Dutch Holocaust hero's curious collection up for auction

By Jennifer Lipman, December 10, 2010
Henk Huffener

Henk Huffener

The unusual possessions of a Dutch Resistance fighter who saved the lives of dozens of Jews during the Holocaust are to be auctioned in Britain next week.

Henk Huffener, whose wartime heroism was honoured by Yad Vashem in 1998 when the Holocaust museum made him a Righteous Among the Nations, died in 2006 at the age of 83.

During his life Mr Huffener gathered a vast collection of artwork and antiques ranging from Roman jewellery to Chinese pottery and from prehistoric tools to African tribal art.

Born in Utrecht, Mr Huffener was 17 when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. Influenced by his father Hendrik’s anti-fascist activity, he began working to find hiding places for Jews and helped them escape to Switzerland and Spain by giving them forged papers.

His efforts led to his arrest in March 1943, when he was sent by the Nazis to Germany and forced to work as a slave labourer. He managed to escape a few months later by forging a leave permit, yet even this experience did not deter him from helping Dutch Jewry and later in the war he went into hiding.

His contribution was commemorated posthumously in March 2010 when Gordon Brown awarded him and more than 20 others the Hero of the Holocaust medal for “the service of humanity”.

In 1950 Mr Huffener, then working as an artist, moved to England where he became an antique dealer and amassed his unusual collection. His first shop was named “Not the Old Pharmacy”; a thrifty update to the premises’ original use.

The 270 objects from his “Cabinet of Curiosities” are up for sale on December 15. The Surrey-based auctioneers, Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers, said they expect the items could sell for £40,000.

Auctioneer Chris Ewbank said: “The bravery he showed in helping Jews escape from the Netherlands was breathtaking.

“He was clearly a remarkable man and he built a collection that reflected his personality.”

Last updated: 9:24am, December 13 2010