Jul 31, 2023 - News

The last living member of the Monuments Men and Women dies at 98

John Boehner presenting a medal to group of Monuments Men and Women, alongside fellow members of Congress.

Richard M. Barancik, third from left, with members of Congress and fellow recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal in 2015. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Chicagoan Richard M. Barancik, the last known surviving member of the Monuments Men and Women, died this month, his family confirmed last week. He was 98.

The big picture: Barancik was the last living tie to the original group of soldiers and military personnel that recovered cultural artifacts and artworks from Nazi looting during World War II.

Backstory: Born in 1924, Barancik lived most of his life in Chicago, except during the war and a few years after to study in Europe. He became an architect here and, in 2015, received the Congressional Gold Medal alongside fellow Monuments Men and Women.

  • Barancik volunteered for the group while he was deployed to Austria, and developed a lifelong appreciation of art, according to his obituary.

What they're saying: "He had an impeccable eye for art and design, no matter if it was high or low," his family wrote. "He knew what he loved… and surrounded himself with those things, whether they were paintings, ship models or miniatures."

Context: The Monuments Men and Women Foundation still works on recovering and returning cultural artifacts looted from their rightful owners, and estimates that "hundreds of thousands" of artifacts are still missing.

Of note: George Clooney’s 2014 film "The Monuments Men" sparked new interest in the team of art preservationists but Barancik is not directly depicted in the movie.


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