The largest jewelry auction with the largest shadow in history. The case was raised by the New York Times and concerns the Heidi Horten jewelry auction organized by Christie’s.
The sale, scheduled for May 10 and 12 in Geneva, includes 700 exceptional jewels, including India’s exceptional Briolette, a 90-carat diamond valued at nearly $8 million. The problem that has emerged in recent days is the origin of the wealth of the German Horten family. Helmut Horten, Heidi’s husband, allegedly had close ties to the Third Reich.
Not only. He would have illicitly enriched himself by purchasing companies sold off at bargain prices by Jewish owners, forced to sell under threats. Heidi Horten, who died last year, was married at 19 to Helmut Horten, 30 years her senior. In the 1980s, Heidi inherited almost 1 billion dollars, also spent on collecting magnificent jewels. The expected proceeds from the Christie’s auction are estimated at over 150 million dollars. the record of 137 million established by the sale of Liz Taylor’s jewels in 2011 would be broken. The proceeds from the auction are destined for charity, in particular to a foundation in Vaduz in Switzerland which owns a museum in the heart of old Vienna, as well as to philanthropic initiatives in the medical field. But that hasn’t stopped the controversy.
The secret story
The problems are in the family history. Christie’s itself has admitted that Helmut Horten built his wealth by buying companies of Jews forced to sell by Hitler’s regime. Stephanie Stephan, daughter of a Jewish businessman on the board of an Amsterdam company that was Horten’s target during the Nazis, think philanthropic efforts aren’t reason enough to push through a sale based on these disputes origins of the family fortune. Stephan, a Munich-based journalist, cites the sworn statement of a colleague of his father, according to which Horten had threatened to deport the Jewish owners to concentration camps if they resisted the takeover.
According to David de Jong, author of a book on German billionaires, Horten also laid the foundations for his wealth during the Third Reich by buying at a discount from Jews who were forced to sell out. For example, the Alsberg department store in Duisburg, bought for not even 65% of their real value. At the time Horten described the purchase in a Nazi Party magazine stating that the shop had passed into Aryan hands.
Before she died, however, Heidi Horten had hired a scholar to investigate the family fortune. Research has confirmed that her husband benefited from buying Jewish businesses, but that the level of wealth achieved in this way should not be overstated. Christie’s, to fend off criticism, has pledged to turn over part of the proceeds to Holocaust research and education.