June 20, 2022
Wollongong Council will meet this week to consider stripping all recognition of Lithuanian art collector Bronius “Bob” Sredersas from the Wollongong Art Gallery following revelations the benefactor served as an intelligence officer in the Nazi security service during World War II.
The move could include renaming The Sredersas Gallery, the room that houses the huge art collection, and removing a plaque that honours his legacy.
Key figures from the Wollongong City Council, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and the Sydney Jewish Museum will meet on Wednesday to discuss the findings of the investigation into Sredersas’s former life as a Nazi intelligence officer and collaborator. The report’s findings were revealed by The Australian on Monday.
Wollongong Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the city would retain the art collection. “We’ll look … to put an acceptable narrative around that collection and the story of Bob Sredersas’ relation to that collection to make sure that we represent that collection correctly,” he said.
“It has to be a truth-telling exercise that accurately reflects the story behind the collection.”
The room in the gallery remains named after Sredersas and the plaque still hangs on a wall. The council, after receiving earlier allegations, attached an addendum to the plaque that explained he “may have been a collaborator during the Holocaust”.
Sredersas concealed his true wartime identity for more than three decades after moving to Australia in the 1950s while he amassed a huge art collection comprising works by some of Australia’s best known artists, including Arthur Streeton, Margaret Preston, Norman Lindsay and Pro Hart.
Sredersas, who never married and died at the age of 72, bequeathed his prized collection to the Wollongong Art Gallery five years before his death in 1982.
The report was written by Holocaust historian Konrad Kwiet after Wollongong City Council asked the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Sydney Jewish Museum to conduct an investigation after preliminary findings raised by former councillor Michael Samaras.
Mr Samaras said it was “very satisfying” to see the results of an investigation.
“I’ve wanted this independent validation. I was an amateur. I can’t read German or Lithuanian,” he said.
He called on the Wollongong City Council to take the opportunity to provide more education to the community, and praised the council’s actions after it initially did not act on his findings.
“They should have a public process that leads to removing the plaque, changing the name, and interpreting it properly,” Mr Samaras said.
“This has to be about education and understanding if it’s going to have any sort of positive contribution.”