Julius Henry Buchman (1908-1976)
Julius Henry Buchman was born in Valley Falls, New York on May 27, 1908. Father Edwin and mother Martha both came from Jewish families that had moved to the United States from Germany in the previous century, and had since become wealthy and influential in the clothing manufacturing business. Growing up in Troy, New York, he emerged as a gifted student with an interest in all art forms. Buchman graduated as valedictorian of his high school class before entering Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In addition to his studies, he supervised the technical production of the college’s Little Theatre. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in 1928, he embarked on an eight-month tour of Europe. His travels inspired him to study architecture for one year at Yale University and later at the Bauhaus in Germany. Here he studied courses for two semesters in the Architecture and Interior Design departments, before moving to Berlin with his colleague Mies van der Rohe.
Prior to the start of World War II, Buchman worked as an architect in New York City and as an associate producer of a professional theater group. He was following in the footsteps of his uncle, Albert Buchman, who was also an architect in New York City. He was responsible for, among others, the Times Square Building (1912) and the Estherwood mansion (1894-5).
Buchman enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1941. He served first as a German translator and later worked in the Information Section at Headquarters of the European Civil Affairs Division (ECAD) in Germany. By January 1945 he was working with the MFAA as Fine Arts Specialist Officer for the U.S. Military Government Detachment at Frankfurt-am-Main alongside Monuments Men T/Sgt. Horace V. Apgar and T/5 Alfred Henry. His duties included overseeing operations at the Rothschild Library in Frankfurt, the collecting point for hundreds of thousands of looted books, manuscripts, Torah scrolls, and religious objects. Buchman supervised the process of sorting, cataloguing, repairing, microfilming, and repacking each object that came through the Library’s doors. In addition, he oversaw building repairs, managed almost 100 denazified German workers, and monitored heating and storage concerns.
With the daily arrival of truckloads of books, it became clear that the Rothschild Library would soon reach capacity. For example, one report records that almost 38,000 objects were inventoried in that month alone. As a consequence, a second, much larger building- the five-story I.G. Farben Building- was requisitioned by the MFAA in nearby Offenbach. As work continued at the Rothschild Library, Buchman began the process of transferring the Library’s vast holdings to Offenbach. From July 1945 until June 1949, the Offenbach Archival Depot served as the central storage depot for approximately 2.5 million looted books and manuscripts from over sixty libraries across Europe and Russia.
Buchman remained a tireless participant in the effort to restitute looted archival documents and other cultural objects until April 1948, when he returned to the United States. While not much is known about Buchman’s activities after the war, he married Margaret Atwater, an accomplished singer and musician. He later moved to Desert Hot Springs, California and began working as a regional associate of Antimite Associates, Inc., a nationwide pest control company.
Julius Buchman died in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 1976. He was buried at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
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Photo courtesy of Williams College Archives and Special Collections.