The Monuments Men

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Charles Maurice Fleischner ( 1901-1988 )

Charles Maurice Fleischner was born in West Somerville, Massachusetts on June 12, 1901. After earning a degree from Yale University in 1923, he spent the following year teaching French at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. From 1924 to 1931 he worked in Boston for Raymond & Whitcomb, the largest travel company in America at the time. He then returned to his alma mater to work for the Yale University Press and The Yale Review while also taking graduate courses in art history. He completed his dual Master’s degree in medieval art and classical Chinese in 1940.

In January 1942 Fleischner was commissioned in the U.S. Navy Reserve. After serving as Officer in Charge of the Naval School of Military Government in New York, he was sent for active duty in Manila, the Philippines, in 1945. He was forced to leave the Navy in May 1946 due to a lingering illness. Following his recovery, he was selected by the Roberts Commission to serve in the MFAA. His knowledge of French, Chinese, and German, combined with his travels to almost every country in Europe made him an ideal candidate for service as a Monuments Man. As Deputy Chief of the MFAA for the United States Office of Military Government (OMGUS), he worked at headquarters in Berlin alongside Monuments Men Maj. Bancel LaFarge, H. Stewart Leonard, Lt. Col. Richard F. Howard, and Sgt. Edward S. Peck, among others. He traveled widely across the U.S. Zone of Occupation, monitoring progress at the various collecting points and maintaining correspondence with Monuments Men in the field.

After returning to the United States in 1948, Fleischner moved to San Francisco. He lectured for one year on art history at the Deep Springs School and reviewed books on Asian art for the San Francisco Chronicle. Forced to change plans once again due to illness, he returned to New England. In 1955 he became director of the Haverhill Public Library in Massachusetts. During his tenure as director, he founded The Friends of the Haverhill Public Library and was largely responsible for overseeing plans for the library’s innovative new building. He retired in 1966.

An avid reader and traveler, Fleischner maintained an interest in art history, conservation, and historical preservation for the duration of his life. He was a life member of the Boston Athenaeum. While he never married or had children of his own, he was very close to his godson, Samson “Sandy” Lane Faison III, son of Yale colleague and fellow Monuments Man, S. Lane Faison, Jr.

Charles Fleischner died in Plymouth, Massachusetts on June 1, 1988. His papers detailing his activities as a Monuments Man are conserved at the Yale University Library.