Tainted treasures: Christies holds controversial auction of Austrian Nazi sympathiser’s jewellery

Horten wearing the opulent ‘Briolette of India’ diamond necklace.

Horten wearing the opulent ‘Briolette of India’ diamond necklace. Photo credit: Christie’s (online)

JEWISH organisations across the world have expressed their dismay over a Christie’s jewellery sale which took place on Wednesday, May 10.

The extraordinary collection of jewellery, valued at a staggering €137 million, once belonged to the late Austrian billionaire, and supposed Nazi sympathiser, Heidi Horten. The outrage stems from the murky origins of Horten’s husband’s fortune, which was amassed during the dark days of Nazi Germany.

Helmut Horten, a German tycoon and former member of the Nazi party, acquired businesses from persecuted Jewish owners in 1930s Germany, a period marked by immense suffering and tragedy.

Despite the unsettling association, Christie’s auction house decided to proceed with the jewellery sale, featuring 700 breathtaking pieces, each with its unique story and history.

Among the notable treasures were the illustrious 90-carat ‘Briolette of India’ diamond necklace by Harry Winston, renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship, and the mesmerizing Sunrise Ruby ring by Cartier, an extraordinary piece valued at an astonishing €18 million.

While Christie’s assured the public that the proceeds from the auction would be directed towards charitable causes, including Holocaust research and remembrance, Jewish groups demanded the halting of the sale.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a prominent Jewish human rights organization, took a firm stand against Christie’s decision, penning a scathing letter that denounced the auction as a distressing seizure of profits generated through the Nazis’ abhorrent ‘aryanization’ policies.

The American Jewish Committee also said that the charitable contributions were inadequate, calling for a thorough investigation into the origins of the jewellery and Horten’s wealth.

As the controversy intensified, Christie’s remained resolute in its decision to proceed with the jewellery sale. The auction house emphasised its commitment to supporting noble causes, such as child welfare, medical research, and promoting access to the arts.

They maintained that the jewellery auction would ultimately serve the greater good, despite the ethical concerns raised by the Jewish community and other human rights advocates.

In the end, the jewellery auction proceeded as scheduled, leaving lingering questions about the ethics of such sales.

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