Eva Kolinsky

Solihull Symphony Orchestra mourns the loss of a valuable member of the viola section, Professor Eva Kolinsky who died during August after a long illness.

We are indebted to The Guardian for the following obituary. An obituary also appeared in The Times on the same date


The energy, range and intellectual brilliance of Eva Kolinsky, who has died aged 65, illuminated German studies during that vibrant and innovative period which led to, and beyond, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and unity in 1990. The professor of modern German studies at Keele University from 1991 until her retirement in 1999, she published six books and was one of the most influential figures in her field in Britain.

Deeply involved in political science and history, in the 1980s, Eva focused on mainstream politics of the Federal Republic, though she imparted novel elements to her interpretations. Her background as a student, during the early days of 1960s student radicalism, at the University of Frankfurt and the Free University of Berlin meant that she was among the first to be alive to the importance of the greens, a number of whom she knew personally.

The influence of those student years was again apparent in her writings on opposition. Her first work in this area looked at opposition in a wider sense before she moved on to parliamentary opposition She edited Opposition In Western Europe (1981), which remains the most important recent Europe-wide perspective on the subject.

By the late 1980s she had developed into a major academic figure with a distinctive, influential research agenda. This became apparent in her work on women in German politics, where her books largely defined the field. She also produced several contributions on the Turkish minority in Germany.

Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Post-unity in 1990, she concentrated on eastern Germany. Starting with a case study of post-unity Leipzig, she became the focus of a group producing a series of volumes on transformation in the east, including Between Hope And Fear: Everyday Life In Post-Unification East Germany (1996).

It was to the study of Jews in postwar Germany that she devoted her last years - and she now excelled as a historian. The fate of that population had hardly been explored and in her After The Holocaust; Jewish Survivors In Germany After 1945 (2004) Eva, using archival and oral sources, reconstructed the experiences of Jews in those first five years after the war.

It was a triumph of the historian's craft, capturing the often bitter experiences of this neglected group who had been rendered invisible as German and foreign scholars in a terrible ironic and unintended echo of the Nazis took the Holocaust itself as the end point.

Born Eva Haeckel, in the small town of Schmaldkalden in Thuringia, she was the youngest of four daughters of a bicycle salesman. Her mother, who was very interested in languages, spoke French and English - and was denounced to the Gestapo for listening the BBC's wartime broadcasts. Soon after the war the family fled what was by then the Soviet zone and settled in Kielheim near Regensburg in Bavaria.

She attended local Catholic schools until the mid-1950s when the family moved to Frankfurt. There she was educated at the gymnasium, and between that and university studied English at language school.

The foundations for her career were laid at the University of Frankfurt and in Berlin where she read German, sociology and political science. During those years, while the two universities were at the centre of the student revolt, Eva completed a greatly praised doctorate on expressionism.

From 1967 to 1968 she was Volkswagen Foundation research fellow in Birmingham University's excellent and notably innovative German department, and there she met her future second husband Martin Kolinsky. She was to live in Britain for the rest of her life.

Eva was a dedicated university teacher. After an extended period from 1975 to 1990 at Aston University, she was professor of German at Bath University before moving to Keele in 1991.

After her retirement in 1999 she was a very active professorial fellow at the University of Wolverhampton. Eva's ability as a builder was apparent in the departments that she led and in professional groups in which she was active.

She was the first woman chair of the Association For the Study of German Politics and, post-unity, brought together those who had studied East Germany - the German Democratic Republic - with the majority of the members who had concentrated on the Federal Republic. As a founding editor of German Politics she helped ensure adequate coverage of the profound changes in the eastern Länder.

She was also influential in the Leo Baeck Institute's work on the history of German-speaking Jews in Europe and was a regular contributor to its Yearbook.

Her first marriage ended in divorce. She is survived by her husband Martin, a constant helpmeet and intellectual support, a daughter from her first marriage and two sons from her second.

· Eva Kolinsky, academic, born June 29 1940; died August 8 2005

William E Paterson
Monday August 29, 2005
The Guardian