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In Memoriam: István Deák (1926-2023)
January 10, 2023

István Deák, Seth Low Professor Emeritus of History, died at his home in Paso Robles, California, on January 9, 2023. He is survived by his wife Gloria, an art historian, and his daughter Eva.

Professor Deák was born in Hungary in 1926, and in 1948 emigrated to France, where he studied history at the Sorbonne. From 1948 to 1956, he worked in France and Germany as a journalist and librarian and moved to New York in 1956, to pursue his Ph.D. at Columbia University, where in 1964 he defended his dissertation entitled “Weimar Germany’s ‘Homeless Left’: The World of Carl Von Ossietzky.”

Deák taught at Columbia from 1964 until his retirement in 1997, with some brief appointments at other universities. He was the Director of the Institute on East Central Europe from 1968 to 1979. After his retirement, Deák continued to teach at Columbia as a lecturer and at Stanford, where he was Visiting Professor in 1999, 2002, and 2005.

Professor Deák’s research concentrates on 20th-century Central and East Central Europe. He has published a number of works, including Weimar Germany’s Left-wing Intellectuals: A Political History of the “Weltbuhne” and Its Circle (The University of California Press, 1968); The Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians, 1848-1849 (Columbia University Press, 1979); Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848-1918(Oxford University Press, 1990); Essays on Hitler’s Europe (University of Nebraska Press, 2001); the edited volume The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (Princeton University Press, 2000); and Europe on Trial: The Story of Collaboration, Resistance, and Retribution During World War II (Westview Press, 2015). In addition to his scholarly books and articles, Deák was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books.

Deák received a number of prizes for his work, including the Lionel Trilling Book Award and the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. He held a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna Austria.

The István Deák Visiting Professorhip in East Central European Studies, established by the Harriman Institute to commemorate Professor Deák’s legacy of excellence in research and teaching, is open to scholars who have active interest and accomplishments in East and Central European studies.

Information about commemorations of Professor István Deák and his career will be posted shortly.

Read the obituary by Tas Tobias, published in