Hunt Museum investigation urged

Irish Times 30 June 2009
By Carl O'Brien

An international Jewish organisation has called for a fresh investigation into alleged links between the founders of the Hunt Museum in Limerick and Nazi sympathisers.

At a conference on “Holocaust era assets” in Prague yesterday, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said it wanted access to official archives and other materials as part of an independent investigation into the provenance of the 2,000 objects on display in the Limerick museum.

A number of reports in recent years, including one by Dr Lynn Nicholas, a world authority on Nazi-looted art, have cleared the Hunts of involvement in trafficking in looted art.

However, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre says key questions remain unanswered.

“I am happy to report that here in Prague and not in Dublin, talks with the Irish delegation discussed an invitation to a Wiesenthal Centre researcher to access relevant archives, and a proposal for a proactive search for heirs through notices to the principal Jewish and restitution websites,” a representative of the centre said yesterday.

The centre first raised questions about the provenance of some of the museum’s collection in a letter to President Mary McAleese in 2004.

An expert group subsequently set up by the Royal Irish Academy reported that most of the items under suspicion were unlikely to have a “problematic past”.

A second report by Lynn Nicholas, a world authority on Nazi looted art, concluded there was no proof that the late John and Gertrude Hunt were Nazis or that they were involved in any kind of espionage or trafficking in looted art.

However, a report by archaeologist Erin Gibbons and backed by the Wiesenthal centre says the concerns of the Wiesenthal centre appear legitimate and measured.
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