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Lee, Sherman E. | Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut | Leonard, Stewart

Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut  

Civil Art Administration Officer, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives, American Military Government in Berlin

Bibliographer and rare book expert Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt was born in Berlin in 1903. His interest in books developed early on, as his father was a history professor at the University of Berlin and his mother was a playwright. He attended the Universities of Berlin, Vienna, and Frankfurt, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on early book illustration in 1927. He worked for two years as a junior curator at the Guttenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany before immigrating to the United States in 1929. Lehmann-Haupt worked for Encyclopedia Britannica for a short time before accepting a position as curator of rare books at Columbia University. In 1939 he was given the additional role of assistant professor of book arts at Columbia’s School of Library Service. At this time he was also a visiting lecturer at Smith College (1939-1941) and at the University of Illinois (1940), and held positions at Marchbanks Press and the Morgan Library.

During World War II, Lehmann-Haupt served from 1944 to 1945 as deputy chief of the German policy desk at the Office of War Information, London. Later in 1945 he joined SHAEF offices in Germany as part of the Information Control Division. In 1946 Lehmann-Haupt began his work with the MFAA in Berlin, where his family joined him from January 1947 to March 1948. Charged with rejuvenating the cultural scene in Germany, he befriended numerous German artists who were previously considered “degenerate” under Hitler’s regime. Lehmann-Haupt assisted artists such as Max Kaus, Karl Schmidt-Rotloff, and Karl Hofer in reestablishing themselves in the post war years. He also studied what effects such stringent Nazi control of the arts had on society, and “was the first to analyze and classify the records of the SS Ahnenerbe and thereby reveal the extent of Himmler’s ‘archaeological’ activities in Poland and the USSR.” Art Under a Dictatorship, written by Lehmann-Haupt on a Rockefeller Grant in the early 1950s, also explored the effects of Nazi and Soviet artistic ideology.

After his return to the United States in 1948, Lehmann-Haupt began work as a bibliographical consultant to H.P. Kraus & Co, a leading rare book dealer at the time. There he gave expert advice on medieval incunabula and sold books to American library collections until 1968. An accomplished author in his own right, Lehmann-Haupt’s bibliography in 1959 included 200 titles. His most important literary contribution was The Book in America, which served as the leading history of publishing in America until the 1950s. He was also a bibliographical lecturer at the Pratt Institute from 1954 to 1955 and a research associate at Yale University from 1965 to 1967. In 1969, Lehmann-Haupt began teaching at the University of Missouri, where he was named professor emeritus upon his retirement in 1974 . He remained in Columbia, Missouri and died there on March 11, 1992. The “Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt Papers: 1933-1951” may be found in the Museum of Modern Art archives.


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