Kochan, Lionel 1922–2005

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Kochan, Lionel 1922–2005

(Lionel Edmond Kochan)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born August 20, 1922, in London, England; died September 25, 2005, in Oxford, England. Historian, educator, and author. Kochan was a prominent scholar of German, Russian, and Jewish history. After graduating from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1942 with a degree in modern languages, he enlisted in the army and served in the Intelligence Corps in Belgium and Germany. After World War II he returned to his studies, completing a B.A. in Russian studies and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. His dissertation, eventually published in 1954 as Russia and the Weimar Republic, established his reputation as a respected historian. Kochan's The Making of Modern Russia (1962) is also considered an important work that has since become a standard university text. He began his teaching career as an assistant lecturer at Edinburgh University in 1959 and later was promoted to lecturer before joining the faculty at the University of East Anglia in 1964. The son of Jewish parents, Kochan's interest in Jewish history grew after he was commissioned by the Weiner Library to write a book about the infamous 1938 German pogrom known as Kristallnacht. Recognized for his scholarship in this area, in 1969 he was given the newly created post at Warwick University of Bearstead Reader in Jewish History. Kochan's work there is credited with establishing Jewish history as a new discipline of study at English universities. Remaining at Warwick until his 1988 retirement, Kochan then served as president of the Society for Jewish Study from 2001 to 2005. He became a highly controversial figure in the 1990s, however, when he suggested that too much emphasis was being given by historians to the Jewish Holocaust. Disapprovingly calling it the "Holocaust Industry," Kochan felt that, within the three thousand years of Jewish history, the Holocaust should be studied as one important chapter among many. His opinion sparked severe criticism by a number of his peers, although it was Kochan who worked to have January 27 designated as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Continuing to publish histories about the Jewish people through 2005, Kochan wrote other important books, including Jews, Idols, and Messiahs: The Challenge from History (1990), Beyond the Graven Image: A Jewish View (1997), and The Making of Western Jewry, 1600–1829 (2005).



Guardian (London, England), November 1, 2005, p. 37.

Independent (London, England), October 27, 2005, p. 39.

Times (London, England), October 11, 2005, p. 70.