Heritage Minister "disappointed" with National Library for accepting SS man's bequest

Friday 2 December 2011, 10:40

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The National Library of Wales has been criticised by Heritage Minister Huw Lewis AM for accepting a bequest of £300,000 and archive material from a Frenchman, Louis Feutren, who served in the Waffen SS during World War Two.

The SS was a notorious paramilitary wing of Adolf Hitler's army, acting as the Nazi leader's bodyguard, a fighting force and running death camps.

Feutren's archive, which includes a collection of papers and tapes, details his life as a Breton who was a member of the region's nationalist group Gwenn-ha-Du (white and black - the name of the Breton flag) and the Bezen Perrot movements during the war.

After the war Mr Feutren fled France and travelled through Wales, eventually settling in the Republic of Ireland where he married. He died in 2010.

Heritage Minister Huw Lewis said he was disappointed that the National Library of Wales had accepted the bequest, which includes "material of significant historical importance".

"I made our position perfectly clear that we felt the acceptance of this bequest could affect the reputation of the National Library of Wales"

The National Library of Wales took expert legal advice in coming to its decision to accept the bequest. It said some of the money would be used on projects associated with the destructive effects of war and fascism.

Speaking about the decision, the retiring president of the National Library of Wales, Lord Wigley, said: "This is a notable collection that includes material of significant historical importance.

"Though I utterly condemn his political leanings and activities during the war, we had no right, as board members, to allow our feelings to interfere with our decision."

Read the full story on BBC News Wales website.

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    Comment number 1.

    It's tainted money. I just about appreciate the point that they were obliged under charity regulations to accept the donation. However, given all that, what most surprised me most was the Library's decision that only some of the money would be used on 'projects associated with the destructive effects of war and fascism.'

    Why only some? If they took the money under sufferance because of the man's SS connections surely the best thing they could have done would have been to use ALL of the money on showing the evil of fascism & war.

    To keep a portion of the money back for spending on other projects displays a cut-price conscience by the library.

    Do the decent thing - spend ALL the donation on anti-fascist, anti-racist & humanitarian projects.

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    Comment number 2.

    A good comment, CA Jones! Da iawn.

    The money has been accepted now. -
    I have discussed this with a few people yesterday, and we have all come to more or less the same conclusion that it is not the money that's the problem here. However, it is not right in my view that the benefactor, a Nazi, is given an elevated status by being associated with a respectable institution in Wales. We are at risk of validating the activities of these collaborators by giving them status. We still need to be critical. I therefore agree with the Heritage Minister. Perhaps the library should have liked to think about how people like me from abroad would feel about this decision.
    The National Library of Wales is trying to make money in every way (incl. weddings - but that is another subject), esp. now in a time of economic hardship in Wales and the UK as a whole. This is how it comes across to the outsider. It does not seem to matter where the money comes from?
    If you come from Germany you see it differently perhaps. I am disappointed. Since I was a child I had to deal with the German history. It was a long and painful process. Most of us have learnt tolerance and to deal with the past. We do not think about the war and move on. I hear more about WWII in the UK, in the media here than in Germany nowadays. It is often taken very lightly over here.
    I try to see it from a Welsh view where Owain Glyndŵr still means a lot to many - and he in the past, too. It would be good to move on and live in the 21st century having learnt some lessons, too. In any case I would never accept money from an enemy but that is a personal opinion.

 

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