Henri Emile Pilliod (1906-1957)
Henri Emile Pilliod was born in the village of Cartigny in Geneva, Switzerland on February 28, 1906. He studied at Lausanne Normal School before teaching at College de Villamont in Lausanne, Switzerland and the International College of Smyrna in present-day Izmir, Turkey. During this time, Pilliod traveled throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, viewing the world’s greatest monuments and becoming well-versed in French and German. Shortly after his graduation from the University of Lausanne in 1936, Pilliod received an appointment as an instructor at California Preparatory School in Covina, Los Angeles. He entered the United States in August 1937, working for several years as a teacher and completing a Master’s degree from Claremont Graduate School.
In June 1942 Pilliod voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army as a registered alien determined to do his part. Despite his extensive education, he was barred from receiving a commission or attending Officer Training School because he was not yet a citizen (he eventually became a naturalized citizen toward the end of the war). Pilliod finally found his niche as a clerk typist with the MFAA first in England and later in Germany. In November 1945 he was recommended for service with the SHAEF Mission to France as the assistant to Monuments Man Capt. William A. Lovegrove. In addition to various clerical duties, Pilliod aided Lovegrove with his work as an official liaison between the MFAA and the French art recovery organization, the Commission de Récupération Artistique. Pilliod may have assisted Lovegrove with preparations for Les Chefs-d’œuvre des Collections Privées Françaises Retrouves en Allemagne, an exhibition held at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris from June to August 1946 which featured French-owned works of art stolen by the Nazis and recovered by the Monuments Men.
Pilliod was discharged from the Army in June 1946 but chose to continue working as a civilian with the MFAA in Germany first in Berlin and later in Karlsruhe. As a Reports and Claims Officer, he evaluated thousands of claims submitted by owners hoping to locate their looted works of art, books, documents, furniture, jewelry, and all matter of objects seized by the Nazis. He worked closely with Monuments Men Herbert S. Leonard, Lt. Col. Richard F. Howard, Maj. Lester K. Born, and Lt. Bernard Taper to outline the official procedure for claims and declarations. He also spent much time in the field actively investigating leads. Pilliod remained a devoted participant in the effort to restitute displaced cultural property into 1949.
The Foundation is very interested in learning more about Henri Pilliod’s life, as well as his service as a Monuments Man. If you have any information, please contact .
Henri Pilliod died in San Francisco, California on October 21, 1957 and was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.