Josef Korbel

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Josef Korbel
Josef Korbel.jpg
Personal details
Born (1909-09-20)20 September 1909
Geiersberg/Kyšperk, Austria-Hungary (now Letohrad, Czech Republic)
Died 18 July 1977(1977-07-18) (aged 67)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Spouse(s) Anna Spieglova
Children Madeleine Jana Korbel
Katherine Korbel
John Korbel
Parents Arnost and Olga Korbel
Religion Catholicism
(Previously Judaism)

Josef Korbel (20 September 1909 – 18 July 1977) was a Czech diplomat and political scientist. 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 Arnost and Olga Korbel, who both died 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.

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 resettle in London. During their time in England the Korbels converted to Catholicism. Korbel served as an advisor to Edvard Beneš, the exiled Czech president in London, until the Nazis were defeated.

He then returned to Czechoslovakia, receiving a luxurious Prague apartment expropriated from Karl Nebrich, a Bohemian German industrialist expelled under the Beneš decrees. (Acquisition of this property later caused legal problems; see below.) Korbel was asked by president Beneš to serv, but Korbel was forced to flee again during the Communist coup in 1948. Korbel was convicted of the Czech Communist coup in 1948, but escaped to the United States.

Korbel was hired to teach international politics at the University of Denver and became the founding Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies. 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.

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.

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, a 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.[2]


External links[edit]