John H. Herz, 97; Howard U. Scholar

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

John H. Herz, 97, a scholar of international relations and law and one of a number of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who found positions at historically black colleges and universities, died Dec. 26 of congestive heart failure at his home in Scarsdale, N.Y. He taught at Howard University in the 1940s.

Dr. Herz was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, and received a doctorate from the University of Cologne in 1931. He also studied at the universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg and Berlin and received a diploma from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva in 1938.

Also in 1938, he published "The National Socialist Doctrine of International Law," a book warning about Nazi aims and intentions. He published it under a pseudonym, Eduard Bristler, and managed to immigrate to the United States soon afterward.

He found a position with the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University through the assistance of Abraham Flexner, a founder of the institute. He remained from 1939 to 1941.

Unable to land a faculty position at a large university, he found a haven at Howard. In 1941, Ralph Bunche, then chairman of the political science department, hired Dr. Herz as a government instructor. "From his own experience of discrimination, [Bunche] had special understanding for refugees like my wife and myself," Dr. Herz wrote in a self-published memoir titled "On Human Survival."

In a 1994 letter to the editor published in the New York Times, Dr. Herz wrote: "The helping hand stretched out by black colleges and black scholars should not be forgotten at a time when, alas, Jewish-black relations have become strained. I will forever remember in gratitude."

His experience was among those featured in the documentary "From Swastika to Jim Crow: Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges."

From 1945 to 1948, he worked as a political analyst with the State Department. At the request of former Office of Strategic Services Director William "Wild Bill" Donovan, Dr. Herz was part of the U.S. legal delegation at the Nuremberg trials and also helped draw up a plan for the democratization of West Germany.

When Bunche became part of the United States' first delegation to the newly established United Nations, Dr. Herz succeeded him at Howard as chairman of the department of political science and international politics.

While at Howard, he wrote "Political Realism and Political Idealism," which won the 1951 Woodrow Wilson Prize awarded by the American Political Science Association as the outstanding book in political science for that year.

In 1952, he joined the City College of New York, where he taught until his retirement in 1979. He said earlier than most scholars that environmental destruction and overpopulation were serious threats to life on the planet. He focused his work on the relationship between contemporary politics and global problems such as population pressures, the exhaustion of natural resources and possible nuclear annihilation. He was the author of "International Politics in the Atomic Age."

The consequences of overpopulation demanded immediate attention, Dr. Herz warned. "Even in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia or even European ones that still can (and should) absorb millions, with a world population increasing by about 100 million each year and doubling exponentially within ever shorter periods, migration alone cannot solve the problem," he wrote in 1993. He urged developed countries to jointly assist developing countries with family planning, education and other forms of aid.

"His work was his life," said a nephew, Roger Kingsley. Dr. Herz continued his writing and research until shortly before his death. "His goal was always to find solutions that would bring about a more peaceful world for all to inhabit," Kingsley said.

Dr. Herz's wife, Anne Klein Herz, died in 2003.

Survivors include a son, Stephen O. Herz of Thun, Switzerland; and a sister.

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