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Wiesenthal Drops "Nazi" Allegations Against Art Museum

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    Wiesenthal Center slammed for claims of Nazi loot in Irish museum 28/09/2007 By The Associated Press http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/908030.html An Irish
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2007
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      Wiesenthal Center slammed for claims of Nazi loot in Irish museum
      By The Associated Press

      An Irish museum was formally cleared Friday of claims that its
      founders were Nazi spies who bought art works from dealers trafficking
      in items stolen from Jews.

      The report from U.S. expert Lynn Nicholas, published by the Royal
      Irish Academy following two investigations over three years, called
      the Simon Wiesenthal Center's allegations "unprofessional in the extreme."

      Nicholas found no evidence that the late John and Gertrude Hunt -
      founders of one of Ireland's best-loved museums, the Hunt Museum in
      Limerick - did anything wrong. She did call for further research of
      the museum's pieces, most of which are undocumented.

      Nicholas, Washington-based author of The Rape of Europa and other
      works examining the World War II art world, harshly criticized the
      Wiesenthal Center, the world's major Nazi-hunting pressure group, for
      making personally abusive claims based on threadbare evidence.

      "It is, of course, important to recover and return items unlawfully
      taken during World War II, but it is equally obligatory, in the
      pursuit of justice, to protect people and institutions from unproven
      allegations," Nicholas said.

      Nicholas said the Wiesenthal Center's primary documentary basis for
      its allegation was an Irish army intelligence file on Gertrude Hunt,
      who was German. Such files - kept on more than 500 German nationals
      during the war - are open to the public in a Dublin archive.

      She said the center's Paris-based director of international liaison,
      Shimon Samuels, was irresponsible not to have acknowledged from the
      start this was his source.

      Samuels in 2004 claimed - in a public letter to Irish President Mary
      McAleese and a string of Irish media interviews - that the Hunts were
      suspected Nazi spies and buyers of Holocaust victims' art. He declined
      to reveal his source.

      Nicholas said the file included three letters from April 1944 to
      November 1946 to the Hunts from Alexander von Frey, a Swiss-based
      dealer who did purchase Nazi loot. She said the letters show the two
      parties spoke, but contain no evidence the Hunts purchased a single
      art work from anybody, much less one with links to the Holocaust.

      "The fact that dealers once knew and dealt with each other is not
      sufficient basis for assuming that they shared political ideas or
      participated in looting," her report said.

      "It is impossible to understand why the Wiesenthal Center did not
      reveal its documentation immediately," it said. "The decision to
      challenge the Irish authorities in a sort of blackmail game was
      unprofessional in the extreme."

      Samuels rejected the charge of blackmail, calling it "almost
      defamatory." He also complained that his organization had been
      completely excluded from the investigation process, and cast doubt on
      Nicholas' conclusions.

      "This does not to me give a clean bill of health to the Hunt Museum,"
      Samuels said of the report after reading The AP's story. "I do not
      feel the research has been exhaustive or complete, basically due to
      the fact that we were denied access to the archive and to the entire

      The findings came too late for the Hunts' son and major museum
      booster, John Jr., who struggled to clear his parents' name but died
      less than a year after the allegations, aged 47.

      "This is one of the most tragic elements to this story," said the
      museum director, Virginia Teehan. She said the Wiesenthal Center's
      allegations "caused great pain to John. ... It's very regrettable that
      he didn't live to see this report today."

      Teehan led an effort in 2005 to display all of the museum's pieces on
      a Web site and has invited viewers to report any suspicions that they
      could have been stolen from Jewish families during the war.

      She said the site has had more than a quarter-million visitors and
      there's been no query about any item contained in the collection.

      Teehan said the Wiesenthal Center should apologize. "They have
      insulted the memory of John and Gertrude Hunt very deeply. One would
      expect they would be honorable in this regard, she said."

      Samuels said he would not be issuing an apology and that, as far as he
      was concerned, "the show is not over."



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