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Winnipeg Art Gallery removes former director’s name over alleged links to Nazi party

The Winnipeg Art Gallery Qaumajuq is cutting ties with its former director as it investigates alleged links to the Nazi party in the 1930s.

A statement from WAG-Qaumajuq, published Dec. 19, said it is removing Ferdinand Eckhardt’s name from the entrance hall, the gallery’s website and all other gallery materials.

Eckhardt immigrated to Canada in 1953, and was the director of the gallery until 1974. However allegations have surfaced that Eckhardt was a Nazi supporter while living in Germany in the 1930s.

An article published in The Walrus in November 2023, alleged Eckhardt wrote several articles published in Nazi publications and signed an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

Eckhardt died in 1995.

WAG-Qaumajuq said it approached the recent reports linking him to the Nazi party with utmost seriousness and did launch an internal investigation.

“… that included reviewing the Gallery’s archives, researching the recently released files at the Manitoba Archives, and taking actions to examine related German-language materials,” WAG-Qaumajuq’s director and CEO Stephen Borys said in the statement.

The decision to remove Eckhardt’s name was based on this investigation, the gallery said.

WAG-Qaumajuq said it will also begin researching the provenance of Eckhardt and the art donations made to the gallery during his time as director.

“This research starts with looking for any gaps in the artwork’s ownership during the Nazi era,” the gallery’s statement reads. “The purpose of this research is to ensure that if any Nazi-confiscated art was discovered in the collection that all efforts would be made to return it to the rightful owners or their heirs.”

The WAG-Qaumajuq said the investigation into Eckhardt is ongoing.

“All this work around Eckhardt’s past is part of a continued journey towards equity, decolonization, and reconciliation – in all its forms,” the gallery wrote in the statement.

CTV News has reached out for further comment from WAG-Qaumajuq and is awaiting a response.

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