The Monuments Men

Back to The Monuments Men | Sanchez, Manuel

Manuel Sanchez ( 1908-1973 )

Librarian and archivist, Manuel Sanchez was born in Colombia and immigrated to the United States. He earned a degree in engineering and a Master’s degree in Library Science before working as a Fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

As Foreign Representative of the Library of Congress in Europe, Sanchez braved difficult, and often dangerous, conditions to secretly acquire and ship to Washington important enemy publications. He arrived in Portugal in April 1943, where authorities had recently blocked the re-exportation of German publications to Allied countries. In Lisbon, Sanchez contacted Pedro Andrade, proprietor of the Livraria Portugal. A rebellious yet well-connected bookseller, Andrade proved to be an invaluable source for locating restricted books in enemy-controlled Germany, Italy, and France. When the Portuguese Army sent its entire map collection to the Livraria Portugal for repairs, Andrade helped Sanchez create microfilm copies of every page, which were then sent to Washington. Sanchez acquired books for the Library of Congress through any means necessary. In Madrid, Spain, he cleverly gained depository copies of Spanish books for the Library of Congress by persuading authors to register American copyrights.

In addition to his covert collecting, Sanchez carefully maintained a public front for his mission by visiting libraries and research institutions under the pretense of renewing exchange agreements. He bypassed strict customs regulations by shipping everything home through the American Embassy as official archives not subject to customs inspection. In this way, he was able to easily export more than 800 foreign publications across international borders. Reuben Peiss, Chief of the Library of Congress Mission to Germany, later remarked that Sanchez obtained “more important publications than any other American book collector in a similar period of time,” most of which “would otherwise have been lost.”

Following his success in Spain and Portugal, Sanchez was recruited for service with the MFAA. In December 1943 he reported to Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) as head of the effort to collect archives and library material in the North African Theater. He conducted inspections of publishers in Algeria before reaching Sicily in December 1943. There, he located a repository of seized enemy records which included the files of the German consulate. Determinedly sifting through five rooms full of documents, Sanchez selected the most important for shipment to the United States. He then entered Naples alongside Allied Forces, creating a central library for the use of multiple military intelligence agencies. Entering Rome in early July 1944, Sanchez acquired German books from all over the city and established contacts at the Vatican Library. His final assignment took him to Paris in November 1944, where he located underground French literature and German propaganda published during the German occupation.

Following his return to the United Sates in April 1945, Sanchez began a career with the U.S. State Department which included the establishment of a training center for the Office of the Procurement Executive, which monitors the acquisition of supplies and services for embassies and governmental agencies, in Paris. He died in 1973.