The Monuments Men

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Harold J. Clem ( 1909-1996 )

Harold Josiah Clem was a rising academic in Maryland appointed to the MFAA and tasked with safeguarding archival materials in Germany. He obtained several degrees; a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Franklin & Marshall College, and both a master’s degree and doctorate with specialization in German History from Harvard University. After graduation in 1933, Clem immediately began teaching English and history at Mount Airy High School. In 1936 he became an instructor in history and government at Hood College followed by an appointment to Assistant Professor of history and government at the University of Maryland in 1943. At Maryland he taught mostly German history and classes in the Army’s specialized training program until called for duty with the MFAA.

Clem was assigned as Deputy Chief of the MFAA for Military Government for Bavaria on September 9, 1945. He was stationed in Munich, where he supervised archives and public libraries. He was in charge of salvaging and reconstituting what remained of the Bavarian institutions as well as the restitution of all books, records and fine art looted by the Nazis. His initial undertaking was securing Bavarian military records and copies of Munich’s circular, the Kreisarchives, from various repositories and transporting them to the Oberammergau Collecting Point. Unfortunately, most of Clem’s early efforts in organizing and returning archives were lost when the materials were damaged in transit, having been carelessly stuffed together, some even trampled and misplaced.

Clem began field work shortly after, where he found success in identifying and returning a myriad of objects including books, coins, and furniture from the Bavarian Royal Palace. He was praised by his commanders for his passionate work with the MFAA. Clem not only recovered stolen property from Germans, but also from fellow servicemen who were unaware of the cultural value of the objects many had taken as souvenirs. According to his calculations, more than 50,000 cultural items valued at $400,000,000 were identified and returned within Bavaria alone during the time of his service.

In 1948 Clem left the MFAA and was promoted to Democratization Coordinator in The Office of the Military Government of Bavaria, which had become responsible for democratizing the governmental institutions of Bavaria, and Germany at large.

Upon his return to the United States, Clem became a professor of political science and international relations at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He was actively involved at the university outside of his teaching duties, assisting in developing campus-wide curriculum and publishing numerous textbooks on national security regulations.

After his retirement in 1975, Clem was awarded the Civilian Meritorious Service decoration by the Department of Defense. He passed away on December 20, 1996 in Bethesda, Maryland at the age of 87.