Richard Barancik, Last of the World War II Monuments Men, Dies at 98

Richard Balancic last surviving member A member of the Allied unit known as the Men and Women Monument, which preserved the vast amount of European art and cultural treasures looted and concealed by Nazi Germany during and after World War II, died July 14 in Chicago. he was 98 years old.

His death was confirmed at the hospital by his daughter, Jill Balanchic.

Mr. Balancic (pronounced Balancic) was one of four members of the Division, formally called the Monuments, Art and Archives Division, to receive the award. parliamentary gold medal In 2015, they were honored in Washington for their “heroic role in the preservation, protection and return of monuments, works of art and culturally significant relics.”

On the day of the ceremony, Baranchick told the Los Angeles Times: “Americans valued European cultural traditions. We did everything we could to save what the Nazis did. That’s the best we can do.”

An army private first class, Balanczyk served in Britain and France until Germany surrendered and, according to his daughter, was not on the front lines and enjoyed the marches, meals and structure of military life. After being deployed to Salzburg, Austria, he volunteered for the Monuments Men, serving as a driver and security guard for three months.

The Men’s and Women’s Monument is made up of about 350 people, including museum directors, curators, scholars, historians and artists whose duties included keeping Allied bombers away from European cultural targets. Supervise repairs in case of damage. It tracked down millions of goods looted by the Nazis and returned them to their institutions and countries of origin.

Mr. Baranchic, who later became an architect, was interested in art. He did cartoons for his high school newspaper and was excited to see churches and other buildings in Europe. But as a monument keeper, he probably never saw many of the paintings, sculptures, and other artefacts he guarded and transported to Allied collection points. They were in wooden boxes.

“Someone may have said, ‘There is Vermeer there,’ and he knew the art was important and valuable,” he says. Robert EdselFounder and Chairman of the. Monument Men and Women FoundationHe interviewed Mr. Baranchik and 20 other survivors of the unit for his book The Monuments Men: Alliance Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt Ever (Brett Witter, 2009). This book is, 2014 movie “The Monuments Men” Directed by and starring George Clooney.

According to Edsel, during two interviews, Barancic was surprised and cautious about the short-lived Monumentsman’s interest in having no artistic specialization, unlike his more experienced colleagues.

“He seemed more interested in being able to see the big picture in what I did, as if he didn’t understand where he fit in the big picture,” Edsel said by phone.

Baranchik said he was “very embarrassed by the attention” his father received the congressional gold medal.

“He didn’t feel like a hero,” she said by phone. “He said, ‘I was there for three months when I was a kid.’ It’s wrong to take credit for it.’ But I said to him, ‘You were a witness, you represent people who are no longer with us.’

After the ceremony, Edsel recalled Baranchik saying, “I am deeply grateful and honored beyond words for what you and the Foundation have done.”

Richard Morton Baranchik was born on October 19, 1924 in Chicago. His father, Henry, was a family physician and head of staff at South Shore Hospital. His mother, Carrie (Greywogg) Balanchic, was a housewife and played piano in ballet class.

After his work as a monument man, Mr. Balancik remained in Europe, studying architecture at the University of Cambridge in England and at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Upon returning to the United States, he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating in the late 1940s with a BA in Architecture.

In 1950 he founded the architectural firm Barancik, Conte & Associates with one of the design lecturers at the University of Illinois. The firm has designed private homes, office towers, suburban office complexes, bowling alleys, schools and luxury condominiums.

“I really practice architecture all the time I’m awake, seven days a week,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1986. “It’s an all-consuming profession.” He retired in 1993.

Besides his daughter Jill, Baranchick has two other daughters, Kathy Graham and Ellie Baranchch. Two sons, Robert and Michael. four grandchildren. and three great-grandchildren. His marriage to Lemma Stone ended in divorce, and his marriage to Claire Holland and Suzanne Hammerman ended in death.

One of the benefits of Mr. Baranchik’s attention as a monument man was the correspondence he received.

“He got fan letters and asked for autographs once a week,” Balancic said. “He received sensitive letters from people, many of them from elementary school students. So the conversation continued.”

Related Articles

Back to top button