A Massive Private Jewelry Auction at Christie’s Is Sparking Controversy Over the Late Owner’s Links to the Nazis

A massive collection of jewels is set to go on sale by Christie’s, but the size of the haul isn’t the only part of the auction that’s getting attention.

On Wednesday, May 3, the auction house will offer 700 jewels from Austrian heiress Heidi Horten in what will probably be one of the biggest jewelry sales in history, according to The New York Times. The collection is anticipated to fetch more than $150 million, a sum that would surpass the $137 million sum that the Elizabeth Taylor’s collection yielded.

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Horten, who passed away last year, received a substantial inheritance after the death of her first husband, Helmut, in 1987,horten/what-is-on” data-ylk=”slk:according to Christie’s.;elm:context_link;itc:0″ class=”link “> according to Christie’s. But the auction house has disclosed that “the business practices of Mr. Horten during the Nazi era, when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress, are well documented.” Horten, the auction house admits, forced Jewish businesses to sell to him under threat of harm from the Nazis.

As counter to this ugly history, Christie’s stated that proceeds of the sale will benefit The Heidi Horten Foundation, as well as an array of causes she supported during her lifetime such as medical research and child welfare. Christie’s also said that following the sale, it would “make a significant contribution” to an organization that “advances Holocaust research and education.”

“We are aware there is a painful history,” Anthea Peers, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Africa, told the Times. “We weighed that up against various factors,” but added that the foundation is a “key driver of philanthropic causes.”

Munich-based journalist Stephanie Stephan’s father was on the board of a company that was sold to Horten by force, according to the newspaper. Stephan published an affidavit from another Jewish business owner who claimed that Horten had threatened them with being deported to concentration camps if they didn’t agree to sell their assets. A historian hired by Heidi Horten has claimed that Helmut Horten never finalized the purchase of Stephan’s father’s company and disputed the accuracy of the affidavit, according to the Times.

How Helmut Horten’s documented link to the Nazis will impact the final sale of the vast jewelry collection remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: we’ll have an answer soon.

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