Pomrenze, Seymour J.

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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 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 NARA (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.

From the guide to the Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze Papers, undated, 1809-2008, bulk 1979-1999, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze Papers, undated, 1809-2008, bulk 1979-1999 American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn National Jewish Welfare Board, Records, undated, 1889-1995 (bulk 1917-1990) American Jewish Historical Society
referencedIn RISM Vertical Files, Bulk, 1960-2000, Bulk, 1960-2000 1900-2004 New York University. Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith HIAS (Agency) corporateBody
associatedWith National Jewish Welfare Board corporateBody
associatedWith United Jewish Appeal corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
Offenbach am Main (Germany)
Records management


Birth 1916

Death 2011


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