Christie's scraps auction of $150m Nazi jewellery collection

The controversial 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)

Christie’s has axed an auction of jewels belonging to an Austrian billionaire, whose German husband made his fortune under the Nazis.

Helmut Horten, who died in Switzerland in 1987, amassed a huge fortune during the Second World War and his store Horten AG became one of the most prominent in Germany in the subsequent decades.

His wife, Heidi Horten, died last year aged 81 with a fortune of $2.9 billion, according to Forbes.

The auction house is putting 700 pieces of her jewellery up for sale, estimated to be worth more than $150 million (£118 million).

However, a large number of Jewish groups had asked Christie's to halt the sale describing it as "indecent” and demanding that the auction house do more to determine how much of it came from victims of the Nazis.

Christie's has now cancelled the second auction of the collection after holding a first controversial online and in-person sale in Geneva of part of the large stash of jewels in May.

In a statement, the auction house said: "Christie's has taken the decision not to proceed with further sales of property from the Estate of Heidi Horten."

The auction house acknowledged that "the sale of the Heidi Horten jewellery collection has provoked intense scrutiny."

"The reaction to it has deeply affected us and many others, and we will continue to reflect on it," they added. 

A report published in January 2022 by historians commissioned by the Horten Foundation said Heidi’s husband Helmut had been a member of the Nazi party before being expelled.

In 1936, three years after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Horten took over 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 before the war.

Christie's defended its decision to go ahead with the initial sale in May and said all of the proceeds would go to charity.

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