Professor and librarian. Breitenbach studied art history as well as German and Scandinavian literature at the university in Munich and then Hamburg where his professors were Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl. His dissertation, completed in Strassburg in 1929 under Panofsky, was Speculum humanae salvationis: eine typengeschichtliche Untersuchungen. He worked as a Library assistant at the Warburg Library in Hamburg 1926-27. Between 1927-29 he studied library sciecne in Göttingen and Berlin, working until 1933 in the Frankfurt Stadtbibliothek. That year he was dismissed by the Nazis through their Gesetzes zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums law, removing jews (Breitenbach though Christian, was of Jewish extraction) from the civil service. Between 1933-37 he lived in Basel and London. In 1937 he emigrated to the United States in 1937. In 1943 he became an American citizen, working the Federal Communications Commission monitoring German radio broadcasts. Between 1944-45 he was Chief of Documentary Operations in the Office of War Information in Washgington, D. C. After the war, he returned to Germany with Office of Military Government-Unitded States (OMGUS) in 1945 in Berlin. Between the years 1946-49 he worked in the Central Art Collection Point in Munich (in the former NSDAP party headquarters) as the Museum and Fine Arts officer researching the provenance of misappropriated Nazi art. He was, under Craig Hugh Smyth, one of the founders of the Zentralinstitut(s) für Kunstgeschichte. He worked in the American High Commission in Bad Neuheim and Frankfurt between 1949-53, in the Cultural Relations Division, Section for Fine Arts, Museums, Libraries and Archives reconstructing German libraries. In 1956 he returned to Washgington, D. C., where he was head of the Prints and Photographs division of the Library of Congress in Washington. He retired in 1973. He died on a visit to Germany in 1977.
[dissertation:] Speculum humanae salvationis: eine typengeschichtliche Untersuchungen. Strassbourg, 1929, published under the same title, Strassburg: J. H. E. Heitz, 1930; "Arnold Schönberg and the Blaue Reiter." Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 34, no. 1 ( January 1977): 32-38; and Wilder, Mitchell A., and Gerken, Rudolph A. Santos: the religious folk art of New Mexico. Colorado Springs, CO: The Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 1943; "Three Italian drawings [in the Library of Congress collection]." Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 33, no. 1 (January, 1976): 47-54.0.Metzler
Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 1, pp. 68-70; Stonard, John-Paul. Art and National Reconstruction in Germany 1945-55. Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 2004, p. 233; Edgar Breitenbach interview, Feb. 18, 1975 . Archives of American Art; Fern, Alan Maxwell, and Eckardt, Wolf Von. In memoriam Edgar Breitenbach, June 26, 1903-October 12, 1977 : tributes. Hamburg: E. L. Hauswedell, 1978.