Christie’s Cancels the Sale of Jewelry From a Fortune Built on Nazi-Era Policies

Earlier this year, Christie’s sold jewelry from the collection of the Austrian heiress Heidi Horten for a whopping $202 million. The second part of that sale, though, has now been canceled.

Christie’s called off the second Horton auction because of her connection to Nazi-era policies, The New York Times reported on Thursday. Horten’s husband, Helmut Horten, was able to expand his chain of department stores by taking over businesses owned by disenfranchised Jewish men.

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“The sale of the Heidi Horten jewelry collection has provoked intense scrutiny, and the reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it,” Anthea Peers, the president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa, said in a statement. (The auction house declined to answer the Times’ questions about canceling the sale. Heidi Horten died last year, while her husband died in 1987.)

The second auction was scheduled to take place in Geneva this November. The 300 lots were expected to sell for less than the first part of the sale, which included many of Horten’s best jewels, including diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires.

Despite its record-breaking numbers, that prior auction faced similar scrutiny from Jewish organizations and some collectors. When the Hortens’ connections to the Nazis came to light, Christie’s amended the auction materials to explain how Helmut Horten had bought Jewish businesses that were “sold under duress,” according to The New York Times. The auction house also said that it would donate some of the sale’s proceeds to Holocaust research and education.

However, a number of Jewish groups declined to accept the money: Yad Vashem, which is behind Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, said it turned down a donation because of the money’s source. And The Jerusalem Post reported that organizations around the world had refused Christie’s money.

This time around, many see Christie’s cancelation of the sale as a good sign. David Schaecter, a Holocaust survivor and the president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA, told the newspaper that it shows companies are realizing that they can no longer easily sell “tainted goods.”

“We are glad that they recognized the great pain additional sales of Horten art and jewelry would cause Holocaust survivors,” he said.

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