The Purge of Heads of State and Heads of Government in Post-World War II Europe


The Columbia University Club of Hungary and The Central European University Nationalism Studies Program

Location: CEU Auditorium, 1051 Budapest, V., Nádor u. 9

A reception will follow.


In a development without any historical precedent, the highest political leaders of Europe were tried, imprisoned and many executed in retribution for their real or imagined collaboration with the German Nazis in wartime Europe. The aim of the national purges that engulfed Europe all the way from Norway to Greece and from France to the East European countries was to punish some of the traitors, to exculpate the rest of the nation, and to bring about a more progressive society. Despite terrible shortcomings the post-World War II purges must be judged successful. The question arises why the fall of Communism was not followed by the prosecution of the former Communist leaders.

István Deák is Seth Low Professor Emeritus at Columbia University.

A native of Hungary, he worked as a journalist in France and Germany, studied history at the Sorbonne and received his PhD in Modern European History at Columbia University.

He has taught at Columbia University since 1964 and was Director of the Institute on East Central Europe between 1968 and 1979. Since his retirement in 1997, he has been teaching at Columbia University as a special lecturer and, on occasion, as a visiting professor at Stanford University.


Professor Deák's publications include:

Weimar Germany's Left-wing Intellectuals: A Political History of the 'Weltbuhne' and Its Circle (The University of California Press, 1968);

The Lawful Revolution: Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians, 1848-1849 (Columbia University Press, 1979);

Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848-1918 (Oxford University Press, 1990),

Essays on Hitler's Europe (University of Nebraska Press, 2001)


His books have been translated into several languages and received numerous prizes. He edited and partly wrote, together with Jan T. Gross and Tony Judt, The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and Its Aftermath (Princeton University Press, 2000). Professor Deák is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Republic. His current research project is on collaboration, resistance, and retribution in World War II Europe. István Deák was elected into the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1990. He has received many honors, including the John S. Guggenheim fellowship and the George Washington Award of the American Hungarian Foundation. He has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, N.J., the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria.