Discovering a Secret Nazi


Discovering a Secret Nazi

 Bob Sredersas and the Gift


Interviewer:               Let’s see if we can get this working…

Bob Sredersas:         Don’t trust no-one, even don’t trust me.

            Interview with Bob Sredersas by student journalist Karen Lateo

                                                                                                   29 May 1981

The Story

On 27 July 1976, the people of Wollongong awoke to some wonderful news. A retired steelworker, Bronius ‘Bob’ Sredersas, had gifted his collection of artworks, which the Illawarra Mercury reported was worth “millions”, to the Wollongong City Council. He told the city’s aldermen that his bequest was “not for Peter or John, but for Wollongong, especially the young people.”[1]

It was a generous gift, which Sredersas, a 65-year-old retired migrant steelworker, added to in subsequent years. By the time of his death on 26 May 1982[2], the gift totalled 87 artworks (paintings, drawings, woodcuts and etchings), 11 objects from Papua New Guinea, 31 pieces of china and five miniatures. Artistic highlights included works by Nicholas Chevalier, Will Ashton, Sydney Long, Grace Cossington Smith, Hans Heysen, Rupert Bunny, Arthur Streeton and Margaret Preston.[3]

For Wollongong, as it was in the 1970s, the gift was startling. The city was a centre for heavy industry and did not even have an art gallery. The gift acted as a catalyst for the establishment, by the Wollongong City Council and New South Wales (NSW) Government, of the Wollongong City Gallery. Looking back, an alderman, Harold Hanson AM, explained the critical role Sredersas’ gift had played:

Bob wanted to show his gratitude to Wollongong for giving him a home, by donating his collection to the City to be available to be seen by the children. He knew that he was getting older and he wanted to make sure that the gift was in the care of the City before he died. He also wanted to be sure that they, or at least a rotating selection of them, would be put on permanent display so that the children of his adopted City would be able to see them whenever the Gallery was open.


His collection and magnificent donation – worth a very substantial amount of money indeed – was the catalyst on which the Art Gallery and its collection were built.


With his consent the fund-raising Committee was able to publicise the donation and use it as a platform to launch a much larger fund-raising project. The Mercury gave Bob Sredersas and the collection a tremendous amount of publicity in support of the Gallery project.[4]

In line with this strategy, Sredersas’ benefaction was widely celebrated in the following years, and in the decades after his death. The Illawarra Mercury advised readers in an editorial that “there should be more men like him.”[5] The aspiring artists of the region honoured him with portraits and Sredersas estimated that he had sat for 30 of them. The inaugural Gallery Director, Tony Bond, selected one for the Gallery’s collection, which he said was “a gesture of appreciation to Mr Sredersas’ generosity.”[6] Official recognition followed with the Wollongong City Council naming an exhibition space within the new gallery in his honour[7] and he was photographed being introduced to the NSW Premier, the Hon Neville Wran QC MP, at the gallery’s official opening.[8] Eminent persons of the calibre of Donald Horne, Barry Jones, and Imants Tillers gave lectures in his honour.[9] The gallery mounted exhibitions and erected a plaque, while the Wollongong Art Gallery Friends Committee hosted the Sredersas Dinner as a fundraising social event.[10]

"New Wollongong City Gallery" - a 1991 screenprint by Gregor Cullen celebrating the contribution of Bob Sredersas on the occasion of the Wollongong City Gallery's move into new premises

 The Sredersas gift was popular because it signified a change in the way Wollongong saw itself. During the Second World War and throughout the decades of the post-war period, the region’s heavy industries had expanded significantly. Between 1947 and 1972 employment at the BHP steelworks grew from 3,665 to 19,956.[11] The availability of unskilled employment saw Wollongong become an attractive destination for many thousands of immigrants, with the population of the Wollongong Statistical District increasing rapidly from 65,320 in 1941 to 218,850 in 1976.[12] In his 1966 book The Lucky Country, Donald Horne described Wollongong’s growth:

Wollongong is a mystery thrown up from the puzzles of industrial change. Building and rebuilding are conducted with twentieth century technique but in a goldrush muddle. People from 40 or 50 nations make up Wollongong – in the steel works migrant labour runs as high as 50 per cent. It is by far the most frontier-like of Australia’s bigger cities, spreading and sprawling to God knows where.”[13]

 This growth meant the region’s economy was increasingly dependent on the fortunes of the steel industry. In 1976, 41 per cent of Wollongong’s male workforce was employed by BHP.[14] Wollongong had become so industrial that it was regularly lampooned in popular television comedies like The Aunty Jack Show and The Norman Gunston Show as the bastion of Australia’s gormless and unsophisticated working class.

As this industrial economy and culture were peaking, Wollongong began to change. In 1975, the University of Wollongong was established as an autonomous higher education institution.[15] In the same year, the F6 toll road between Waterfall and Bulli opened, enabling much improved road access to the cultural and economic opportunities available in Sydney. At the opening of the Wollongong Art Gallery in 1978, the Lord Mayor Frank Arkell summed up the mood:

For too many years we have suffered from the problems of rapid growth and too much emphasis on heavy industry. Now there was (sic) a breathing space and time to change the emphasis to the environment and the enjoyment of the arts.[16]

Sredersas’ gift arrived at just the right time to realise these changing aspirations.


Port Kembla steelworks

Sredersas himself had arrived in Wollongong in 1950 as one of the 170,700 displaced persons who, in the years 1947 to 1953, left post-war Europe to make new lives for themselves in Australia. At the war’s end there were hundreds of thousands of people in Germany, originating from across Europe, who could not or would not return home, usually because of a well-founded fear of persecution from Stalin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)[17] or his proxies across Eastern Europe.[18]

 An intergovernmental organisation, the International Refugee Organisation (IRO), was created to screen and then accommodate these people in displaced persons camps until they could be permanently resettled. The IRO paid the transport costs to get the displaced persons to Australia, and some favoured Australia “precisely because it was so remote from Europe.” For its part Australia, which undertook its own selection process, “expressly targeted single Baltic people” suitable for manual labour. The new arrivals were required to accept being placed in employment by the Australian Government for two years, and at the end of this period were essentially permanent residents with the rights and responsibilities of other Australians.[19]


Migrants in employment in Australia - Port Kembla steelworks, 1955

In 1949 Sredersas received a Good Conduct Statement[20] from officials at his camp and, having been selected as suitable to make a new life in Australia, arrived in Melbourne on 23 May 1950 as one of 1,877 displaced persons aboard the Fairsea, which had left Bremerhaven, Germany, on 18 April 1950.[21] The passengers disembarked and boarded a special train which took them to the Department of Immigration’s Reception and Training Centre at Bonegilla, Victoria. Soon after, Sredersas arrived in Wollongong and commenced his employment at the Port Kembla steelworks, where he was to work without incident for the next 25 years.

In 1979, looking back on his arrival in Wollongong after a journey that had taken him across the world and a long way from both the war years and his Lithuanian homeland, Sredersas told the Illawarra Mercury:

“It was night and cold and I saw these big fires and lights from the ovens and I said, ‘This is the work for me.’”[22]


For a reader in 1979, this would seem a nostalgic statement about the Port Kembla coke ovens that lit up Wollongong’s night sky.

For a reader in 2022, it reads as an attempt to be surreptitiously sardonic. 

The Backstory

Bronius Sredersas was born on 4 December 1910, in Simferopol, a Crimean city within the Russian Empire of Tsar Nicholas II. His birth was recorded in the register of the Simferopol Roman Catholic Parish Church, with his full name Bronislav Kuratol Franzel Scherger Schreders. His parents, recorded as being lawfully married, were Maximillian Gustav Theophil Heinrich Leon Schreders and Anna-Maria (nee Schneider). His parents were “noble-persons” of the Kovno region in the district of Ponieviz.[23] Kovno was then a city within the Russian Empire but today, more than 100 turbulent years later, is known as Kaunas and is one of the largest cities in the Republic of Lithuania.[24]

In 1982, Sredersas told the Illawarra Mercury that after the First World War, with Russia enduring revolution and civil war, his family fled the Crimea, travelled through Romania and Poland, and returned to Lithuania. On 16 February 1918, amidst the chaos of war and the Russian revolution, Lithuania declared its independence, which it successfully defended during the course of several wars in the next three years. Despite this political turmoil and military conflict, Sredersas remembered Lithuania as a peaceful place in which to grow up.[25]

The family’s move across Europe involved the assumption of a new name reflecting the change from Russian to Lithuanian in language, alphabet and cultural traditions. Lithuanian surnames appear in three forms, one masculine and two feminine, and the suffix “-as” is an accepted male formulation. [26] The surname ‘Schreders’ thus became ‘Sreders-as’, expressed as ‘Sredersas’.

 The newly independent Lithuania had, according to a 1923 census, a population of 2,021,792 people. Of these, 1,706,863 people, or 83.88 per cent of the population, were Lithuanians. The second largest group, 153,743 people, or 7.58 per cent, were Jews. The balance of the population were Poles, Russians, Germans, Latvians and others.[27]

 The Jews of Lithuania and neighbouring geographic regions were known as Litvaks and had, over more than 500 years, established and sustained a distinctive and thriving culture. The Litvaks maintained an autonomous existence alongside their Lithuanian neighbours, spoke Yiddish as their first language, and were mostly engaged in commerce and small industrial enterprises. There were Jewish hospitals, schools, sports clubs, and credit societies and Yiddish newspapers, libraries, theatres and highly regarded yeshivas (institutes for religious study).[28]

 The first years of independence saw this Jewish autonomy respected by a democratic Lithuania, but the situation gradually deteriorated after a 1926 military coup established an authoritarian dictatorship. Caps were introduced on the number of Jews who could undertake university study, and Jews were no longer able to be employed in the courts, police, and army. They were also prevented from buying land.[29] Even so, given what was happening elsewhere in Europe, Lithuania was something of a haven for Jews, with not a single person killed in anti-Jewish violence in interwar Lithuania.[30]

 It was against this background that Sredersas spent his young adulthood. He told the IRO he left school in 1928 and was employed as a building worker until 1932, when he became a seaman. He held that occupation until 1935 when he began working as a policeman, a position he held until 1940.[31]  His service record shows he commenced work in the city of Kaunas as a policeman for the “Government’s Security Department” in early 1935. Over the next five years he received a number of promotions that saw his salary more than double from 225 litas to 462 litas.[32]

Along with a steady set of promotions, Sredersas also undertook several training courses, including one on chemical defence, and was transferred to the city of Vilnius in late 1939. This transfer would have been part of the larger movement of government officials (and ethnic Lithuanians) from Kovno to Vilnius, following the city’s return to Lithuanian control. The return of Vilnius, known as the Lithuanian Jerusalem because of its large Jewish population,[33] was a gift from the Soviet Union and took place after Hitler and Stalin had dismembered Poland subsequent to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. Initially welcomed by Lithuanians, it soon became clear that this gift came with many strings attached. Bases for the Red Army were established, a puppet government was installed and by mid-1940 Lithuania was formally incorporated into the USSR.

 The Soviet Union’s annexation of Lithuania brought an abrupt end to Sredersas’ career in the Security Department and, as he told the IRO, by August 1940 he was discharged and unemployed.[34] Lithuania’s loss of independence and subjugation to Stalin’s regime was marked by arrests, shootings and the deportation of thousands of people to Siberia, as the Soviets set about systematically decapitating Lithuania’s political leadership.[35] The head of Sredersas’ Security Department, Augustinas Povilaitis, was arrested, taken to Moscow and shot.[36] Others associated with the Government managed to flee to Germany, but exactly how Sredersas, an officer in the Security Department who would have been a person of interest to the NKVD,[37] survived is not known.

 The USSR’s control of Lithuania ended on 22 June 1941 when Hitler’s Germany invaded Stalin’s USSR. Hitler had proclaimed the communism of the Russian revolution to be a Jewish project. This idea, known as the Judeobolshevik myth, meant that in launching total war against the Soviet Union, Hitler conceived he was simultaneously fighting to destroy what he saw as the conspiratorial power of the Jews. For Hitler, war against Soviet Russia meant war against the Jews. The Judeobolshevik myth linked “the elimination of the Jews to the subjugation of the Slavs." [38] In Kovno, the Germans displayed propaganda posters emphasising that their enemy was “Jew Bolshevism” and broadcast speeches by Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister for Propaganda, decrying the Jews as “the root of evil in the world; they are the devil which pushes the West towards its downfall.”  Newspaper articles asserted it was the Jews, not the Soviets, that “killed and deported scores of thousands of Lithuanians to the wilderness of Siberia.”[39]

 Inspired by the Nazi’s identification of the Jews with Bolshevism, the killings of Jews began immediately. At Kovno, even before the German Army arrived on 23 June, a Lithuanian mob murdered hundreds of Jews who had been accused of collaborating with the Russians.[40] More ghastly killings took place on 27 June when a large crowd of Lithuanians, including women and children, gathered at the Lietukis garage to watch dozens of Jews beaten, hosed with water and clubbed to death by Lithuanian activists. The crowd urged the killers on with shouts and applause.[41]

 The Nazi’s Sicherheitsdienst (SD) Einsatzkommando 3, a sub-group of Einsatzgruppe A (mobile killing squads), assumed control as the security police in Lithuania on 2 July and presided over a frenzied killing spree for the rest of 1941. Through July and August the 30,000 Jews of Kovno were herded into a ghetto and subjected to random killings and the introduction of a system of slave labour. A hospital, with its doctors, nurses and patients locked inside, was burnt to the ground. A ‘Great Action’ took place on 28-29 October when 10,000 Jews were marched from the ghetto to an old Tsarist fort at the outskirts of the city. The men and women were shot, while children were thrown alive into their parents’ burial pits.[42]


Massacre at the Kovno Garage – June 1941

Reports prepared by Karl Jaeger, the commanding officer of the SD Einsatzkommando 3, documented the scale of the killings. By 1 December 1941, 137,346 people had been murdered. While the vast majority were Jews, the Jaeger Report’s lists of victims also included several hundred communists, a handful of Russian prisoners of war, criminals, and 544 people described as ‘lunatics’. Jaeger reported to his superiors in Germany:

“I can state today that the goal of solving the Jewish problem in Lithuania has been reached by EK 3. There are no Jews in Lithuania anymore except the work-Jews and their families, which total

                        in Siauliai      some 4,500

                        in Kovno        some 15,000

                        in Vilna           some 15,000”[43]

 By the end of 1941, approximately 80 per cent of Lithuania’s Jews had been murdered.[44] For the following three years, the surviving Jews were locked in ghettos, terrorised, brutalised and exploited by the Germans as a slave labour force.[45] In 1944, as the Soviet’s Red Army advanced, the Nazis liquidated the Kovno ghetto, which had been transformed into the Kauen concentration camp. The burial pits were opened and the exhumed corpses burnt to destroy evidence of the massacres, ghetto survivors were shot or transported to concentration camps elsewhere, buildings were blown up, gasoline sprayed and the place burnt to the ground.[46] Vilnius was taken by the Soviets on 13 July 1944 and Kovno on 1 August 1944.

Einsatzgruppen or their auxiliaries – Kovno 1942

By the time the Germans were driven out of Lithuania, around 95 per cent of the country’s Jews were dead, the highest proportion in the whole of Nazi-occupied Europe.[47] The Lithuanian historian Arunas Bubnys has calculated that the number of Lithuanian Jews murdered totalled 195,000, plus several thousand more who had been transported from across Europe to be executed in Lithuania.[48]

The successful implementation of Nazi policy to destroy Lithuania’s Jews was accomplished with the active participation of non-Jewish Lithuanians. The murder of such vast numbers proceeded shot by shot, not by the deployment of mass killing instruments like gas chambers, and the Germans relied on local collaborators simply because they did not have enough men for the job.[49] Jaeger, in his report, noted how his success had been due in part to the “co-operation of the Lithuanian partisans” and to the availability of “a sufficient number of trained partisans.”[50]

When applying to the IRO for assistance, Sredersas said he was unemployed from August 1940 to December 1943, when he became a seaman. He said he held this position to June 1944 when he took flight ahead of the Russians due to “political reasons.” By September 1944 he was in Germany, working as a cook in Heilsberg, before being evacuated in January 1945.[51] After the war, he spent time in various displaced persons camps, including Flensburg (also known as the Antwerp-Westerallee Camp) and Meierwik in Germany, and in 1947 attended the IRO Navigation and Sea - Engineering School at Flensburg,[52] before arriving in Australia in 1950.

Post-war Australia had only a rudimentary understanding of what would come to be known as the Holocaust. The long boom of the post-war years was underway, as was the baby boom, and the prevailing national mood was optimistic about the future rather than being pre-occupied with the past. Australia was about to enter a period of economic expansion and prosperity greater than it had ever experienced. The 1950s was a time of unprecedented consumerism, with suburban families acquiring cars, televisions, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and lawn mowers. Melbourne hosted the 1956 Olympic Games, and in 1957 Sydney, not to be outdone, decided on the design for its opera house.[53]  Australia was also an active participant in the Cold War, with the Korean War, the Petrov Affair, a referendum on banning the Communist Party of Australia, and a major split in the Australian Labor Party, all reminding Australians there were current political events to be concerned about.

 There were many issues for Australians to be distracted by and worried about, without having to contemplate the mass murder of Europe’s Jews. The first volume of Australia’s official history of the Second World War, Sir Paul Hasluck’s Australia in the War of 1939-45: The Government and the People 1939-41 ran to 644 pages, but there was not a single mention of the anti-Semitic nature of Nazi Germany.[54] In Wollongong in the years 1945-1954, the Illawarra Mercury and Illawarra Daily Mercury published just two articles containing the word Auschwitz, and only one of these dealt with the concentration camp. The other article reported on Russian armaments in the Auschwitz district.[55] Survivors were not rushing to tell their stories[56] and other Australians were not interested in asking questions. A silence, which has been called '‘the incommunicability of trauma”[57], settled upon the subject.

Sredersas seems to have recognised this lack of awareness and knowledge. In 1981, invited by a student journalist to reflect on what life was like in Lithuania, he said:

“You don’t even know after the second war how it was because here in Australia you don’t know nothing.”[58]

Several questions later he broke down in tears, professing his love for Australian art.

Sredersas made no effort to explain in detail “how it was” in the war, preferring to maintain a silence about his life and activities before his arrival in Australia. The executor of his will, Father Michael Bach of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong, said his movements during the war were “pretty cloudy”,[59] while then Alderman Harold Hanson said of Sredersas:


He told us that he had arrived in Australia from Northern Europe. He was very reticent about his upbringing but Lithuania did get a mention.”[60]

 Sredersas simply stated that he came to Australia because he had “lost my country, the Russians were there”.[61] So determined was he that his life had actually begun with his arrival in Australia on 23 May 1950, that the Illawarra Mercury reported this was his “unofficial birthday”.[62]

 Australia’s policy of considering the Second World War, and the war crimes committed during it, as a closed chapter was formalised in the early 1960s. By then, the Liberal parliamentarian W C Wentworth, a committed anti-communist who associated with individuals with established Fascist tendencies[63], would tell the Australian Parliament that the Second World War was “ancient history.”[64]

 Picking up this cue, a week later, on 22 March 1961, the Attorney-General, the Honourable Sir Garfield Barwick QC, announced that the Menzies Government had refused the extradition, sought by the USSR, of Ervin Viks for alleged war crimes committed in Estonia during the war. Viks had also arrived in Australia in 1950 as a displaced person and was alleged to have personally participated in mass shootings, but Barwick declared “the time has come to close the chapter. It is, truly, the year 1961,” and explained Australia’s position:

“…there is the right of this nation, by receiving people into this country, to enable men to turn their backs on past bitternesses and to make a new life for themselves and for their families in a happier community.


“In default of a binding obligation requiring Australia at this point of time to do otherwise, these, who have been allowed to make homes here, must be able to live, in security, new lives under the rule of law.”[65]

 In March 1961, Adolf Eichmann, a key figure in the SD and a leading perpetrator of the Holocaust, was awaiting trial in Israel. By this time there were perhaps hundreds of less prominent perpetrators residing in Australia. If the Israelis’ astonishing capture of Eichmann in Argentina caused any of them to worry about the security of their antipodean sanctuary, Barwick’s statement would have helped set their minds to rest: the Attorney-General had publicly committed Australia to an amnesty for Nazi mass murderers.[66]


A Different Story

In 1954 my father, a Greek farm labourer, arrived in Australia not as a displaced person but under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migrants, which provided assisted passage for Europeans who wished to migrate to Australia. Soon after his arrival he, like Sredersas and thousands of other migrants, commenced work in the steelworks. The steelworks were, for most of the next 40 years, the mainstay of my father’s working life and my childhood was replete with discussions about his work at the sinter plant, slab caster, oxygen plant and coke ovens.

 My father married my mother (whose family had been in Wollongong since the 1820s) and started a family. He did not know Sredersas, (although it is intriguing to think they may have once shared a crib room) nor was he interested in art, but the family did subscribe to the Illawarra Mercury, and every day as a child and teenager, I would read the newspaper and became familiar with the essential outline of Sredersas’ story. I went to Wollongong High School, graduated from the University of Wollongong and in 1991 was elected to the Wollongong City Council and joined the Wollongong City Gallery’s Board of Trustees, the body responsible for the governance of the gallery. Even after this association ended in 1995, I was a regular visitor to the gallery and was well aware of the importance of Sredersas’ gift and the esteem in which he was held.

 In 2018 the Wollongong Art Gallery[67] celebrated the 40th anniversary of its establishment by holding a major exhibition in honour of Sredersas. Titled The Gift, the exhibition was promoted as:

“An immersive, interactive installation project that celebrates the significant and generous gift by Bronius (Bob) Sredersas, a Lithuanian migrant and steel worker whose personal art collection became the impetus for the establishment of Wollongong Art Gallery.”[68]

The comprehensive nature of the exhibition signalled that it was a major cultural event. There was an installation recreating Sredersas’ Cringila home furnished with his paintings; a video depicted him walking around the steelworks with a painting under his arm; displays of Lithuanian dancing; and talks with people who knew him and that instructed the audience about “Bob and other organic intellectuals of the working class who helped make Cringila the birthplace of high art in the Illawarra.”[69] A fundraising event, the Sredersas Dinner and Lecture, was organised by the Wollongong Art Gallery Friends Committee.

                          Promotional flyer for the fundraising Sredersas Dinner & Lecture, 2018

  Media coverage of the exhibition highlighted that Sredersas had been a “secret service officer” or “policeman” in Lithuania before migrating to Australia.[70] The articles referred to his past being “shrouded in mystery” and the curator of the exhibition, Anne-Louise Rentell, was said to be “keen to continue uncovering information about Sredersas’ past.”[71] All of this intrigued me because, while I knew of Sredersas’ years spent working in the steelworks, until then I was unaware of his career in the Lithuanian secret service. I knew though, that the Nazis relied on local collaborators to carry out the Holocaust and that Auxiliary Police Battalions were central to the killing of Jews and others in Lithuania. I was appalled at the possibility that Wollongong, my home town, could have been unknowingly honouring a Holocaust perpetrator for decades, and decided to find out if Sredersas had been involved in wartime atrocities.

 The first step was to revisit some of the history books I had previously read to refresh my awareness of the role played by local collaborators in the mass killings in Lithuania and other areas of Europe under Nazi control.[72] This reading confirmed I had not misunderstood the basic historical facts, but before I could do anything more, work demands, family commitments, and international travel all intervened.

 It wasn’t until mid-2019 that I was back in Australia with the time available to start looking into Sredersas’ life. A search of the National Archives of Australia yielded the IRO papers about his arrival in Australia, and his naturalisation papers.[73] As well as providing routine particulars such as his date and place of birth, (4 December 1910, Simferopol, Russia), his religion (Roman Catholic), marital status (single) and education (four years primary, eight years secondary and two years of a law degree), the IRO documents confirmed that he had worked as a policeman in Kaunas (named in the documents as Kowno) and Vilnius, and had been in Lithuania continuously until 1944. The Australian selection officer had “passed” Sredersas in 1950 noting he had been in the Lithuanian Police force from 1935 to 1940 and had fled before the Russian advance in 1944. The naturalisation papers showed he had become a citizen of Australia on 6 May 1970, having taken an oath of allegiance to “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second” at a ceremony officiated by the Lord Mayor of the City of Greater Wollongong, E.J. Ford.[74]

In the IRO papers Sredersas had provided a record of his employment for the previous 12 years, and declared he was unemployed from August 1940 to December 1943. This was peculiar as it was not clear how anyone could survive being unemployed in wartime Lithuania, as the Nazis did not invade a country to provide social security payments to the local population. There was supporting testimony provided by another displaced person, Juozas Krucas, to the effect that during the war, Sredersas was a farmer and “was neither a soldier nor police.” This was interesting as just two pages earlier, Sredersas had said he was unemployed, now a referee was stating he was a farmer. Krucas’ contention that he hadn’t been a soldier or a policeman seemed to come from nowhere. What was the purpose of such an unsolicited and pre-emptive denial?

 Several pages of the naturalisation file were withheld on national security grounds. The National Archives of Australia stated:

“The public disclosure of this information and other relevant details could be used by organisations or individuals of national security interest to take counter measures against security operations.” [75]

To evaluate this I contacted the author and researcher Mark Aarons, the leading expert on the way Holocaust perpetrators found refuge in Australia. I had previously read his books on the subject, and felt he could give me a sense of how to interpret the information I had.[76] His response was clear and direct:

“In light of Sredersas’ position in the secret police in Kovno, which was the site of major war crimes, I think he was likely involved in the mass killings of Jews and others. It would have been highly improbable that someone who held a position in the Lithuanian police would not have participated in such mass killings, especially as the Nazis formed special units of “auxiliary police”, the job of which was to slaughter.”[77]

He also pointed out that a decision to withhold sections of a naturalisation file was unusual and would likely have been taken on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which recruited former Nazis as informers during the Cold War. I therefore applied to see if there was an ASIO file on Sredersas, but was advised:


No records relating to SREDERSAS, Bronius in the open period as defined by the Archives Act 1983 (the Act), currently records created up to and including 1996 and 1997, can be found.[78]

With no ASIO files in existence, I then appealed the decision of the National Archives of Australia to withhold sections of Sredersas’ naturalisation papers. This process established what was being withheld was only the name of the ASIO officer who had provided a routine naturalisation clearance.[79] If Sredersas was a Nazi collaborator, he had kept this hidden from ASIO along with everyone else.

 I revisited the papers and thought more about the statement from Krucas. Who was Krucas and why would he have been interested in denying that Sredersas had been a soldier or a policeman? I found his IRO papers which showed he had migrated to Canada in 1948,[80]  and died in 2002 having spent most of his life working in a nickel smelter. His obituary, published in an Ontario newspaper, noted he had served as both the president and secretary of the Iron Wolf – Lithuanian Fishing & Game Association.[81]

 I knew the Iron Cross was a German military decoration and the Iron Guard was a grouping of Romanian fascists, so the Iron Wolf, as a name for a Canadian fishing club, struck me as having sinister overtones. I soon established that the Iron Wolf was a pro-fascist organisation in pre-war Lithuania with members demonstrating a “willingness to translate anti-Semitic ideology into action.”[82] While proving nothing conclusively, this digression was suggestive about the milieu in which Sredersas had formed associations.

 I visited the Wollongong City Library and reviewed the Sredersas files held in the Local Studies section. There was a birth certificate, translated from the Russian, which showed he was christened Bronislav Schreders. It listed his father’s name and his mother’s maiden name. There were photographs and sundry documents, including the blueprints of his home in Cringila and Kate Halley’s biographical essay on Sredersas, which pointed out that he did not talk about his experiences in the Second World War and as a displaced person.[83]

 The file also contained a certificate from Tsarist Russia, dated 25 June 1915, which confirmed Bronislav Schreders’ “hereditary nobiliary rank has been recognised, and he has been entered into the first part of the nobility registry of the Kovno district.”[84] This was a poignant document. The abolition of the Russian nobility in November 1917, just two years after Sredersas’ document had been issued in Petrograd, was one of the first acts of Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Despite this, Sredersas had preserved this remnant of Tsarist autocracy, through wars and national upheavals, across the oceans to Australia. I was immediately reminded of Hitler’s Judeobolshevik myth, and wondered if Sredersas had hoped the Bolshevik revolution would be undone, and Tsarism and his own noble rank might one day be restored?

                             The document confirming Sredersas' place in the Tsar's aristocracy

 With these archive searches completed, I then commenced internet searches. In his IRO papers, Sredersas declared that from April 1941 he had been living in Pagiegala, a small village about 15 kilometres from the larger town of Panevzys where he moved to in December 1943. I found a website called the Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, which records the location and details of massacres. Listed there was the massacre, on 23 August 1941, of more than 7,500 Jews (1,312 men, 4,602 women and 1,609 children) in the Pajuoste Forest, which is about a 15 minute drive from Panevzys and 20 minutes from Pagiegala. There were 100 killers – 70 were Lithuanian, 30 were German.[85]

 By disassembling the aggregate number of victims into individual killing episodes, this online atlas emphasised to me the scale of murdering that took place in Lithuania. I found the website of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania,[86] where a historian, Arunas Bubnys, was based. I read several of his articles on the website and then emailed asking for any information or assistance his institute could provide. He replied that he would look for any information on Bronius Sredersas and inform me if they found anything,[87] but no information was forthcoming.

 Bubnys had published The Holocaust in Lithuania between 1941 and 1944[88] in 2008 and while it was in English, it was out of print, but I obtained a copy from a second-hand book dealer in Germany. It contained passages arresting in their relevance to Sredersas:

In general, it should be stressed that the role played in the Holocaust by Lithuanian police battalions was particularly significant. Although almost every type of Lithuanian police force (public police, security police, auxiliary police, partisan (white armband) took part in the persecution and murder of Jews, their role in the Holocaust was not so important as that of the police battalions (or ‘self-defence’ units).[89]

I had learnt a lot about Bob Sredersas and the Holocaust in Lithuania, and was increasingly sure he had been involved. But while all the circumstances suggested this, there was still nothing definitive. Even so, I was determined to learn more and the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 provided me with ample time to think about fugitive war criminals. I read Gitta Sereny’s Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder[90], which recounts her time with Fran Stangl, the former Kommandant of the Treblinka extermination camp, and Gerald Steinacher’s more recent Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice[91]. I read fictional works including Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow and Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, watched films like The Boys from Brazil and Marathon Man, and television shows such as the ludicrous, but somehow still entertaining, Hunting Hitler.

I used Google Maps and Google Images to learn more about the places where Sredersas had lived and what had happened at those places. Eventually I found another IRO document, in the Arolsen Archives in Germany, where Sredersas provided yet another version of his career:

From 1935 to 1940 I worked as a policeman. From 1942 to 1944 I worked on a ship as a seaman. From 1946 to 1947 I attended the Navigation and Sea-Engineering School. From 4th October 1948 to 4th December 1948 I worked as a seaman.[92]

 The absence of any account of what Sredersas did in the year 1941 was glaring. The last six months of 1941 was when most of the Jews of Lithuania were murdered, but the IRO had not asked Sredersas what he did during those extraordinary months and Sredersas had offered no explanation, even though his places of residence put him in close proximity to massacres. This account of his career also contradicted the IRO papers in Canberra in which Sredersas said he had been unemployed from 1940 to December 1943. The silence about 1941 and the contradictory accounts of the years 1942 and 1943 reinforced my growing suspicions that Sredersas had not been truthful about his activities.

A Holocaust survivor from Kovno, Joe Melamed, had in the 1990s compiled and published lists of the perpetrators of the Holocaust in Lithuania. I wanted to see if Sredersas was included, but Melamed had died in 2017 and I could not find his research. Eventually, I found a website called Defending History[93] which specialises in issues concerning the political and cultural treatment of the Holocaust in Lithuania. I emailed the site’s administrator, Dr Dovid Katz, to see if he had Melamed’s lists, but he couldn’t send them to me. Eventually, I found most of Melamed’s lists published on the personal website of an American lawyer, but could not see that they included Sredersas’ name.[94]

 The exercise was not futile though, because Katz forwarded my emails to his colleague, Evaldas Balciunas, who suggested the Lithuanian archives would undertake searches and forwarded me a link to an application form. There are two Lithuanian archives, the Lithuanian Central State Archives and the Lithuanian Special Archives, and both would conduct searches of their holdings. In October 2021 I lodged applications with both institutions for records on the life and activities of Bronius Sredersas / Bronislav Schreders.

 While waiting for the Lithuanian archives to conduct their searches, I revisited the Wollongong Library. Its holdings had grown and now included an archival box containing some of Sredersas’ personal possessions. I could hold his pipes, beret, glasses and crucifix. There was one object I found especially striking. It was a dagger-shaped wooden letter-opener, emblazoned with a Lithuanian nationalist symbol known as the Columns of Gediminas. It immediately reminded me of the SS-Ehrendolch (honour dagger) which, emblazoned with a Nazi swastika, was part of the uniform of the Nazi’s Schutzstaffel (SS)[95]. Given their clear association with violence, and their cruciform shape suggesting both sacrifice and purity, daggers loom large in the iconography of the SS. While the Columns of Gediminas was a symbol employed by Lithuanian nationalist collaborators during the Nazi occupation, it is also a commonly used Lithuanian symbol and has appeared on coins, stamps and in the logos of national organisations like the post office.

The letter-opener had writing carved into its panels. There was the year 1963, and the word Vechta, which means ‘old man’ in Lithuanian, while also being, in 1963, a town in West Germany. There was the name Bronius Sredersas and an inscription in Lithuanian. Using Google Translate, I found that the inscription read, ‘Dear Son, a memory from the mother.’ Sredersas had, in 1950, come to Australia alone, and I interpreted this object, apparently sent from his mother 13 years later, with its overtones of nationalist violence, as an interesting way to transmit maternal feelings. The object proved nothing, but like the Iron Wolf – Lithuanian Fishing & Game Association, it was suggestive of the milieu that Sredersas had emerged from.

Sredersas’ letter opener

 On 24 December 2021, I received a document from the Lithuanian Central State Archives. There were seven pages of records, in German, dating from 1943 dealing with Bronislaus Schroeders. I used Google Translate to read the documents, and established that it was an application made by Schroeders to join the Waffen SS. The documents contained the standard biographical information expected in an application to enlist, included his address in Kauen (the German name for Kaunas or Kovno), and named his current employer as the “S.D.”[96]

 My first task was to confirm that Bronislaus Schroeders was the same person known in Wollongong as Bronius Sredersas. To do this I compared data from the birth certificate held in Wollongong, the IRO papers held in the National Archives of Australia, and the SS papers obtained from Lithuania. This exercise showed that the date of birth, place of birth, religion, marital status and parents were the same. There was a one centimetre difference in height, but this was negligible and could be explained by a simple variation in measurement. The slight differences in names across the three documents reflected that they were in different languages that used different alphabets. Given all of this, there was no doubt that Schreders, Schroeders and Sredersas were one and the same person.

Table 1: Identifying Bronius Sredersas


Birth certificate

SS enlistment

IRO registration









Date of birth

4 December 1910

4 December 1910

4 December 1910

Place of birth

Simferopol, Russia

Simferopol, Russia

Simferopol, Russia


Roman Catholic

Roman Catholic

Roman Catholic

Father’s name

Maximillian Gustav Theophil Heinrich Leon Schreders

Maxs Gustav Schroeders


Mother’s name

Anna-Maria Schneider

Anna Mari Schneider




178 cms

177 cms

Marital status




Document language and year created

Russian, 1912

German, 1943

English, 1947 & 1950

I then turned to his employment with the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) which was the investigative or intelligence unit of the SS. It was led by the notorious killer Reinhard Heydrich, and was part of his Reich Security Main Office (RSHA),[97] with Adolf Eichmann heading its Jewish section. The SD was part of the Nazi’s terror apparatus and central to the implementation of their program to murder millions of Jews and other people across Europe. It was the SD that issued orders such as those to incinerate the Kovno ghetto’s hospital, patients, nurses and doctors:


Order from the Commander of the S.D., October 3, 1941

The ghetto’s contagious diseases hospital is to be burned down along with its furnishings, patients, and medical personnel. The babies are to be brought to Fort IX.[98]

The activities of the SD had been considered by the Allies’ International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg, with the outcome that the SD had, in 1946, been declared a criminal organisation. The Tribunal concluded:

The Gestapo and SD were used for purposes which were criminal under the Charter involving the persecution and extermination of the Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, the administration of the slave labour programme and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners of war….In dealing with the SD the Tribunal includes Amts III, VI and VII of the RSHA and all other members of the SD, including all local representatives and agents, honorary or otherwise, whether they were technically members of the SS or not.[99]

The SD had also featured in the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961, with the judges finding him guilty of being a member of the organisation:

We convict the Accused, pursuant to the fourteenth count, of membership of a hostile organization, an offence under Section 3(a) of the above-mentioned Law, in that, as from May 1941, he was a member of the organization known as Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuehrers-SS (SD) which was declared a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal which tried the Major War Criminals, and as a member of such organization he took part in acts declared criminal in Article 6 of the London Charter of 8 August 1945.[100]

 As someone who had been working for the SD, an established criminal organisation central to the Holocaust, it was now obvious why Sredersas had been reluctant to talk about his activities during the war.

Having established these facts about Sredersas, I knew that further confirmation by an expert in the field was now required. On the advice of both Dovid Katz and Mark Aarons, I sent the documents to Dr Efraim Zuroff, the Coordinator of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Nazi war crimes research effort and a globally acknowledged expert on the Holocaust in Lithuania.

On 12 and 18 January 2022, Dr Zuroff replied confirming my interpretation of the information contained in the documents:


The fact that in 1943, he worked as a criminal investigator for the German Sicherheitsdienst in Kaunas (Kovno), means that he was involved in implementing German policy regarding the Jews, i.e. the Holocaust.


The question is how long did he serve there? If, for example, he already served there in the second half of 1941, when most of the murders of Jews in Lithuania were carried out, then there is no doubt about his involvement in Holocaust crimes.


Please note that the commander of the German SD in Lithuania was none other than the mass murderer Karl Jaeger, author of the infamous "Jaeger Report," which documented the mass murder of over 137,000 Lithuanian Jews from early July until the end of November 1941.[101]


On 13 January 2022 I contacted John Monteleone, Gallery Director of the Wollongong Art Gallery, and emailed him the Lithuanian documents and Zuroff’s evaluation. Monteleone advised he would need to discuss the matter with officers from Wollongong City Council. On 18 January, I emailed Monteleone again, suggesting the appropriate course of action for the Gallery would be for it to have an expert review all the documents available on Sredersas and prepare a report providing context and an informed historical interpretation. I suggested that the Sydney Jewish Museum, among others, could undertake such a task.[102]

On 20 January 2022 I received an email from Susan Wardle, Manager Community Cultural and Economic Development (Acting), which provided the Council’s response:


Thank you for the information - I understand you are deeply concerned about the Gallery’s reputation.  


On balance, given the lack of clear evidence in this case, it is not deemed appropriate for Council - as a local government body - to undertake such an investigative role as suggested.  


As such, Council does not propose to take any further steps in this matter at this time.[103]


It was astonishing that the Wollongong City Council was apparently not concerned that the Wollongong Art Gallery, a significant cultural institution, was honouring a person who, as an employee of the SD, had been involved in the Holocaust. I decided to take the information I had to the media and contacted Paul Daley, a writer at the Guardian. Having previously written about the mass killings in Lithuania[104], and having met Dr Zuroff in Vilnius, he was immediately interested and commenced work on an article. This involved him travelling to Wollongong, seeing the house Sredersas built in Cringila, and visiting the Wollongong Art Gallery. His substantial and perceptive article, “‘I am Bob. Just Bob’: could a Wollongong folk hero have had a Nazi past?” appeared on 21 March 2022, and contained my comment that the Council “should change the name of the room from the Sredersas Gallery and take down the plaque that honours him. Then they have to tell the story of who he really was.”[105]

Daley’s article generated further media attention in Australia and internationally,[106] and within days the Wollongong City Council changed its position and agreed to engage Professor Konrad Kwiet of the Sydney Jewish Museum to review the information I had provided.[107]

 In June 2022 Professor Kwiet’s report to the Wollongong City Council was released and confirmed the evidence I had found against Sredersas.[108] It affirmed that Sredersas and Schroeders were indeed the same individual, and that his “war time position within the SS and Police apparatus made him complicit to the Holocaust and other hideous crimes perpetrated.” [109] Kwiet noted many Nazi records did not survive the war as they were destroyed to “erase the evidence of the crimes and the names of the perpetrators.”[110]

The report found that Sredersas could be classified as a Nazi collaborator, except Professor Kwiet’s work had established Sredersas acquired German citizenship, in Nazi occupied Poland, in June 1941. As such, he didn’t meet the technical definition of a collaborator, being a citizen of one country who traitorously cooperates with the enemy. Instead, Professor Kwiet suggested Sredersas, as a German citizen, could be characterised as one of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” implementing Nazi policies and rules in occupied Lithuania.[111]

The Wollongong City Council responded promptly to Professor Kwiet’s report, with Greg Doyle, the Council’s General Manager, stating:

“The history of our gallery, and the city’s relationship with Sredersas will change from this knowledge. We will respond to this in a way that is caring, sensitive and culturally appropriate to all involved. Just how we will do that will now be Council’s immediate focus, and we will keep our community updated as we move through this process.’’[112]

As a first step, on Friday 24 June 2022, the plaque honouring Sredersas was removed from the Wollongong Art Gallery, as was the name plate from the exhibition space previously known as the Sredersas Gallery.


The plaque honouring Sredersas was removed on 24 June 2022

A New Story

The Holocaust is one of the most appalling events of modern history. It sits at the centre of the twentieth century with repercussions, meanings and reverberations that pass through generations and across continents. The scale of Hitler’s crime, his attempt to obliterate Europe’s Jews, brought a new word – genocide – into existence. It is an event that, decades later, still challenges comprehension.

The Holocaust is not an event with meaning only for Germans, Jews and Lithuanians. It is something that confronts us all, as human beings. The war in Europe is already part of Wollongong’s history, with public memorials dotted around the suburbs honouring local people who served and died fighting the forces of Nazi Germany in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the other theatres of the Second World War. But the Sredersas case is different as it brings the Holocaust directly from the massacre sites of Kovno to Wollongong - to its suburbs, steelworks and art gallery.

Post-war Australia was a place where tens of thousands of survivors came to try to build new lives. It was also one of the places where perpetrators came to escape the consequences of their criminal actions. Sredersas lived in industrial obscurity for more than 25 years, lied repeatedly about his nationality, employment and movements, and was successful in concealing the truth about his wartime employment for decades.

It is not clear why, after evading detection for so long, he willingly chose to make himself a figure of renown through his cultural benefaction. Such a decision carried with it some risk of detection, but Sredersas must have felt, on balance, that the rewards he obtained outweighed the risk of exposure. Was he seeking, through the gifting of artworks to his adopted city, to atone for actions taken earlier in his life? Did a long suppressed need for social recognition and status, (befitting a nobleman), finally drive him from anonymity?

These are interesting issues to contemplate, but the truth about his motivations and personal desires will likely never be known. What is certain is that Sredersas worked for the murderous SD, concealed this fact while lying his way through post-war screening, and made a new life for himself in Wollongong. After years of living unremarkably, he made an important cultural gift and was well-honoured for it during the remaining years of his life and in the decades since his death. A historical investigation established at least some of what Sredersas concealed, and Wollongong will now no longer honour one of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners.”

With the old story of Sredersas and his gift obsolete and discarded, it is for Wollongong, and in particular the Wollongong Art Gallery, to now tell a new story about Bronius ‘Bob’ Sredersas. A new story that is truthful and conveys a fuller and more accurate account of the man, his life and times, rather than the partial, deceitful, and carefully curated version he wanted told.

                                                  Bronius 'Bob' Sredersas

This article was written as an entry for the 2022 Wollongong Local History Prize. It was subsequently published in the Southern Highlands Newsletter and appears here with the kind permission of the Newsletter's Editor.

Michael Samaras - July 2022



Bob Sredersas, Unknown photographer, from the collections of Wollongong City Libraries and the Illawarra Historical Society

"New Wollongong City Gallery" - a 1991 screenprint by Gregor Cullen celebrating the contribution of Bob Sredersas on the occasion of the Wollongong City Gallery's move into new premises The University of Wollongong, Research Online,

Port Kembla Steelworks, Unknown photographer, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Migrants in employment in Australia - Port Kembla steelworks, 1955, National Archives of Australia, Item ID 7495051

Massacre at the Kovno Garage – June 1941, Unknown photographer, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Einsatzgruppen or their auxiliaries – Kovno 1942, Unknown photographer, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Promotional flyer for the fundraising Sredersas Dinner & Lecture, 2018, Wollongong Art Gallery website

The document confirming Sredersas' place in the Tsar's aristocracy, photographed by the author, 2021

Sredersas’ letter opener, photographed by the author, 2021

The plaque honouring Sredersas was removed on 24 June 2022, photographed by the author, 2022

Bronius 'Bob' Sredersas, Unknown photographer, from the collections of Wollongong City Libraries and the Illawarra Historical Society


[1] Illawarra Mercury, 27 July 1976

[2] Death certificate extracted from the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages on 5 January 2022

[3] The artworks and objects are catalogued in Kate Halley’s Bob Sredersas, published by the Wollongong City Gallery, in an expanded version, on the “20th anniversary of this gift”, undated but presumably 1996 or 1998.

[4] Blog post titled Commentary by Harold Hanson AM regarding the establishment of the Wollongong City Art Gallery, dated 26 February 2013 and accessed on 12 April 2022 at commentaryby-harold-hanson-am-regarding.html

[5] Illawarra Mercury, 18 May 1979

[6] Illawarra Mercury, 8 November 1978

[7] Illawarra Mercury, 18 May 1979

[8] Illawarra Mercury ,27 May 1982

[9] Jones, Barry, The IV Bob Sredersas Memorial Lecture, accessed at the National Archives of Australia, NAA: M4504, 22/11/1990

[11] Lever-Tracy, Constance and Quinlan, Michael, A Divided Working Class: Ethnic Segmentation and Industrial Conflict in Australia, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1988, p193.

[12] Steinke, John and Stokes, Leigh, Wollongong Statistical Handbook 2, Department of Economics, University of Wollongong, 1980

[13] Horne, Donald, The Lucky Country, Third revised edition, Penguin Books, Ringwood, 1966, p 54.

[14] Schultz, Julianne, Steel City Blues, Ringwood, Victoria, Penguin Books, 1985, p11.

[15] Whitlam, Gough, The Whitlam Government 1972-1975, Viking, Melbourne, 1985, p 323.

[16] Illawarra Mercury, 3 June 1978

[17] Sometimes referred to as the Soviet Union or Soviet Russia.

[18] Migrant Selection Documents for Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia per Fairsea departing Bremerhaven 18 April 1950, National Archives of Australia

[19] Ibid

[20] IRO papers held in the National Archives of Australia, NAA: 12027, 459

[21] Migrant Selection Documents for Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia per Fairsea departing Bremerhaven 18 April 1950, National Archives of Australia

[22] Illawarra Mercury, 18 May 1979

[23] The birth certificate is in Russian. It and a translation into English are held in the Local Studies section of the Wollongong City Library.

[24] The city Kaunas is known by different names in different languages including Kovno, Kauen and Kowno. 

[25] Illawarra Mercury, 13 April 1982.

[26] Senn, Alfred, ‘Lithuanian Surnames’, The American Slavic and East European Review , Aug., 1945, Vol. 4, No. 1/2 (Aug., 1945), pp. 127-137.

[27] Accessed at Statistics Lithuania on 19 April 2022:  page xxxvi

[28] Kassow, Samuel D, in his introduction to The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police by Anonymous Police, Indiana University Press, 2014, p6-8

[29] Ibid, viii

[30] Snyder, Timothy, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2015, p 139.

[31] IRO papers held in the Arolsen Archives. Document number: 81205727 at accessed 14 April 2022    

[32] Extracts from this document are held in the Wollongong City Library Local Studies collection and have been translated into English.

[33] Bubnys, Arunas, The Holocaust in Lithuania, Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, Vilnius, 2008, p18.

[34] IRO papers held in the National Archives of Australia, NAA: 12027, 459

[35] Snyder, Timothy, Op cit, p141.

[36] Wikipedia entry on Augustinas Povilaitis, accessed on 23 April 2022.

[37] The NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) was the security agency of the Soviet Union and an instrument of Stalin’s terror.

[38] Snyder, Timothy, Op cit, p 22.

[39] Tory, Avraham, Surviving the Holocaust: The Kovno Ghetto Diary, Harvard University Press, 1990, p251, 230, and 411.

[40] The Holocaust Encyclopaedia of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum accessed on 25 April 2022:

[41] Friedlander, Saul, Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945: The Years of Extermination, HarperCollins, New York, 2007, p222.

[42] Anonymous, The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police, Indiana University Press, 2014, pp 132-146.

[43] The Jaeger Report is widely available on websites, but can be found as an appendix in Ginaite-Rubinson, Sara, Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas 1941-1944, Mosaic Press, 2005, pp231-238.

[44] Bubnys, Arunas, Op cit, p 4.

[45] For a detailed account of life in the Kovno ghetto see Tory, Avraham Surviving the Holocaust: the Kovno Ghetto Diary, Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 1990.

[46] Ginaite-Rubinson, Sara, Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas 1941-1944, Mosaic Press, 2005, pp197-208.

[47] Bubnys, Arunas, Op cit, p 51.

[48] Bubnys, Arunas, Ibid, p 42.

[49] Timothy Snyder, Lithuania neglects the memory of its murdered Jews, The Guardian 30 July 2011,

[50] The Jaeger Report, Appendix in Ginaite-Rubinson, Sara, Resistance and Survival: The Jewish Community in Kaunas 1941-1944, Mosaic Press, 2005, pp231-238.

[51] IRO papers held in the National Archives of Australia, NAA: 12027,459. After the war, Heilsberg was transferred from Germany to Poland and is now known as Lidzbark Warmiński.

[52] IRO papers held in the National Archives of Australia, NAA: 12027,459

[53] Ward, Russell, A Nation for a Continent: the history of Australia 1901-1975, Heinemann Educational Australia, Richmond, 1977, pp301, 327-331.

[54] This point is made by Ritter David, “Distant Reverberations: Australian Responses to the Trial of Adolf Eichmann”, in Lawson, Tom and Jordan, James, (eds) The Memory of the Holocaust in Australia, London, Valentine Mitchell, 2008, p52.

[55] Search conducted on Trove, with the article “An Indictment of the German People” appearing on 8 June 1945.

[56] Ritter, Op cit, p66

[57] Wajnryb, Ruth, The Silence: How Tragedy Shapes Talk, St Leonards, Allen and Unwin, 2001, p 32.

[58] Lateo, Karen, Interview with Bob Sredersas, 29 May 1981, transcript provided by Anne-Louise Rentell.


[60] Blog post titled Commentary by Harold Hanson AM regarding the establishment of the Wollongong City Art Gallery, dated 26 February 2013 and accessed on 12 April 2022 at

[61] Lateo, Karen, Op cit.

[62] Illawarra Mercury, 27 May 1982.

[63] Clohesy, Lachlan, Australian Cold Warrior: The Anti-Communism of W. C. Wentworth, Doctorate of Philosophy, Victoria University, 2010, pp174-176.

[64] House of Representatives, Hansard, 16 March 1961, p371.

[65] Ibid

[66] Aarons, Mark, War Criminals Welcome: Australia, a Sanctuary for Fugitive War Criminals Since 1945, Black Inc, Melbourne, 2001, p444.

[67] The name of the Wollongong City Gallery was changed to the Wollongong Art Gallery in 2013.

[68] Wollongong Art Gallery website,, accessed on 1 May 2022

[69] Wollongong Art Gallery, The Gift, Program of Events,  website accessed 1 May 2022

[70] ABC Illawarra, The Lithuanian secret service officer whose art collection changed an Australian city,, accessed 1 May 2022

[71] Illawarra Mercury, 25 May 2018

[72] See for example Friedlander, Saul, Op cit, p221-233.

[73] IRO papers held in the National Archives of Australia, NAA: 12027, 459

[74] Naturalisation papers in the National Archives of Australia NAA C321, N1969/65175

[75] Naturalisation papers in the National Archives of Australia NAA C321, N1969/65175

[76] Sanctuary: Nazi Fugitives in Australia, Ratlines: How the Vatican’s Nazi Networks Betrayed Western Intelligence to the Soviets (with John Loftus) and War Criminals Welcome: Australia, a Sanctuary for Fugitive War Criminals since 194.

[77] Email from Mark Aarons to the author on 6 July 2019.

[78] Statement of Reasons issued to me by the National Archives of Australia on 17 July 2019.

[79] Email from the National Archives of Australia to the author 22 August 2019.

[80] These papers are in the Arolsen Archive:

[81] Sudbury Star, 25 August 2002,

[82] MacQueen, Michael, “The Context of Mass Destruction: Agents and Prerequisites of the Holocaust in Lithuania”, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol 12, No 1, 1998, p38.

[83] Kate Halley’s “Bob Sredersas”, published by the Wollongong City Gallery, in an expanded version, on the “20th anniversary of this gift”, undated but presumably 1996 or 1998.

[84] Heraldry certificate held in the Local Studies section of the Wollongong Library.


[87] Email from Arunas Bubnys to the author on 29 July 2019.

[88] Bubnys, Arunas, The Holocaust in Lithuania between 1941 and 1944, Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, Vilnius 2008.

[89] Ibid, p15

[90] Sereny, Gitta, Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1974

[91] Steinacher, Gerald, Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011.

[92] Arolsen Archives, Reference 171 8000



[95] Ley, Robert, Organisationsbuch der NSDAP, Munich, NSDAP, 1943, see plates 66 and 69 following page 469 and plates 7 and 72 following page 470. Available at Wikimedia Commons

[96] Lithuanian Central State Archives, F r-656, Ap 1, D 1581

[97]  Snyder, Timothy, Op cit, p 41 and 84

[98] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto, Washington, 1997, p 64.

[99] The judgements made at Nuremburg are available online at:

[101] Email from Dr Efraim Zuroff to the author, 18 January 2022.

[102] Email from the author to John Monteleone, 18 January 2022

[103] Email from Susan Wardle to the author, 20 January 2022

[104] Daley, Paul, “Hitler’s Henchmen”, The Bulletin, 2 March 2004, p16-22.

[105] Daley, Paul, ‘I am Bob. Just Bob’: could a Wollongong folk hero have had a Nazi past?  Guardian, 21 March 2022

[107] Kurmelovs, Royce, “Jewish Museum to lead investigation into claim Wollongong identity collaborated with Nazis”, Guardian, 1 April 2022

[108] Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, Executive Summary,2 June 2022

[109] Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, Preliminary Report: The Nazi Allegations raised against Bronius Serdersas, submitted to the Wollongong City Council, 19 May 2022.

[110] Ibid

[111] Ibid. The term comes from a history published by Daniel Goldhagen.

[112] Media statement issued by the Wollongong City Council, 22 June 2022