A Lithuanian art collector who donated up to 100 paintings to a Wollongong art gallery served as an intelligence officer in the Nazi security service and was a collaborator during the German occupation of Lithuania, an investigation has found.
Bronius “Bob” Sredersas – who moved to Australia in 1950 and worked at the BHP steelworks in Wollongong – concealed his true wartime identity for more than three decades 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, after more than a dozen works were stolen from his small fibro house in the Wollongong suburb of Cringila.
The Wollongong Art Gallery named a room after Sredersas, mounted a posthumous exhibition to him in 2018 and continues to honour his legacy with a plaque. Sredersas’s contribution to the gallery and Wollongong was upheld as the “ultimate migrant success story”, according to the city’s mayor, Gordon Bradbery.
But in March, the Wollongong City Council and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies engaged the Sydney Jewish Museum to conduct an investigation into Sredersas’s career as a police officer in Lithuania, after former city councillor Michael Samaras earlier this year raised concerns about his possible collaboration with the Nazis.