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Richard Henry Kuhlke ( 1909-1975 )

Richard Henry Kuhlke was born in Akron, Ohio on June 5, 1909, a descendant of a family of successful German immigrants who settled in Ohio. His industrious forebears included an employee of the American Cereal Company (today, Quaker Oats) and an entrepreneur whose rubber manufacturing company held some of the earliest patents for rubber tire tread designs. The family’s combined success earned the Kuhlke family a respected place in Akron society, where they befriended many Ohio scions of industry. Kuhlke attended The Lawrenceville School, a prestigious boarding school in New Jersey, before completing a Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1932. He then began his graduate studies at Harvard University, where he co-founded the John Leverett Society, a well-respected academic club which attracted notable guest speakers.

A gifted writer, Kuhlke worked as an editor at the hallmark American publishing house Little, Brown and Company first as a proof reader before his promotion to editor. In his spare time, Kuhlke enjoyed writing poetry. Two of his most notable poems, “Fall Pause” and “Nocturne,” were published in Poetry, the magazine of the Poetry Foundation of Chicago.

Kuhlke was commissioned in the U.S. Army in June 1943. His experience in the publishing industry qualified him for service as a Library Specialist with the MFAA in Germany. Following the end of hostilities, he received a transfer to the MFAA Sub-Section of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (OMGUS). Kuhlke was first stationed in Wiesbaden, where he served alongside Monuments Officers Maj. L. Bancel LaFarge, Capt. Edith A. Standen, and Lt. Cdr. Thomas C. Howe. In addition to his duties at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Kuhlke was involved in early plans for the establishment of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD), the central collecting point for looted archival material in the U.S. Zone of Occupation. Opened in July 1945, the five-floor depot was home to approximately 2.5 million looted books and manuscripts from over sixty libraries across Europe and Russia. In the months that followed, Kuhlke supervised the transfer of numerous libraries and archival collections to the OAD, including the Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage (Institute for Research on the Jewish Question, the Nazi organization which collected books and documents from Jewish libraries and institutions in support of anti-Semitic propaganda). In November 1945 he was one of thirty-two Monuments Officers who gave their names in support of the so-called Wiesbaden Manifesto, an internal protest regarding the shipment of 202 German-owned paintings from the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. for safekeeping.

Kuhlke was discharged in June 1946 and returned to Boston, where he died on November 18, 1975. The Monuments Men Foundation is very interested in learning more about Kuhlke’s activities after the war. If you have any information, please contact abottinelli@monumentsmenfoundation.org.