Tuesday 17 September 2019

State Papers 1988: Irish fears over art owned by Nazi war criminal


Massacre: Pieter Menten, centre, was a key figure in the killing of academics
Massacre: Pieter Menten, centre, was a key figure in the killing of academics

A senior Irish art official was ordered to attend Rosslare port to personally inspect the art collection of convicted Nazi war criminal Pieter Menten, which was being shipped back to the Netherlands.

Menten had been refused permission to return to Ireland after being released from a prison sentence in the Netherlands over the shooting of Polish villagers in 1941.

He had moved to Ireland in the years after World War II and settled at Comeragh House in Co Waterford.

The businessman and art expert had joined the SS and was a key figure in the massacre of Polish academics and businessmen in the Galicia area.

In 1980 he received a 10-year prison sentence after a 1949 hearing proved inconclusive.

Newly released papers from the 1988 State Archive revealed the Government was determined to ensure Menten's art collection was legitimate.

Acting director of the National Gallery of Ireland Raymond Keaveney was requested by the Government on September 26, 1988, to personally inspect the Menten art collection.

"In view of the particular circumstances of this case, I am to request that you travel to Rosslare to ensure personally that the pictures which it is proposed to export coincide with those detailed in the inventory supplied to you," a Department of Taoiseach memo requested.

The National Gallery had received an application for 10 paintings valued at IR£2,950 to be shipped back to the Netherlands from Menten's Irish home.

The permit was eventually granted following consultations between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch authorities. "Our embassy officials in The Hague were advised by the Dutch authorities... that any works of art held in Ireland were also acquired legitimately," the memo noted.

Irish Independent

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