Jean E. Zimmermann (1909-1989)
The son of textile manufactures, Jean Emile Zimmermann was born in Bischwiller, France on January 3, 1909. Raised speaking German and French, his early years were spent in Paris, where he developed an appreciation for art and architecture. In 1925, when he was sixteen years old, he immigrated with his mother to the United States. Zimmermann worked at JP Morgan in New York City as a statistician prior to his enlistment in the U.S. Army in October 1942.
He was first sent to forecaster’s school at Moody Field, where he taught his fellow recruits math and physics, before attending Censorship School (OCS) from March to June 1943. After spending some months in North Africa he received new orders to serve in Germany, and he landed on Utah Beach in October 1944. As well as fulfilling his role in the censorship division, his language skills were also put to good use by interrogating German prisoners of war. He was encouraged to request a transfer to the MFAA by his colleague, the American artist Walter Stiner, who had already been transferred.
Zimmermann was recruited for service with the MFAA on 5th December 1945. After one month in Munich, where he helped retrieve looted art from the castle of Neuschwanstein, he was assigned to the Office of Military Government for the Regierungsbezirk Niederbayern und Oberpfalz. There he conducted inspections of damaged monuments and supervised the art repositories near Regensburg, Germany. His duties also included obtaining supplies for emergency repairs and coordinating shipments of looted objects from local repositories to the Munich Central Collecting Point, where they were sorted in preparation for restitution to the countries from which they had been stolen. In February 1946 Zimmermann supervised the transfer to the collecting point of thirty-six cases of objects belonging to the Munich Residenz, the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs and the largest city palace in Germany. The contents of these boxes included the Royal Bavarian Crown Jewels.
Zimmermann remained involved in the effort to locate, identify, and return looted works of art and other cultural objects until 12th February 1947, when he returned to the United States. He resumed his job at JP Morgan until April 1948, when he joined the Foreign Service. His first assignment was back in Munich, and he would go on to serve in Canada, Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, and Frankfurt. When he retired, Zimmermann moved to Tacoma, WA, where he was a member of the retired foreign service officers association and Mensa. He had remained a member of the US Army Reserves, and retired with a rank of LTC. In his retirement he was active in genealogical research, and often made trips to Europe.
Jean Zimmermann died in Tacoma, Washington on October 12, 1989.