Wollongong Art Gallery may be lauding an ex-Nazi

March 22, 2022 by Henry Benjamin
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Bronius Sredersas was not a big earner but he amassed a fortune in carefully selecting prime Australian art and objets d’art which covered the walls of his very humble home on the Wollongong. But now there is hunt for the  verification that the Lithuanian was a member of the SD death squads which killed tens of thousands of Jews during WWII.

Bob Sredersas 1976

Bob died 36 years ago, but a furore has erupted with the disclosure of what may have been Bob’s shady past.

When he died, he left his estate to the City of Wollongong including paintings from Arthur Streeton and Norman Lindsay, marking the start of the Wollongong Art Gallery which sports a plaque remembering this humble donor.

He also left personal documents such as his birth certificate.

Four years ago ex-councillor Michael Samaris read in a catalogue published for the 40th anniversary of the gallery that Sredersas had been a policeman in Lithuania and had served in the Nazi SS, responsible for the death of 212,000 Lithuanian Jews.

It is in the Guardian piece.

Michael Samaras told J-Wire: “I knew from my own general knowledge what the auxiliary police battalions had done in Lithuania, so just thought, ha, that is interesting. I decided it was worth investigating to see if I could find out if he had been involved.”

The story was published in The Guardian written by Paul Daley

Renowned Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff told J-Wire from his home in Jerusalem:

Paul Daley’s article was quite accurate. Michael Samaras was able to obtain authentic documents from Lithuanian archives which clearly indicated that it was certain that Bronius Sredersas was involved in Holocaust crimes in Lithuania.

All one has to do is read the famous Jaeger Report written by Karl Jaeger, who was commander of the German SD in Lithuania in which he reports  that more than 137,000 Jews have been murdered in the latter half of 1941, to realize the importance of the role that that group

played in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry.”

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark commented, “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) is alarmed by revelations that the late Lithuanian migrant Mr Bronius “Bob” Sredersas, a well known Wollongong identity, may have been a member of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel (SS) and their intelligence apparatus, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).

The JBD has written to Wollongong City Council Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery on Monday stating the NSW Jewish community’s deep concerns about these allegations.

The allegations against Mr Sredersas are extremely serious and claim he was intimately involved in the Holocaust and the barbaric mass murder of millions of Jews and other minorities, people with a disability and political prisoners.

We call on Wollongong City Council to join with the Sydney Jewish Museum to investigate the veracity of these claims and, should they be proven, we call on Wollongong City Council to do the right thing and distance the Wollongong community from Mr Sredersas, including removing his name and image from any public monuments commemorating his life.

The Sydney Jewish Museum is ideally placed to undertake further research if deemed necessary given its access to significant historical data and close relationships with historians who specialise in the Holocaust and World War II.

The JBD has offered to meet with Wollongong Council and we look forward to working with them to establish whether Mr Sredersas deserves a place in Wollongong’s history.”

Shadow Minister for the Arts and Deputy Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, Walt Secord called on Wollongong Council to remove tributes to Bronius Sredersas.

“It is appalling that Sredersas became one of the most revered members of Wollongong’s arts community. The plaque in Bronius Sredersas’ honour should be ripped from the art gallery wall.  There is enough information in the public arena to justify Wollongong Council acting – now,” Mr Secord said.

“I don’t know what is more sickening: that Sredersas was a member of the intelligence agency of the infamous Nazi SS in Lithuania – which was involved in the systematic mass murder of 212,000 Lithuanian Jews or that he was then able to live a gentle life in the Illawarra – quietly collecting art.”

Mr Secord also praised former Wollongong Labor councillor Mr Michael Samaras who exposed the Nazi war crimes link to the Wollongong Art Gallery – saying that he had been campaigning for years to expose the hidden history of Bronius Sredersas.

Wollongong Art Gallery is one of Australia’s largest regional art museums with regularly changing exhibitions and a permanent collection.

“Michael Samaras took on the Illawarra’s establishment and demanded they confront the horrific truth in relation to Bronius Sredersas.”

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Arts and Regional Youth, Ben Franklin said, “The Gallery is a facility of Wollongong City Council and its programming and management is the responsibility of the Council.”.

The Mayor of Wollongong Gordon Bradbery told the ABC: “We’re in the middle of it at the present time verifying the allegations and we will work with the Jewish Board of Deputies and other agencies there including the AFP to verify those allegations.”

Time will tell that this valuable gift has been tainted by the past.

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