HIAS Archivist Receives National Humanities Medal: Colonel Seymour Pomrenze Honored

Posted on Wed, Nov 21, 2007 at 9:34 am

Seymour Pomrenze (3rd from right) is seen here with fellow Monuments Men, accepting the 2007 National Humanities Medal from President Bush.

(Washington, D.C.)– President George W. Bush awarded a 2007 National Humanities Medal to Colonel Seymour Pomrenze, HIAS’ Archivist and Historian, on November 15 during a ceremony held in the White House East Room. Pomrenze was one of nine Americans honored for their “exemplary contributions to the humanities” and for their efforts in preservation.

The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989, honors individuals or groups whose work “has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.”

Pomrenze was honored as one of the “Monuments Men” – a group of “scholar-soldier” GI’s who went underground to locate and recover works of art plundered by the Nazis during World War II. Pomrenze was one of five members who were honored at the White House ceremony - only 12 are still living.

Over the last decade, the National Humanities Medal has been awarded to only 98 individuals and 7 organizations. Recipients do not compete for this honor, but are specially selected by the President for their lifelong achievements in their diverse areas of expertise.

“These men and women have shaped our understanding of the past, chronicled stories of tyranny overcome by liberty, and helped preserve our cultural treasures for future generations,” said the President. “Your accomplishments remind us that freedom of thought and freedom of expression are two pillars of our democracy. These freedoms have helped our nation build some of the finest centers of learning in the world. They’ve helped inspire new movements in art and literature, and they’ve helped fill our libraries and museums with great works for all our citizens to enjoy.”

Pomrenze received his B.S. from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1936 and earned his MA at the University of Chicago in 1938. He is the former archivist of the National Archives in Washington as well as the former archivist at the Department of the Army. He was on the adjunct staff of American University for 24 years. Pomrenze is a highly decorated soldier and a retired Colonel in the Adjutant General’s Corps with over 34 years of active and reserve service.

For the full text of the award presentation, please click here.