Professor of History, Emeritus
Joe Remak died of heart-related disease on June 16, 2001. He was born in Berlin, Germany on December 4, 1920. He fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, from which he received a B.A. degree in 1942 and an M.A. in 1946. His Ph.D. was from Stanford University in 1955, where he served as instructor from 1954 to 1958. He accepted a position as assistant professor at Lewis and Clark University in 1958, gained tenure there, and served as department chair from 1964 to 1965. He accepted a position as associate professor at UCSB in the fall of 1965, a time when the History Department was expanding rapidly, and he played a key role in its development. He served for seven years as chair, from 1977 to 1984.
Joe’s first book, Sarajevo, the Story of a Political Murder, appeared in 1959; it won the Hoover Institution’s Borden Award in 1960 (shared with Charles Delzell’s Mussolini’s Enemies) and, along with his many articles and reviews, helped establish Joe as a leading authority on the origins of the First World War. He reached a wide student audience with his textbook, The Origins of World War I, 1871-1914, first published in 1967. It was followed by The First World War: Causes, Conduct, Consequences, in 1971, and his The Origins of the Second World War (1976). Another widely adopted text appeared in 1986, The Nazi Years: A Documentary History.
In 1964, Joe’s second book, The Gentle Critic: Theodor Fontane and German Politics, 1848-1898, appeared. It was devoted to one of the most beloved German novelists – and complex human beings – of the late nineteenth century. In 1966-67, Joe was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1969, his article in the Journal of Modern History, “The Healthy Invalid: How Doomed the Habsburg Empire?” won the American Historical Association’s Higby Prize, for the best article in the previous two years.
In 1987, Joe edited a volume of essays in honor of Charles B. Burdick, War, Revolution and Peace, and in 1988, another volume of essays, with Jack Dukes, Another Germany: A Reconsideration of the Imperial Era. In 1992, Joe’s A Very Civil War appeared – an illustrated history of the Swiss Sonderbund war of 1847, a conflict almost unique in history for its very low numbers of dead and, relatively speaking at least, civilized conduct on both sides.
Joe’s many books were characterized by a lively, highly readable style. He was similarly a scintillating conversationalist, always ready with a bon mot. He had the rare ability to deliver penetrating observations in a droll manner, so that even the objects of his criticism were made to smile. Once, in the tumultuous sixties, he gently chided a colleague who announced that “I don’t believe in grades, so I am giving A’s to all of my students”, by asking, “If you don’t believe in grades, why don’t you give them all C’s?”
Such qualities endeared Joe to students and colleagues alike. He was a popular lecturer in both upper and lower division courses; his Western Civ lecture on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand drew auditors from across the campus. Joe was also a generous, supportive colleague, a faithful friend, and a kind, gentle human being – a Mensch, if ever the term had meaning.
Joe retired in 1991, although he was recalled to the classroom for several years following retirement, and of course he continued to write and publish. Surviving him are his wife of 52 years, Roberta; a son and a daughter; a grandson; and three brothers.
Harold A. Drake
Albert S. Lindemann