Harold C. Deutsch Obituary

Harold Charles Deutsch

Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota

June 7, 1904 – May 15, 1995


Harold C. Deutsch was born in Milwaukee in 1904. He received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1924 and the M.A. a year later. Transferring to Harvard University he completed a second M.A. in 1927 and was granted the Ph.D. in 1929. His original academic specialty was French history and his first monograph, The Genesis of Napoleonic Imperialism (1938), remains a standard work. In 1929 Harold joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota, where he spent the first stage of his distinguished career, rising to full professor and serving as chair of the History Department from 1960 to 1966.

In addition to helping literally dozens of doctoral candidates begin their careers, Harold established a reputation as a teacher that endures to this day in University legend. It remains a point of pride to him that he never missed a class from weather or illness. His students remember classes and seminars meticulously prepared, dynamically presented, and consistently updated. He was among the first professors to utilize electronics. Beginning in the early 1960s, his consistently popular course on World War II was offered on television. Yet he remained a master of personal contact, demonstrating by example to successive generations of teaching assistants both the importance of respecting their students and the ability to conduct a class without depending on visual aids.

Harold’s academic interest in the Third Reich was enhanced by a year spent in Europe as a social science research fellow in 1935-36. During that time he began cultivating the acquaintance of German officers and politicians who had participated in World War I. This experience shaped his role in World War II as well. After serving in 1942-43 on the Board of Economic Warfare, Harold was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services. He served as chief of its research and analysis branch in Paris and Germany during 1944 and 1945. In 1945 he was a member of the State Department’s Special Interrogation Mission, collecting information on the Third Reich from high-level participants and establishing the comprehensive network of contacts and friendships that made him a world authority on the human dynamics of Nazi Germany. His definitive studies of the military opposition, The Conspiracy against Hitler in the Twilight War (1968) and Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January-June 1938 (1974), were among the major academic products of this stage of his career.

At a period when even the most distinguished scholars are usually content to rest somewhat on their laurels, Dr. Deutsch began a new phase. Intellectually, he played a major role in integrating in to the general history of World War II information made available with the revelation of the Ultra secret. Retiring from the University of Minnesota in 1972, he joined in 1974 the faculty of the U.S. Army War College. New generations of students, this time military officers, profited from his insight. The War College curriculum profited as well. Dr. Deutsch played a major role in the institution’s progress towards developing a broad-gauged perspective on questions of war fighting and policy making.

Harold’s professional activity was personal as well. Even before his second retirement from the War College, he was a familiar participant in academic conferences, where his incisive questions vitalized panels as much as his captivating personality enlivened social hours. He was one of the original members of the American Military Institute. When the Society for Military History honored him with its Samuel Eliott Morison Award in 1994, it offered no more than token acknowledgement of a career that remains an inspiration to his many friends and colleagues. In 1995 an anthology of alternative perspectives What If? Might-Have-Beens of World War II was published by Emperor’s Headquarters, Chicago, Illinois. The editor was Harold Deutsch who was going strong into his tenth decade.

written by Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado College
kindly provided by Ms. Elisabeth Deutsch
from the folder distributed at Dr. Deutsch’s funeral