Anger as Tel Aviv museum to host event with auction house profiting from Nazi looted objects

The collection was owned by the late widow of a Nazi party member who took over control of Jewish businesses in 1930s Germany


This photograph taken on May 8, 2023, shows an employee of Christie's auction house holding the "Sunrise Ruby" a rare Cartier ruby and diamond ring, which weighs in at 25.59 carats and is expected to fetch at least 14 million USD at the World of Heidi Horten sale in Geneva. - Christie's launch the sale of hundreds of jewels that belonged to Austrian billionaire Heidi Horten, whose German businessman husband made his fortune under the Nazis. The whole collection has an estimated value of more than $150 million. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

(JNS) A Tel Aviv museum has been urged to cancel a planned conference with the famed Christie’s auction house after they sold goods linked to a Nazi businessman. 

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is set to host the conference in December in partnership with the auctioneers, but critics have highlighted that they sold a collection of jewels with ties to Nazi-looted Jewish business.

The collection, which Christie’s sold for $156 million, belonged to the wife of Helmut Horten, a billionaire who made his money in part by taking over former Jewish businesses during World War II.

Joel Greenberg, a Pennsylvania-based philanthropist and businessman, whose foundation works closely with Holocaust survivors, told JNS: “It would be a tremendous shame—and a real disgrace—if the museum went forward with this conference.”

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art hosting the event with Christie’s would be “a stain on the museum’s reputation,” Greenberg added. “It would be a stamp of approval.”

Sam Dubbin, a lawyer in Coral Gables, Florida, added that Christie’s is “justifying the accumulation of wealth based upon human-rights violations—the murder and confiscation of Jews’ properties.”

“The Tel Aviv Museum of Art shouldn’t touch Christie’s with a 10-foot pole until it does right,” said Dubbin, who works on a pro bono basis with the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA and has represented Holocaust survivors and their families in restitution claims for more than 20 years.

Meanwhile, David Schaecter, president of Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA wrote a letter to Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv who is also chairman of the museum to raise concerns.

He wrote: “It unquestionably trivialises the Holocaust to justify using money brutally extracted from the Jewish people in order to support the profiteer’s chosen ‘charitable purposes.’ The money, and those decisions, belong to the victims’ families, period.

“We survivors have seen this infuriating charade too often. Holocaust profiteers are never forced to disgorge their bloody fortunes and are embraced in polite society,” he added. “Has humanity learned nothing?”

The Christie’s website describes Heidi Horten as “an Austrian philanthropist known for her elegance, glamour and fine taste,” who “amassed one of the world’s most brilliant jewellery collections as well as a stunning assemblage of decorative arts, and modern and contemporary art, the latter of which is housed in the Heidi Horten Collection museum in Vienna.”

The auction house said that Helmut’s business practices “during the Nazi era, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented.”

Christie’s goes on to say that Horten estate’s proceeds will go to the Heidi Horten Foundation, which supports the Horten collection, “as well as medical research, child welfare and other philanthropic activities that she supported for many decades.”

Christie’s added that it “will make a significant contribution from its final proceeds of the auction to organisations that further advance Holocaust research and education,” and “it will be up to these organisations, if they so wish, to communicate about these donations.”

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art did not respond to queries from JNS after being approached. 

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