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Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-933

Scope and Content Note

This collection comprises the papers of Colonel Sholom (Seymour) Jacob Pomrenze (1916-2011). It contains materials relating to Pomrenze’s role as the first director of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD) in early 1946, as well as documentation of his career as a records management and archives consultant for the American Jewish cultural sector. It also includes some biographical material.

The Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD) was the United States Army’s collection point for cultural materials that had been looted by the Nazi unit Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). Pomrenze was the first leader of the OAD. Materials found here are originals and photocopies of documentation created at the OAD. A highlight is two three-inch binders entitled "Library Markings found among the looted books in the archival depot." Prepared under the direction of the depot's second leader, Captain Bencowitz, the binders contain thousands of photographs of ex libris and library markings found in the books processed by the OAD. Photocopies of other OAD materials, such as correspondence, monthly reports, and photograph albums, are also found here. Other materials concern Pomrenze’s subsequent engagement with the scholarly community studying the OAD and similar restitution issues, as well as his own recounting of the story of the depot in lectures, writings, and an oral history. Also found here is a small book of Exodus in Hebrew, published in Paris in 1809.

Materials from Pomrenze’s second career, as a records management and archives consultant after his retirement from the Army in 1977, make up the bulk of this collection. These include files from his extensive roster of clients, primarily Jewish non-profit organizations. The largest volume of papers concerns his work for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Council of Jewish Federations, and the United Jewish Appeal. He also worked for dozens of other organizations, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and its Mordecai Kaplan Archives. The types of documents found include correspondence, memos, notes, records management plans, research requests, sample records handling forms, box and folder lists, surveys, organizational charts, and consulting agreements. Pomrenze often arranged for Jewish cultural organizations to transfer their records of enduring historical value to an appropriate archival repository, such as the American Jewish Archives (AJA), the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), and YIVO, and that is reflected in these files. Also found here are records management materials that are not client-specific, such as policies from various clients on access of materials to outside researchers; teaching materials from Pomrenze's tenure as a professor of records management at American University; and general records management documents. Also included are what appear to be Pomrenze's general correspondence files, which contain correspondence with researchers, various records management clients and archives, ARMA, SAA, and students, as well as some clippings and business cards. Pomrenze was assigned by the National Archives in 1949 to document President Truman's inauguration and inaugural gala, and programs, a clipping, and a manual about records of inaugural committees can also be found here. This collection also contains Pomrenze's published writings on records management, as well as his alphabetical subject files. The materials are primarily related to records management -- clippings, manuals, catalogs, vendor correspondence, sample forms, retention schedules, and the like. There are also materials relating to Offenbach and restitution of books, including items about the Jewish materials still in Lithuania. Additional documents relating to specific clients of Pomrenze's, such as records surveys and manuals, are also found in the subject files.

The collection also contains some personal materials, including awards and associated correspondence, and biographical and informational documents such as Who's Who entries, clippings of articles about Pomrenze (mostly photocopies), some military records, and CVs.

Dates

  • undated, 1809-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1979 - 1999

Creator

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Biographical Note

Sholom (Seymour) Jacob Pomrenze (1916-2011) was born in Brusilov, Ukraine to Jacob Pomrenze and Eva née Malaretsky. His father was killed during the 1919 pogroms, after which Pomrenze, his mother, and his older brother Chaim undertook a three-year journey to the United States. In 1922, they arrived in Chicago, where many extended family members had settled. The family decided that Pomrenze was to be raised by his father’s sister Dina and her husband, Shalom Zeldich. Chicago had a very concentrated Jewish population on the West Side, and Pomrenze grew up attending a Hasidic synagogue and attending both secular and Hebrew school. After high school, he attended the Lewis Institute and the University of Chicago, earning a Masters degree and working toward a doctorate in Jewish history. While doing research in Washington, DC, in 1939, his money ran out, and he took job at the National Archives, the predecessor to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

In April 1942, Pomrenze joined the United States Army. After basic training, he attended officer school and was commissioned a second lieutenant in April 1943. During the war he was stationed in Columbus, Ohio and Leavenworth, Kansas, and also traveled to Burma, China, and India for the OSS.

In December 1945, the Archivist of the United States asked Pomrenze to go to Europe and reorganize German archives. At the recommendation of the JDC's representative in Germany, Koppel Pinson, he was appointed as the first head of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD), the central collection point for cultural materials looted from throughout Nazi-occupied Europe by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). From late February to May 1946, Pomrenze set up an organizational and restitution plan, and began working on returning books and religious artifacts. Among the millions of items the depot handled between 1946 and 1949 were the Library Rosenthaliana, which was returned to the Netherlands, and the YIVO collection, which Pomrenze, as a representative of the Library of Congress, helped ensure was transferred to YIVO in the United States instead of back to Lithuania in 1947.

Pomrenze returned to Washington, DC after his discharge from the Army in June 1946. He worked for the National Archives (1947-1949), for which he documented the Truman inauguration, and for the Army (1950-1977) as a records manager. He travelled to Army installations all over the world conducting records management training, including to Vietnam, where he received a Bronze Star for his training efforts during the war. Although a civilian for most his army career, he returned to active duty when he visited Vietnam in 1970-1971. When Pomrenze retired, he was a colonel and Archivist of the Army.

Pomrenze was also a records management consultant, primarily to Jewish organizations, starting with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 1949. After his retirement from the army in 1977, he became a full-time consultant. His clients included the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB), Federation Employment Guidance Services (FEGS), the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and the UJA-Federation of New York (UJA). He also founded the records management program at American University, and published articles about records and archives management. His contributions in the field were recognized by awards and honors from the Army and from organizations such as the Society of American Archivists (SAA). Pomrenze was widely known by his nickname, “The Colonel.”

Pomrenze was married to Brondell Kaganoff for 66 years. Their children are Hava, Jacob (“Jay”) Lev, Debra, Haya, and Davida.

Extent

15.2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Dutch; Flemish

German

Hebrew

Yiddish

Abstract

The papers of Colonel Seymour Jacob Pomrenze (1916-2011) contain materials relating to his role as the first director of the Offenbach Archival Depot (OAD) in early 1946, as well as documentation of his career as a records management and archives consultant for the American Jewish cultural sector. It also includes a small amount of biographical material.

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Information

The papers were donated to AJHS by Davida Pomrenze Stein in January 2012. Additional materials were donated by Jay Pomrenze in March 2012. A second addendum was donated by Jay Pomrenze and Davida Pomrenze Stein in November 2013. A third addendum was donated by Davida Pomrenze Stein in March 2014.

Related Material

The UJA-Federation records at the American Jewish Historical Society (I-433) contain a subseries of materials related to Pomrenze. He provided records consulting to the UJA for many years.

New York Public Library holds an oral history conducted with Pomrenze, collected by the American Jewish Committee in 1989 (call number **P-Oral Histories, Box 60 no. 1).

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds the official records of the Offenbach Archival Depot, as part of Record Group 260: Records of U.S. Occupation Headquarters, World War II, 1923 – 1972.

Pomrenze worked with many organizations whose records are now held by AJHS and YIVO. These include multiple collections from HIAS and the Federation, which may be found by querying the Center for Jewish History's search portal.

A photograph of Pomrenze at the Offenbach Archival Depot, with two French officers, has been digitized.

YIVO holds and has digitized "Library Markings found among the looted books in the archival depot, Volume III", which appears to be a companion volume to the two similarly titled volumes found in this collection in series II, subseries 1.

Separated Material

Two books were removed to the AJHS library collection:
  1. Libowitz, Richard. "A Catalogue of the Correspondence in the Mordecai Kaplan Archives" (1981). Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
  2. Freedman, Jacob M. "Reconstructing Jewish Culture: Jewish Scholars and the Fate of the Jewish Book after World War II." (2004). Honors Thesis, University of Pennsylvania.
General printed material (books, journals) about records management was removed and discarded. A list of discarded materials is found in folder 16, box 12.

Processing Information

Personal and religious materials were removed and returned to the Pomrenze family. Binder covers, envelopes, original folders, and duplicates beyond the third copy were discarded. Folders with writing beyond a title were photocopied before being discarded. Photographs were rehoused. Folder titles are supplied, except for the Subject Files in series III, subseries 4. The two Library Markings binders in series II, subseries 1, are housed in individual boxes.

Folders were generally left intact as found, while unfoldered material was re-arranged and either added to an existing relevant folder or given a new folder. Some original folders with closely related material were combined. Empty folders were discarded.

Additional materials donated by Jay Pomrenze were integrated intellectually into the collection, and are physically found in box 24. Stick flags in Box 24, folder 6 were replaced with plastic clips.

During preparation for digitization in November 2012, a few pages in the binder "Library Markings found among the looted books in the archival depot, Volume II: Western" were re-ordered behind the correct country tabs.

A second addendum, donated by Jay Pomrenze and Davida Pomrenze Stein, was integrated intellectually into the collection description. The materials are physically found in boxes 25 and 26.

A third addendum, donated by Davida Pomrenze Stein, was integrated intellectually into the collection description. The materials are physically found in box 25, folders 9 and 10. The items were originally taped to acidic scrapbook paper, but removed by the CJH conservator in 2014.
Title
Guide to the Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze (1916-2011) Papers, undated, 1809-2009 P-933
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Kevin Schlottmann
Date
© 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Processed as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation

Revision Statements

  • March 2012: Revision: Finding aid was updated with addendum. Digitized photograph was added to related materials and to the biographical note.
  • November 2013: Revision: Finding aid was updated with second addendum.
  • March 2014: Revision: Finding aid was updated with third addendum.
  • August 2014: Revision: Items returned to collection from conservation.
  • November 2020: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States