We are relieved that the Tel Aviv Museum of Art withdrew from the Christie’s event branded “Reflections on Restitution.”
The Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA worked hard, from the outset of the controversy, to educate Christie’s leadership, to take a stand against glorifying the shameful history of Helmut Horten’s participation and profit from Nazi crimes against the Jewish people. Christie’s refused, and bought in to the narrative, which we’ve seen over and over, that the passage of time and the “charitable purposes” of the ex-Nazi’s foundation, made it OK for Christies’ to hold the sale. We even proposed an outcome that would have served to educate the public about what really happened, i.e. to use the proceeds of the sale to locate and compensate the heirs of the Jewish people whose properties Horten looted, and use the remainder to provide for survivors in need around the world. They refused.
This episode should send a clear message to all auction houses, museums, and private collectors that every collection, and every sale, will be scrutinized. The passage of time cannot be allowed to sanitize the Nazis’ crimes against the Jewish people. The Nazis and their collaborators robbed and killed millions of Jewish people in the pursuit of power and a hateful ideology. Billions worth of looted assets remain in the wrong hands today, while families are forced to fight powerful institutions to recover their legacies. To make matters much worse, tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors live in poverty and cannot afford the services needed for health and dignity after all they suffered.
The Horten-Christie’s playbook of rewriting history to deny the essential facts of the Holocaust, and even citing profiteers’ current “charitable purposes,” has been used again and again by Holocaust profiteers to avoid the accountability that history and morality require. These include global insurers such as Allianz and Generali, who have avoided repaying the vast bulk of their unpaid insurance policies by minimizing or denying the facts about their conduct, and misrepresenting their track record of restitution – with the support of the U.S. State Department no less! Families seeking to recover looted artworks also face egregious distortions of history by museums, collectors, and even governments, such as Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation (fighting the Cassirer family of California), who trivialize the Holocaust to justify holding onto Nazi loot.
Let the Tel Aviv Museum’s commendable decision signal the end to this damnable practice among governments, institutions, and people who are willing to participate in whitewashing Holocaust perpetrators, collaborators, and profiteers, for power, money, and prestige.
David Schaecter, President
Joined by the Holocaust Survivors Foundation USA Executive Committee:
Dena Axelrod, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Magda Bader, Boston, MA
Esther Finder, Las Vegas, NV
Renee Firestone, Los Angeles, CA
Ella Frumkin, Los Angeles, CA
Jay Ipson, Richmond, VA
Vera Karliner, Miami Beach, FL
Annette Lantos, Washington, D.C.
Louise Lawrence-Israels, Wash. D.C
Steve Moskovic, New York, NY
Shirley Rubin, Boynton Beach, FL
Anita Schuster, Las Vegas, NV
Neal Schaecter, Miami, FL
Charles Srebnick, New York, NY
Agnes Vertes, Weston, CT
Thomas Weiss, M.D., Miami Beach, FL