Christie’s has decided to cancel an auction of the last collection of Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten’s jewelry, in the wake of controversy surrounding her husband’s ties to Nazi Germany.
In an email sent to Agence France-Presse on Friday, Christie’s auction house said it had “made a decision not to proceed with the sale of further properties from Heidi Horton’s ownership,” confirming the information received from the New York Times.
Horton’s collection includes more than 700 jewels, most of which were sold in May for a total of $202 million. The last batches were to be sold in November.
However, Christie’s explains, “The sale of Heidi Horton’s jewelry collection has been the subject of intense interest, and the reaction has deeply affected him, as well as many others, and we will continue to reflect on it.”
Ahead of the auction in May, Christie’s had explained several times why it had chosen to approve the distribution of this fine collection of jewellery.
To strike back at its critics, the prestigious auction house said that all proceeds from the sale would be donated to charity.
In addition, “Christie’s will make a significant contribution” of the proceeds from the sale to Jewish institutions and education about the Holocaust, “of vital importance”, confirmed Rahul Kadakia, auctioneer and international director of jewelry at the auction house.
But that hasn’t stopped criticism, including from the American Jewish Committee. The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CREF) considered the sale inappropriate.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, declined a donation from the auction house, and other organizations have done the same, according to The New York Times, because of the origin of the pair’s fortune from Heidi Horton.
He owned one of the largest supermarket chains in Germany. In 1936, three years after Adolf Hitler came to power, he took over the textile company Allsberg, whose Jewish owners had fled, before taking over many other shops that had been owned by Jews before the war.
Helmut Horten was later accused of profiting from the “Aryanization” of Jewish property (dispossession actions intended to transfer ownership of businesses owned by people of Jewish descent).