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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Men dressed as WW II German soldiers for the Victory Military Vehicle Expo and Auction at the Kruse Auction Park in Auburn.

Saturday, September 02, 2017 1:00 am

Kruse Foundation sued over WWII artifacts

Canadian museum alleges German vehicles inauthentic

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

A Canadian military museum is suing Auburn's Dean V. Kruse Foundation for allegedly selling the museum inauthentic German World War II vehicles. 

In May, the Ontario Regiment Museum bought several military vehicles, a 1943-44 Opel, a 1941 Krupp and a 1944 Panzer Jager Marder III, from the Kruse Foundation.

According to court documents, the Ontario Regiment Museum contends that the Opel and the Marder III are fabrications “worth little or nothing to a real museum.” The Krupp, court documents state, is an authentic piece. 

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 24 in federal court. 

The museum paid $48,332 for the Opel and $247,245 for the Marder III, court documents state. The Opel is a half-track truck that was used by the German army, while the Marder III was part of a series of World War II German tank destroyers. In addition to alleging the sale of inauthentic materials, the Ontario Regiment Museum is also claiming false advertising on the part of the Kruse Foundation, in reference to its auction listings for both vehicles. 

Although both vehicles do contain some authentic parts, “these few parts cannot disguise the numerous other parts and features that were fabricated inauthentically after World War II,” an authenticity report included with the lawsuit states, noting that some of the fabrications were done unprofessionally.

The inauthentic aspects of the Opel, the report found, include the weapons system, which is allegedly missing key features found in the original German design. Notably, the ability to rotate and angle the 10-tube rocket launcher system is absent, the authenticity report states. Indeed, images included with the authenticity report appear to show the rocket system on the vehicle sold by the Kruse Foundation is welded in place.

Additionally, the Opel half-track bought by the Ontario Regiment Museum is not equipped with a machine gun mount that was standard at the time, the report states. Instead, the vehicle is equipped with a French searchlight, mounted where the machine gun should go. German rocket troops had no need for a searchlight on their half-tracks, the report states, because it would have made the vehicles too conspicuous to enemy soldiers. 

Other authenticity issues include rivet-style metal heads welded onto the body where rivets should have been used, a lack of security or mounting brackets for armaments, track wheels that do not match original German designs, inauthentic tires and a “Made in Germany” inscription – written in English – on one of the vehicle's headlights. 

“Given that Germany and Britain were enemies in World War II, the Germans neither exported their products to Britain nor issued them to troops who primarily spoke English,” the authenticity report states. “The English headlight inscription therefore readily demonstrates the falsity of the light itself and the museum's vehicle as a whole.”

Additionally, images provided along with the report appear to show Firestone markings on an idler wheel and Goodyear markings on two track wheels. Since both are American companies, the report states it's impossible those parts would have been used on authentic Opel half-tracks from the era. 

The Marder III has an inauthentic gun platform and exhibits signs that the body is not original, the authenticity report states. 

“From the perspective of the interior of the vehicle, the stark difference in metal quality between the chassis and the body is one of the strongest indications of the body's inauthenticity,” the report states.

“The chassis metal shows greater and more drastic signs of aging than that of the upper body, as it exhibits a great deal more paint peeling and flaking as well as many instances of corrosion.”

It's not the first time the Kruse Foundation has faced a lawsuit.

In July 2012, a DeKalb Superior Court judge awarded $2.9 million to Farmers State Bank of LaGrange in a foreclosure that involved the planned site of the Andy Granatelli Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.

In May 2010, Dean Kruse saw his auctioneer's license suspended by the Indiana Auctioneer Commission and his company's license permanently revoked, over allegations that Kruse had failed to pay people who had sold items at his auctions. 

Attempts to reach Dean Kruse, the Kruse Foundation and the Ontario Regiment Museum for comment Friday were unsuccessful. 

dgong@jg.net