Josef Korbel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Josef Korbel
Josef Korbel.jpg
Personal details
Born(1909-09-20)20 September 1909
Geiersberg/Kyšperk, Austria-Hungary (now Letohrad, Czech Republic)
Died18 July 1977(1977-07-18) (aged 67)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Spouse(s)Anna Spieglova
ChildrenMadeleine Jana Korbel
Katherine Korbel
John Korbel
ParentsArnost and Olga Korbel

Josef Korbel (20 September 1909 – 18 July 1977) was a Czech-American diplomat and political scientist of Jewish descent. He served as Czechoslovakia's ambassador to Yugoslavia, the chair of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, and then as a professor of international politics at the University of Denver, where he founded the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

His daughter Madeleine Albright served as Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, and he was the mentor of George W. Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Background and career[edit]

Josef was born on 20 September 1909 to Jewish parents Arnost and Olga Korbel, both of whom were killed in the Holocaust.[1] At the time of his daughter Madeleine's birth, Josef was serving as press-attaché at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Belgrade.[2]

Though he served as a diplomat in the government of Czechoslovakia, Korbel's politics and Judaism forced him to flee with his wife and baby Madeleine after the Nazi invasion in 1939 and move to London. Korbel served as an advisor to Edvard Beneš, in the Czech government in exile. He gave speeches for the BBC's daily broadcasts to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.[3][4] During their time in England the Korbels converted to Catholicism.[1]

Korbel returned to Czechoslovakia after the war, receiving a luxurious Prague apartment expropriated from Karl Nebrich, a Bohemian German industrialist expelled under the Beneš decrees.[5] Korbel was appointed as the Czechoslovak ambassador to Yugoslavia, where he remained until the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in May 1948. Around this time, he was named a delegate to the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan to mediate on the Kashmir dispute. He served as its chair, and subsequently wrote several articles and a book on the Kashmir problem.[2]

Following the Communist Party's rise to power in 1948, in 1949 Korbel applied for political asylum in the United States stating that he would be arrested in Czechoslovakia for his "faithful adherence to the ideals of democracy." He received asylum and also a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to teach international politics at the University of Denver. In 1964, with the benefaction of Ben Cherrington, Korbel established the Graduate School of International Studies and became its founding Dean.[2][4] One of his students was Condoleezza Rice, the first woman appointed National Security Advisor (2001) and the first African-American woman appointed Secretary of State (2005). Korbel's daughter Madeleine became the first female Secretary of State in 1997. Both of them have testified to his substantial influence on their careers in foreign policy and international relations.[3]

After his death, the University of Denver established the Josef Korbel Humanitarian Award in 2000. Since then, 28 people have received it.

The Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver was named the Josef Korbel School of International Studies on May 28, 2008.

Academic work[edit]

  • Tito's Communism (The Univ. of Denver Press, 1951). ISBN 978-5-88379-552-6.
  • Danger in Kashmir (Princeton University Press, 1954). ISBN 1400875234.
  • The Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia, 1938-1948: The Failure of Co-existence (Oxford University Press, 1959), ISBN 978-1-4008-7963-2.
  • Poland Between East and West: Soviet and German Diplomacy toward Poland, 1919-1933 (Princeton University Press, 1963). ISBN 978-0691624631.
  • Detente in Europe: Real or Imaginary? (Princeton University Press, 1972). ISBN 978-0691644295.
  • Conflict, Compromise, and Conciliation: West German-Polish Normalization 1966-1976 (with Louis Ortmayer, University of Denver, 1975).
  • The Politics of Soviet Policy Formation: Khrushchev's Innovative Policies in Education and Agriculture (University of Denver, 1976).

Danger in Kashmir[edit]

Norman Palmer notes in a review of Korbel's book Danger in Kashmir that Korbel covers the same ground as Michael Brecher.[6] Yashina Tarr sees that Korbel has succeeded in providing an objective assessment of the United Nations' work and recommends it to readers.[7] Birdwood labels the content on the United Nations Commission involvement "authoritative" due to Korbel's own membership in the Commission. He also observes that the huge number of footnotes and quotations testify to Korbel's vast research put into this "valuable contribution" on the Kashmir dispute.[8] Werner Levi observes that Korbel tends to abstain from giving his own judgements and evaluations. Levi states that Korbel's book is a "comprehensive and balanced statement" of a contested topic.[9]

Artwork ownership controversy[edit]

Philipp Harmer, an Austrian citizen, filed a lawsuit claiming that Josef Korbel's family is in inappropriate possession of artwork belonging to his great-grandfather, the German entrepreneur Karl Nebrich. Like most other ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia, Nebrich and his family were expelled from the country under the postwar "Beneš decrees", and left behind artwork and furniture in an apartment subsequently given to Korbel's family, before they also were forced to flee the country.[5][10]


  1. ^ a b Michael Dobbs, "Albright's Family Tragedy Comes to Light", The Washington Post February 4, 1997, p. A01.
  2. ^ a b c About us, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, retrieved May 15, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Michael Dobbs, Josef Korbel's Enduring Foreign Policy Legacy Washington Post December 28, 2000.
  4. ^ a b Koven, Steven G.; Götzke, Frank (2010), American Immigration Policy: Confronting the Nation's Challenges, Springer Science & Business Media, p. 159, ISBN 978-0-387-95940-5
  5. ^ a b Suzanne Smalley: Germans lost their art, too. Family says Albright's father took paintings - May 17, 2000
  6. ^ Palmer, Norman (March 1955). "Danger in Kashmir - Book Review". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 298: 223–224.
  7. ^ Tarr, Yashina (1955). "Danger in Kashmir - Book Review". Journal of International Affairs. 9 (1): 121.
  8. ^ Birdwood (July 1955). "Danger in Kashmir - Book Review". International Affairs. 31 (3): 395–396.
  9. ^ Levi, Werner (September 1955). "Danger in Kashmir - Book Review". Pacific Affairs. 28 (3): 288–289.
  10. ^ Wealthy Austrian Family Claims Albright’s Father Stole Paintings, May 5, 1999

External links[edit]