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Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the Walter Horn papers, 1908-1992, bulk 1943-1950

Walter Horn papers, 1908-1992, bulk 1943-1950

Biographical Note

Walter William Horn (1908-1995) was a professor of art history at the University of California, Berkeley. During World War II, he served in the Army Intelligence Unit of the Monument, Fine Arts and Archives Section (MFAA.)
Walter Horn was born in Waldangelloch, Germany and graduated from the Gymnasium in Heidelberg in 1926. He studied at the Universities of Heidelberg, Berlin and Hamburg. In 1934 he received his Ph.D. in art history from the University of Hamburg, studying under Erwin Panofsky. His dissertation on the facade of the Church of St. Gilles was published in 1937. Horn fled Nazism in Germany and immigrated to the United States.
In 1938 Horn accepted a position at the University of California at Berkeley as a lecturer in art history, becoming the first state sponsored teacher of art history within California. He quickly became a professor and co-founded the university's Department of Art History.
Horn married twice. His first wife was Ann Binkley Rand. His second marriage was to Alberta West Parker, a physician. They had three children, Michael Peters, Peter Matthew, and Rebecca Ann.
In 1943, Horn became a naturalized American citizen and was soon inducted into the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the Detailed Interrogation Center, and by 1945 was serving as a lieutenant in the Third Army Intelligence Center. His German language skills were put to use interrogating prisoners of war and personnel of the Gestapo and S.S. Horn later continued his interrogation work in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). After the war, Horn was assigned to the Army Intelligence Unit of the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section (MFAA) and became one of the Monuments Men responsible for tracking and recovering art works and other cultural heritage objects that had been systematically looted and hidden by the Nazis.
Horn led the team of Monuments Men who recovered the stolen Crown Jewels or Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. The Crown Jewels, including a crown and sceptre, were discovered walled up in a passage in Nuremburg. Horn also recovered a collection of gold coins valued at $2,000,000 in 1946. He tracked the coins primarily through interrogations of Edeltraut von Hummel. Edeltraut's husband Helmuth von Hummel served as the chief secretary to Martin Bormann, leader of the Nazi Party Chancellery.
After the war, Horn resumed teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Art History until his retirement in 1974. He also helped establish the University Art Museum. In 1949, the school implemented a requirement that all employees must sign a loyalty oath to affirm their allegiance to the state constitution and disavow any intent to overthrow the government. There was substantial outcry among the university faculty and several professors who refused to sign were fired. Horn signed the loyalty oath under protest in 1950. He wrote a letter to the press explaining his decision and expressing his concerns.
In 1979, a decades long collaboration with distinguished architect Ernest Born resulted in
The Plan of St. Gall
, a three volume work on medieval architecture. The book was praised as a monumental undertaking by the scholarly community upon its publication.
Walter Horn died of pneumonia in 1995.