Lampshade 'made from the skins of Jewish Holocaust victims' to be sold

A lampshade allegedly made from the skins of Jews who died in the Holocaust may be sold at auction, despite the protests of Jewish groups.

The lamp forms part of a controversial collection of artefacts assembled by Robert Lenkiewicz, a leading portrait artist who once famously embalmed the body of a tramp.

Jewish leaders fear the lamp may now be sold to the highest bidder to help pay off £2m debts owed by the Lenkiewicz estate and accrued by the artist, who died in 2002. Jewish groups say the lamp should be buried with dignity.

Most of the gruesome collection, which also features the skeleton of a 16th-century witch, will go under the hammer in the autumn as the artist's estate attempts to clear the debts.

Lenkiewicz was an acclaimed artist whose subjects included Michael Foot, Billy Connolly and Terry Waite and whose paintings sold for tens of thousands of pounds.

His family have reluctantly agreed to the sale after failing to raise enough money through other means. His brother, Jon Lenkiewicz, said: "The sale runs completely counter to Robert's intentions, but the costs are pretty enormous and the claims are large. It's a tragedy. It would have been so good to preserve everything."

Neither the lampshade nor the body of the tramp is part of the forthcoming auction, but some fear that they are bound to reach the market eventually.

The estate's executor, Peter Walmsley, admitted that the lamp might have to be sold eventually. "It's not the sort of thing we would put into an auction sale lightly," he said. "But it may have to be sold at some stage. I may not have a choice about it. Sales will be made to meet the claims of the creditors."

Jewish leaders have warned that any sale of the lamp - whether authentic or not - would be "revolting and inhumane". They called for its burial and a promise from the estate that it will never go into auction.

Lenkiewicz claimed the lamp was made in Auschwitz in 1940, but Holocaust experts dispute this. Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, questioned the lamp's authenticity. But he added: "If it is real, to sell it would be the most revolting and inhumane way to raise funds."

As well as his bizarre collection, Lenkiewicz also left 15 children - just two of whom were from his three marriages.

Once all the debts have been cleared, the remains of the estate will be passed to the Lenkiewicz Foundation, set up to protect the artist's legacy and look after his collection. The foundation's trustees now fear that little will remain. Many of his paintings have already been sold, as has a large proportion of his vast book collection.

A large outstanding income tax bill makes up the majority of the debt, but creditors also include those who have paid for paintings that Lenkiewicz never got the chance to finish. Mr Walmsley needs to raise approximately £2m to cover all the creditors' claims.

Lenkiewicz, the son of Jewish refugees, was born in London during the Second World War. He went to St Martin's art college at the age of 16 and later attended the Royal Academy. After moving to Plymouth in the early 1960s, he took over warehouses in order to house the tramps and alcoholics he had befriended.

Items included in the auction, organised by Bearne's of Exeter in October, are understood to include an ornate coffin, a series of skulls and the skeleton of a 16th-century woman hanged for witchcraft.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style