Holocaust survivors urge Tel Aviv mayor to pull out of Christie’s events for selling Nazi jewelry

“The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has a duty not to give Christie’s a platform to re-traumatize and insult Holocaust survivors.”

By Shiryn Ghermezian, Algemeiner

A coalition of Holocaust survivors in the U.S. has asked Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai to cancel the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s participation in a series of events about the restitution of Nazi-looted art organized by Christie’s after the auction house recently hosted a controversial sale of Nazi-era jewelry.

David Schaecter, president of the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA (HSF-USA), wrote a letter to Huldai on Sunday, two days after Christie’s completed its two-part auction of a 700-piece jewelry collection owned by Austrian billionaire and philanthropist Heidi Horten. Her first husband, the late Nazi party member Helmut Horten, built his retail empire in the 1930s by purchasing Jewish businesses “sold under duress” and for a fraction of their worth during the Nazi occupation of Germany. When he died, he left “a significant inheritance to Mrs. Horten,” according to Christie’s.

“The Tel Aviv Museum of Art must not support Christie’s hypocrisy,” wrote Schaecter, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and is one of the founders of the Holocaust Memorial in Florida, in the letter obtained by The Algemeiner. “At the same time Christie’s attempts to justify its gaudy sale of the Horten jewelry, it purports to be a champion of restitution to ‘send a clear message to those who participate in the illicit trade in cultural property.’ Please.”

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Schaecter added: “Unless Christie’s and the Horten Estate change their position entirely and pledge every dollar from the auction for (1) restitution to the heirs of the families whose properties Horten acquired, and (2) full funding for the medical, financial, and long-term care needs of indigent survivors worldwide, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has a duty not to give Christie’s a platform to re-traumatize and insult Holocaust survivors, our families, truth, and history.”

Christie’s Restitution department announced in January that in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, it will host a series of global events and initiatives throughout 2023 called “Reflecting on Restitution,” including at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in the late winter.

Before Christie’s began its auction of Heidi Horten’s jewelry collection last week, HSF-USA asked Christie’s to call off the auction, saying it was “perpetuating a disgraceful pattern of whitewashing Holocaust profiteers, justifying commerce and ‘charity.’” The foundation further said the actions of Christie’s and the Horten Foundation are “patently offensive and trivialize the Holocaust.”

Other Jewish groups also expressed their concerns about the auction and urged Christie’s to cancel the sale, but the auction house ignored the outcry.

“Christie’s is perpetuating one of the most terrible tactics of Holocaust collaborators and profiteers, who obscure the full scope of their greed by minimizing the murderous behavior that led to their fortunes,” Schaecter wrote in his letter to Huldai. He added that Christie’s vow to donate all proceeds from the auction to support philanthropic causes, and Holocaust education and research “is equally insulting.”

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“The money, and those decisions, belong to the victims’ families, period,” he explained. “We survivors have seen this infuriating charade too often.”