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In Memoriam Lionel Kochan, 1922-2005

Aubrey Newman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">In memoriam Lionel Kochan, 1922-2005 Dr Lionel Kochan, who died on 25 September 2005, served as President of this Society in 1980-2. Chimen Abramsky once said that to be a Jewish historian one needs to know German, Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish and probably Polish. I suspect that very few of us would be accepted under that definition as proper Jewish historians ? probably Chimen himself might be one of those who could pass that test - but certainly Lionel Kochan would have joined them. Another requirement for such an historian is to understand not only the culture or cultures to which he belongs, but the nature of those cultures. It is not sufficient to be Jewish; he must be learned in his Judaism and its roots. He must equally know and understand the society in which he is living as well as that which he is studying. There is a saying we all know, that 'it is hard to be a Jew'; I think it is still harder to be a Jewish historian. Many of us we are less Jewish historians than historians who are Jewish. In addition, many of us came to teaching and to research in Jewish history comparatively late in our careers, having made our reputations in other aspects of general history. That is certainly true of Lionel. He was born in 1922, went up to Cambridge and served in the Intelligence Corps. After the war he wrote for many years for the Jewish Observer and Middle East Review until he enrolled at the London School of Economics and wrote a doctorate under Sir Charles Webster on Russia and the Weimar Republic. As a result he did not receive his first formal University appointment till comparatively late in life. These days he would probably not even have been considered for it, since he was thirty-seven when he was appointed assistant in history at Edinburgh, serving his full term there before teaching European History at the University of East Anglia in Norwich from 1964 to 1969. Then in 1969 Bearsted funded what was originally intended to be a lectureship in Jewish History at Warwick University.In order to secure Kochan for the appoint? ment it was almost immediately elevated to a Readership, and he thereafter had the distinction of being the doyen of those who could be regarded as Jewish historians. His work had initially been on Russian history, and to this he always remained true. But from the beginning, with a closely reasoned piece of xiii</page><page sequence="2">In memoriam Lionel Kochan work on Kristallnacht, he made clear his wider intentions in the field of Jewish history. His works flowed, both in terms of academic scholarship and of his appeal to a wider audience. With his wife, Miriam, a scholar in her own right, he produced The Jewish Family Album, intended mainly for the general public. But he also wrote on the Jewish Enlightenment and the problems facing Jewish self-knowledge in the modern period. On only one area was he out of step with many of his colleagues - his insistence that too much attention was being paid to the Holocaust at the expense of the achievements of the Jewish people. He argued that without such attention Jewish history was in danger of drifting into lachrymose studies of disasters rather than of triumphs. His latest book, published recently, was a triumphant assertion of these values. He was the centre of a devoted family. Miriam was among his critical appraisers as well as his supporters, whether in Oxford or in Jerusalem, and around them focused animated history-based discussion. Far from restrict? ing his activities to a narrow definition of History, he served as President of the Society for Jewish Study, on the Board of the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford University and on the Board of the Leo Baeck Institute. No young scholar seeking help and guidance was turned away. We mourn the passing of an eminent scholar and offer our deepest condo? lences to his wife Miriam, his children and grandchildren. Aubrey Newman xiv</page></plain_text>