales at Christie’s for Elizabeth Taylor’s collection in 2011 and the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence auction in 2019, both of which were the only two jewelry collections to have garnered more than $100 million, Reuters noted.

In accordance with Heidi’s wishes, all of her estate’s proceeds will benefit The Heidi Horten Foundation, which supports medical research, child welfare and other philanthropic causes that were important to her.

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