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Christie’s Under Fire For Selling Jewels That Belonged To Billionaire Widow Of Nazi


The prestigious jewelry house of Van Cleef & Arpels was the location where the purchase of a sapphire and diamond necklace with an estimated retail price of approximately $1.5 million was made.

You'll see Christie’s under fire for selling jewels that belonged to billionaire widow of Nazi.

Controversy Surrounds Christie's Auction Of Jewelry From Nazi-Tainted Fortune

If the glittering piece had been worn to the Met Gala, it undoubtedly would have garnered a lot of attention.

Horten married Helmut in 1966, when she was 19 and he was around 50
Horten married Helmut in 1966, when she was 19 and he was around 50

COPYRIGHT_BER: Published on https://www.bernardine.com/christies-under-fire-for-selling-jewels-that-belonged-to-billionaire-widow-of-nazi/ by Barbara Mitchell on 2023-05-04T04:32:37.340Z

However, the fact that this shimmering necklace was purchased in the first place thanks to a fortune that had its roots in Nazi Germany may be offensive to some people.

This is one of 700 jewels that will be auctioned off by Christie's commencing May 3 online and May 10 in-person.

This auction is anticipated to bring in a total of $150 million, making it one of the most lucrative auctions of jewelry in the annals of human history. Contributing to this figure will be items such as a jadeite and diamond necklace with a high-water price of $16.5 million.

However, the gloomy circumstances that surround such an event cast a pall over its glittering potential.

The collection of the late Heidi Horten, who passed away in 2022, is where all of the items that are going to be auctioned off come from.

It is said that her late husband, Helmut, who passed away in 1987, established the basis for his spectacular department store fortune by purchasing companies from Jewish Germans who were coerced into selling their firms during World War II.

It is believed that Horten acquired valued businesses at huge discounts when he purchased them.

However, none of the jewels were acquired through illegal means during World War II; rather, each one was bought from a legitimate vendor.

“His profiteering began in 1936,” David De Jong, author of “Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties,” told The Post.

De Jong noted that Horten's first purchase was a tiny department shop that he purchased from his Jewish employer in 1933. The store was located in Amsterdam.

The owner was under intense pressure to leave Germany, yet he nevertheless managed to sell the company at a reasonable price.

But that was an unusual circumstance.

“Horten would often buy businesses for 65 percent of their value. Nazi authorities would be intermediaries in the sales. Plus Horten had a banker working for him as a middleman. Jewish families sold their companies to get the hell out of Germany.”

Through a practice known as "Aryanization," in which Jews were coerced into selling their businesses to Aryans at below-market prices, Horten was able to build his eponymous department store empire. De Jong said:

They were coerced by authorities or by Horten himself. They sold cheaply or lost their businesses.

- De Jong

Following the completion of the acquisitions, Horten placed advertisements in local newspapers in which he bragged that the companies were now owned by Aryans.

Even if he did not believe Hitler's claims during World War II, the department store owner was not exactly an innocent victim of the conflict.

He became a member of the Nazi party in 1937; he had close ties. But he did not have a Nazi ideology. He was interested in expanding his business empire. He was a sheer opportunist who saw an opportunity to grow from a small business owner to a department store mogul by the end of World War II. He expanded from Germany into German-occupied territories” to score businesses on the cheap.

- De Jong

Where the Nazis Hid $3.5 Billion of Stolen Art

Stéphanie Stephan is all too familiar with the repercussions that Horten's shady dealings had on those who found themselves on the receiving end of them.

Reinhold Stephan, her father, worked for the largest department store in Amsterdam, which was known as De Bijenkorf.

Horten had his sights set on taking control of the firm. Stephan, the author of “Politically Unreliable,” which chronicles Horten’s property grabs, told The Post:

Horten developed a routine for seizing Jewish businesses. He used his influence with the German occupiers in the Netherlands to appoint a German administrator [who would steer the business to him]. This man immediately fired my father because he opposed Aryanization and advised the owner not to sell.

- Stephan

The owner caved into the pressure from the Nazis and sold the business. He then made plans to go to the United States, but he was arrested by the Nazis before he could make his escape.

The avarice of Horten hounded Stephan's father throughout his life and had an effect on his family.

“My father led a lawsuit against Horten, consulted lawyers, and spent a lot of money in the process,” she said. “Unfortunately, since most of the judges were old Nazis, and Horten had good relationships with them, my father lost the case.”

Christie's has issued a number of statements in response to the situation after coming to the realization that a fortune obtained through shady ways served as the basis for the financing of the extravagant jewels, one of which was a Bulgari diamond necklace with an estimated worth of $1.5 million.

CEO Guillaume Cerutti emphasized that “all proceeds from the sale will be directed to a foundation, which supports philanthropic causes, including healthcare, children’s welfare and access to the arts.”

Cerutti also acknowledged “…awareness of the well-documented business practices of Mrs. Horten’s late first husband during the Nazi era when he purchased Jewish businesses sold under duress.”

An acknowledgment of this nature provides little solace for Stephan.

“For Christie’s, this auction is a matter of prestige and a matter of sales,” she said, apparently unimpressed by the green diamond pendant with a high estimated value of $1.5 million.

“[There was] no word about the past in their first announcement of the auction. They should have pointed out the history of Helmut Horten before … The basis of his fortune was money extorted from Jewish property. This fact only did make [it] possible to buy jewelry and art to such an extent.”

When Heidi Horten married Helmut in 1966, when she was 19 years old and he was approximately 50 years old, it is difficult to establish whether or not she was aware of the shady plot that her husband was engaged in to amass wealth.

She is not present to offer a response at this time.

Nevertheless, De Jong and Stephan are both the opinions that she did.

They make reference to a report that Heidi had commissioned, in which she had hired a historian to investigate and write about his past.

De Jong stated that she was aware of the situation. If that were the case, then why would she pay for research to be done on his life?

The research confirms that he gained monetarily from the purchase of businesses that were held by Jewish people. However, it maintains that his profits were significantly lower than what is commonly believed.

Added Stephan, “[At one point] I thought I’d drive over to Heidi Horton, spontaneously, and tell her my father’s story. But when I read that she had commissioned an expert opinion on her husband’s life, it was clear to me that she wanted Helmut’s past to be put in a better light and glossed over.”

De Jong is skeptical that the history of the Horten fortune will dissuade people from placing bids on the gleaming goods because of their connection to the family.

“If you spend millions on jewelry,” he said, “that might not be something you think about.”

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About The Authors

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell - Barbara is recognized by the industry leaders for her passion and objective to make beautiful jewellery accessible, affordable and forever wearable. She designs custom made jewelery made of gold and diamonds for more than 20 years. Her website, bernardine.com has been mentioned in many books such as "The 12 Gemstones of Revelation", "Teens Have Style!", "10-Minute Crystal Healing" and websites such as wikipedia.org, etsy.com, buzzfeed.com, yahoo.net.

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