Josef Korbel

Josef Korbel ( born September 20, 1909 in Geiersberg, Bohemia, Austria - Hungary as Josef Korbel; † July 18, 1977 in Denver) was a Czechoslovakian diplomat and later high school teacher in the United States and author of several well-known books on political issues such as the communism.


Korbel, born in the East Bohemian town Geiersberg (in Czech until 1950: Kyšperk, now Letohrad ) in wild Schwerdt ( Ústí nad Orlicí ), grew up in a well-off Jewish family. His father was director of a large construction company. At the age of twelve, the gifted students moved to Kostelec nad Orlicí because he could get an education appropriate to his talent here. Here he met his future wife. After leaving school he spent a year in Paris, before he began his law studies at the Charles University in Prague. This he completed the age of 23 graduating with a doctorate degree. After the serve of military service he received in 1934 a position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was followed by his marriage (1935 ) and the birth of daughter Marie Jana Korbel - the later U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Korbel Albright (1937 ). 1936 Korbel was appointed press attaché at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Yugoslavia and lived in Belgrade.

While according to the Sudeten crisis came parts of Czechoslovakia into German hands, Korbel remained in Belgrade. 1938, the well-known liberal democrat but was relieved of a new Czechoslovak government from office. He moved back to Prague. Ten days after the entry of German troops into Czechoslovakia, on 25 March 1939, he fled with his family and a few belongings on Belgrade to London. From his family and his wife's family members were 25, including three parents victims of the Holocaust.

In London Korbel came with Jan Masaryk, the son of former Czechoslovak president, and on the last democratic president of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Beneš, together. He was appointed a member of the reasoned from this government in exile. 1941 joined the couple converted to Catholicism in 1942 was born in London, the second daughter Kathy. During the period of World War II Korbel remained with his family in England and worked for the government in exile.

Ambassador of Czechoslovakia

After the end of World War II Korbel moved back to Czechoslovakia, where he was head of department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He referred in Prague, the home of the German -Czech industrialist family Nebrich, which had been expropriated by the Beneš decrees.

In the fall of 1945 Korbel was at the age of only 36 years ambassador to Yugoslavia. Korbel also began as an author to work and published his first book in 1945 ( Tito's Communism, which appeared in the U.S. in 1951 ). In 1947, his son John was born.

On February 25, 1948 in Czechoslovakia took de facto the Communist Party to power - an open coup. On June 7, 1948 President Beneš resigned. While Czechoslovakia increasingly oriented toward Moscow, Tito's Yugoslavia broke with the Soviet Union. Korbel, a staunch Democrat, withdrew, but without giving up a political activity. He was chairman of the so-called " Kashmir Commission ", which should clarify the status of both India and Pakistan claimed Kashmir province.

Josef Korbel as Americans

While Korbel meanwhile stayed in Kashmir, his family lived in London, where she succeeded on 11 November 1948 resettle in the United States. Because of his diplomatic status Korbel it was possible to follow his family to the United States, where they applied for political asylum. He was living with his family in Denver, where he received a full professorship at the Russian Institute of the University of Denver. Here he published his second book ( Danger in Kashmir, 1953). 1957 Korbel was officially naturalized in the United States. It was followed by other books ( The Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia, in 1963 and Twentieth-Century Czechoslovakia, 1977), which continued to strengthen its reputation in the U.S.. On July 18, 1977 Korbel died in Denver at the age of 67 years to pancreatic cancer.

Josef Korbels influence on American foreign policy

Korbel unfolded not only not to be underestimated influence on his daughter, Madeleine Albright, who was U.S. Secretary of State in the 1990s, but also to Condoleezza Rice, Foreign Minister in the second cabinet of George W. Bush. Rice studied at Korbel and sees him as her greatest mentor.


  • The Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia. 1938-1948, the failure of coexistence. University Press, Princeton, N. J. In 1965.
  • Danger in Kashmir. University Press, Princeton, N. J. In 1954.
  • Detente in Europe. Real or imaginary? University Press, Princeton, N. J. 1972, ISBN 0-691-07546-8
  • Tito's Communism. University Press, Denver, Col. 1951.
  • Twentieth-Century Czechoslovakia. The meaning of its history. Columbia University Press, New York 1977, ISBN 0-231-03724-4.