GC Mourns the Loss of Professor Emeritus Randolph L. Braham

Graduate Center Professor Randolph L. BrahamThe Graduate Center mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Randolph L. Braham (GC/City College, Political Science), an esteemed Holocaust scholar and founder and benefactor of the Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies at The Graduate Center, who passed away on November 25 at age 95.

Braham, a Holocaust survivor, was best known for his scholarship on the Holocaust in Hungary, including a comprehensive two-volume history, The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary, which The New York Times described as one of “the most important works of Holocaust history.” According to The Times, Braham provided historical context and “monumental detail” about Hungary’s 1944 deportation of nearly 440,000 Jews, most of whom died at Auschwitz.

The Times concluded, “At a time when quack ‘history’ books maintaining that the Holocaust was all in the fevered Zionist imagination reach library shelves all over the world, it is a comfort that this book will stand there, too, in its immense and meticulous documentation.”

The work won the 1981 Jewish National Book Award. Braham earned the same award in 2014 for his three-volume The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary.

His other honors include the Order of Merit Officer's Cross of the Hungarian Republic (1995) (the highest civilian award of Hungary), the Pro Cultura Hungarica award of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture (2002), the Science for Society award of the Hungarian Academy of Science (2004), the Order of the Star of Romania, Commander Rank, of the Romanian Republic (2009), and the Medium Cross of the Republic of Hungary (2011).

A longtime professor of political science at The City College of New York and The Graduate Center, Braham founded the Rosenthal Institute for Jewish Studies at The Graduate Center in 1979. Now part of The Graduate Center’s Center for Jewish Studies, the Rosenthal Institute promotes Holocaust scholarship and regularly supports and convenes panels of Holocaust historians and researchers. Braham generously supported the institute through his own philanthropic gifts.

Born in Bucharest in 1922, Braham narrowly escaped from Hungary during World War II and came to the U.S. in 1948. His extended family, other than his sister, died at Auschwitz.

Braham was a member of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and a special adviser for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The library at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest bore his name.

In 2011, Braham requested that his name be removed from the library, and he returned his Medium Cross of the Republic of Hungary. In an open letter, he cited his concern with Hungary’s “history-cleansing campaign … to whitewash the historical record” of Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s leader during most of World War II and a Hitler ally. 

“I … a survivor whose parents and many family members were among the hundreds of thousands of murdered Jews, cannot remain silent,” Braham wrote, adding, “especially since it was my destiny to work on the preservation of the historical record of the Holocaust.”

“He was the epitome of an academic colleague,” said Presidential Professor John Torpey (Sociology and History), director of The Graduate Center’s Ralphe Bunche Institute for International Studies, who recalls that at a recent conference, Braham delivered a detailed analysis, without notes, of the distortions of Holocaust history in contemporary Hungary under Prime Minister Victor Orban. “I will miss his erudition and his devil-may-care attitude toward his advancing years,” Torpey added.

Submitted on: NOV 27, 2018

Category: Faculty | General GC News | Political Science