Richard M. Barancik, the last of the Monuments Men and Women of World War II, has died.
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1924, Private First Class Barancik served with the U.S. Army 263rd Regiment, 66th Division, until the end of the war in Europe. He then joined the 42nd Division, 232 Infantry, in Austria. In Austria, Barancik first learned of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program and immediately applied for duty. He was given temporary assignment with the Education, Religion, Fine Arts, and Monuments Office in Salzburg, Austria, alongside Corporal Clyde J. Davis, also of the 42nd Division. For several weeks, Barancik and Davis assisted in the movement of stolen art treasures to the central repository of Property Control Branch and served as guards. Barancik later remarked that, “When I arrived in Salzburg, I was not only overwhelmed by the beauty of the town but the quality of the men in the Fine Arts Section. They were typically older and very well educated in the Fine Arts.”
At the conclusion of his military service, Barancik took advantage of being in Europe and attended a short-term program with the Royal Institute of Architects in London. Afterwards, he studied architecture at the University of Cambridge and the École des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleu before returning to Chicago. Thus began a long and successful career as an architect specializing in hi-rise apartment buildings, office campuses, shopping centers, and hotels.
Our founder, Robert Edsel, first met Barancik in 2006 while traveling the country interviewing all the Monuments Men and Women our Foundation team could find, twenty-one in all. They visited numerous times in the years that followed. The most memorable of those meetings—on October 22, 2015—was their last. On that date, Barancik joined Harry Ettlinger, Motoko Fuijishiro, and Bernie Taper at the United States Capitol to receive, on behalf of the nearly 350 Monuments Men and Women from fourteen nations, the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
Barancik’s death serves as another reminder that soon our nation’s World War II veterans will have passed from our presence and will live on only in our memories. This sad reality makes the work of the Foundation, and other organizations even more important.
The Monuments Men and Women Foundation team extends its heartfelt condolences to the Barancik family and wants to express its gratitude for encouraging those wishing to honor Richard Barancik’s memory to do so through a donation to the Foundation.
Here is a link to the obituary of Richard M. Barancik written by his family.