Israeli rights group to Tel Aviv Museum of Art: Cancel upcoming conference with Christie’s on Holocaust restitution properties

Shurat HaDin demands that the museum not legitimize auction house giant after recent sale of Nazi-linked estate jewelry.

Christie's auction house in London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Christie's auction house in London. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Shurat HaDin organization has sent the Tel Aviv Museum of Art a letter calling on it to cancel a planned conference with the famed Christie’s auction house in December. The Israeli civil rights group alleges that the participation of the London based company, in the wake of a recent auction it held in the United Kingdom featuring priceless jewelry and gems from the Estate of Heidi Horton, the late wife of Nazi businessman Helmut Horton, is an outrageous attempt to white wash the crimes of this evil and unscrupulous Holocaust villain who forced Jewish business owners to sell him their property under extreme duress. Horton amassed a fortune during the Second World War and afterwards utilizing the assets and companies he compelled Jews sell to him under the Nazi’s infamous aryanization laws designed to confiscate Jewish businesses. Ironically, the Christie’s-sponsored conference is designed to highlight the Auction House’s lead in ethically returning Jewish owned property to its lawful heirs.

Shurat HaDin and many other Jewish groups recently protested Christie’s role in the estate sale of the jewelry of Horton’s widow, which they claim was purchased from the proceeds of once Jewish owned businesses.

The Shurat HaDin opposition letter states: “The taxpayers’ money of Holocaust survivors is being used cynically and gives a platform to those who stole their property. This is the most unspeakable hypocrisy we have ever encountered.”

The controversial Christie’s sale in London netted more than $200 million, an international record for jewelry auctions of this sort. Christie’s received it’s fees from this astronomical sum. Holocaust survivor groups also spoke out condemning Christie’s participation, citing its greed and interest in fees over its professed ethical commitment to refusing to handle Nazi-stolen Jewish property and its lead in restitution efforts.

The Shurat Hadin organization has urgently appealed to the museum’s management, requesting the cancellation of the auction house’s “cynical participation.” They argue that as Christie’s recently sold hundreds of jewels purchased with the money of a German-Nazi businessman, who amassed his wealth through the forced acquisition of Jewish companies before and during the Holocaust it is guilty of exactly the type of conduct the conference seeks to highlight and prohibit.

In its appeal to Tanya Cohen-Uziali, the CEO of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the organization points out that the jewelry in question belonged to Austrian billionaire Heidi Horton, who passed away last year at the age of 81. Horton was married to Helmut, a Nazi-German billionaire who acquired a significant portion of his fortune by purchasing stores that had been stolen from Jews at discounted prices during the Third Reich. The recent auction set records, with nearly 700 pieces of jewelry sold for more than $200 million as previously mentioned.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the president of the Shurat Hadin organization, further commented, “This is an unmitigated hypocrisy of historic proportions. While Christie’s tries to portray itself as the ‘Knight of Justice’ by hosting conferences on the restitution of stolen Jewish property, it is collaborating with the estate of the wife of one of the biggest looters of our nation’s assets. It is unacceptable for a publicly supported institution in Israel to provide a platform for those who seek to profit from the property of hapless Jews who had their families’ businesses stolen away before they were transported to their deaths. The city of Tel Aviv is home to Holocaust survivors, who are still among us. They survived the horrors only to discover that the first Hebrew city is hosting an event in a museum that it takes pride in—investing millions of shekels each year from taxpayers’ money—which provides a white washing for the sale of jewelry acquired with the blood of our people. This must be stopped immediately.”

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Shurat HaDin is at the forefront of fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide. We are dedicated to protecting the State of Israel. By defending against lawfare suits, fighting academic and economic boycotts, and challenging those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish State, Shurat HaDin is utilizing court systems around the world to go on the legal offensive against Israel's enemies. Based in Tel Aviv, and directed by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Shurat HaDin works with Western intelligence agencies, law enforcement branches and a network of volunteer lawyers across the globe to file legal actions on behalf of terror victims.
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