HUNT MUSEUM LINKED TO NAZI ART LOOTERS HAUL; but Benefactors Attack Call for Probe from Wiesenthal Centre

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Byline: DONNA CARTON

ANTI-nazi campaigners have called for an investigation of an award winning museum collection, claiming its former owners were linked to dealers who traded in art looted by the Nazis.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre made the claims about the multi-million euro art and artefact Hunt Museum in Limerick.

The museum's collection was amassed by the late John and Gertrude Hunt who were active in the art market in post-war Germany.

International Liason Director of the Centre, Dr Shimon Samuels, has urged President Mary McAleese to suspend the Museum of the Year Award granted to Hunt in November.

He has also called on the museum to publish details of its entire collection on the Internet so any claimants could "scrutinise these objects in the manner of suspect art held by museums worldwide."

Dr Samuels said "sources" had indicated that John and Gertrude Hunt had "intimate business relationships with notorious dealers in art looted by the Nazis."

He didn't identify the dealers but said work on documenting them was ongoing and said: "When we are ready, we'll come out with it."

In a letter to President McAleese, he said Mr and Mrs Hunt had "close personal ties" in the 1940s with Adolf Mahr, the Austrian Nazi who was then director of the National Museum of Ireland.

He told the President, the Hunts' arrival in Ireland in 1940 was "one step ahead of British suspicions of their alleged espionage."

John Hunt jr, who, with his sister Trudi Hunt, received EUR762,000 in 1999 in tax relief when they donated some of their own separate collection to the State, has said there is no foundation to the allegations.

He said of the claims: "I have never heard anything remotely like that. I think its bizarre. …