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Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew walks to the legislative assembly at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, on Nov. 21, 2023.Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

The Manitoba government and a prominent art gallery are removing honours for Ferdinand Eckhardt over concerns he was a Nazi supporter in the 1930s before moving to Winnipeg.

“This is a person who, to speak very frankly, pledged an oath of allegiance to (Adolf) Hitler, and he has no place being honoured in the public sphere here in Manitoba,” Premier Wab Kinew said Wednesday.

Kinew drew a line through Eckhardt’s name in a book listing the recipients of the Order of the Buffalo Hunt – an award established in 1957 to recognize people for community service or leadership.

Kinew said he opted not to simply erase Eckhardt’s name, but to draw a line through it and write a note saying the honour was revoked.

“We have to let the stain remain,” Kinew told reporters.

“It’s my hope that future generations of Manitobans will know that yes, there was a time where this person was allowed to come to Canada and was celebrated in the past, and then there was a time where a reckoning took place and that injustice was corrected.”

The Order of the Buffalo Hunt continues to be awarded. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League are among recent recipients. But it became less prominent and more informal after the province developed the Order of Manitoba in 1999.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, where Eckhardt served as a director from 1953 to 1974, said it is removing Eckhardt’s name from its main entrance hall and all gallery materials.

“The gallery approached recent reports linking Eckhardt to the Nazi party with the utmost seriousness, and immediately launched an internal investigation,” read a message posted recently on the gallery’s website.

Eckhardt died in 1995, and revelations about his past were reported last November by The Walrus magazine.

The Walrus reported that Eckhardt, born in Vienna, publicly endorsed Nazism and wrote several statements in far-right journals in the early 1930s, before moving to Canada and becoming a director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Eckhardt joined other writers in pledging allegiance to Hitler in 1933, worked for a conglomerate that used forced labour, and was conscripted into the German army in the 1940s, the magazine reported.

Eckhardt was awarded the Order of Canada in 1976 for his “tireless efforts in improving the (Winnipeg Art) Gallery’s collection and developing public interest in art,” the governor general’s website states. Membership in the Order of Canada ceases when the person dies.

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