Wollongong art collector is a ‘collaborator’ – The Australian Jewish News
The Wollongong Art Gallery is reportedly considering removing all tributes to art benefactor Bronius “Bob” Sredersas.
Representatives of the Jewish Museum of Sydney (JMS) met with Wollongong Council this week to discuss the findings of Professor Konrad Kwiet’s report following confirmation that Bronius “Bob” Sredersas was a Nazi collaborator.
Kwiet, a Dutch Holocaust historian at SJM, has been tasked with investigating the background of Lithuanian immigrant Sredersas and submitted his report to Wollongong Council last week.
In it, Kwiet concluded that Sredersas was a Nazi collaborator during the German occupation of Lithuania and hid his wartime service to present himself as a Lithuanian refugee, which allowed him to immigrate to Australia in 1950. .
Kwiet wrote in his report that Sredersas was born in 1910 to “ethnic German parents” in the Crimean town of Simferopol and changed his name to Bronislaus Schroeders to successfully obtain German citizenship.
He then served as an intelligence officer in the Nazi Security Service and was a collaborator. Lithuania’s Jewish community was decimated during the Holocaust, 90% of which were murdered by the Nazis in close collaboration with Lithuanian collaborators.
In 1950 Germans and ethnic Germans were barred from entering Australia, but after the war Sredersas renounced his German citizenship and was classified by the International Refugee Organization as a political refugee eligible for rehabilitation, maintenance and resettlement.
Sredersas settled in Wollongong where he worked in the city’s steelworks, but traveled regularly to Sydney and used his money to amass an extraordinary collection of Australian art.
Single and childless, he bequeathed his entire collection of around 100 works to the Wollongong Art Gallery before his death in 1982. His gift became known as The Gift and it is housed in the Sredersas Gallery, but recognition will now have to change.
Wollongong Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the council, along with the SJM and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD), will work together to determine how to represent the art collection “respectfully” following the revelations.
“It will be an ongoing effort by both of them to represent this collection in a way that is respectful not only of the value of this collection and its significance, but also of its history,” Bradbery said.
“The way the individual Bob Sredersas may have been involved in certain activities means we need to rethink how we present this collection.”
The investigation into Sredersas was launched by former Wollongong councilor Michael Samaras, who spent years digging into the Lithuanian immigrant’s past.
He had become suspicious when a 2018 article described Sredersas as a policeman from the Lithuanian government’s security department and he told AJN he welcomed the findings.
“I really appreciate the expert work done by Professor Kwiet and the SJM and appreciate the confirmation that Sredersas was a Nazi author,” Samaras said.
“Just having the report removes all doubt and it is clear that action needs to be taken.”
Samaras said he would like to see a collaboration between the SJM and the Wollongong Art Gallery because “there is always room for more education and understanding about what has happened in Europe.”
Samaras first presented his evidence to Wollongong Council earlier this year and in March the JBD met the mayor to express concern and offer help.
At the time, JBD CEO Darren Bark said the meeting with the board was “a sign that they take this seriously and it’s very much appreciated, not just for the Jewish community, but for the community. Wollongong at large who deserves answers about this individual’s past.” .
Historical documents collected by Samaras were identified as authentic by Kwiet, who described Sredersas as an “opportunist” and “a cog in the Nazi machine of mass destruction”.
“He may not have committed murder, but his wartime position within the SS apparatus and the police made him complicit in the Holocaust and other hideous crimes perpetrated.”
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