Calls grow for halt to 'indecent' Nazi-linked auction

·2-min read
A Cartier ruby and diamond ring is expected to fetch at least $14 million at the auction in Geneva
A Cartier ruby and diamond ring is expected to fetch at least $14 million at the auction in Geneva

Calls grew Tuesday for a halt of an auction of jewels that belonged to Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten whose German husband made his fortune under the Nazis.

Calling the auction in Geneva, which opened online last week and begins in person on Wednesday "indecent", the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) called for proceedings to be suspended.

The collection, valued at between $150 million and $200 million, consists of 700 lots, including "unique and exceptional pieces" from 20th-century designers including Cartier, Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Heidi Horten died last year aged 81. According to Forbes, she was worth $2.9 billion.

"This sale is indecent in two ways," CRIF president Yonathan Arfi said.

"Not only did the funds that allowed the purchase of this jewellery come in part from the Ayranisation of Jewish property conducted by Nazi Germany, this sale is also to finance a foundation with the mission to safeguard the name of a former Nazi for posterity."

"Aryanisation" was a Nazi term for a policy of seizing property from Jews and hand it over to non-Jews, and the exclusion of Jews from business.

According to a report published in January 2022 by historians commissioned by the Horten Foundation, her husband Helmut Horten, who died in Switzerland in 1987, was a member of the Nazi party before being expelled.

In 1936, three years after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Horten took over the textile company Alsberg based in the western city of Duisburg after its Jewish owners fled.

He later took over several other shops that had belonged to Jewish owners.

Other Jewish organisation have also protested, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The American Jewish Committee called for the auction to "be put on hold until a serious effort is made to determine what portion of this wealth came from Nazi victims".

Christie's has said it would use its fees to make a "significant" contribution to an organistion for education and research on the Holocaust.