In memoriam: Peter Pulzer (1929-2023)


The Department is saddened to learn that former Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration at All Souls College Peter Pulzer has died at the age of 93.

Professor Pulzer was an Austrian-born British historian and his family emigrated from Vienna to Britain in 1939.

He studied at the University of Cambridge (MA, PhD in History) and the University of London (BSc in Economics and Political Science). He was appointed University Lecturer in Politics and Official Student and Tutor in Politics at Christ Church, Oxford in 1962, where he remained until 1984.

His critically acclaimed 1964 book, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria, is still regarded as the classic account of its subject.

In 1985, he joined All Souls College as Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration. He became an Emeritus Fellow at the College in 1996. 

Professor Pulzer was also the author of books on German and Austrian history and politics, on the history of Jewish people in Germany, and on political representation and elections in Britain. His contribution to the book German Jewry Between Hope and Despair was published in the spring of 2013.

He was honoured with the Federal Cross of Merit from Germany in 2004 and, in 2008, he received the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - the highest award in the Austrian national honours system.

In December 2012, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the University of Vienna.

Peter Pulzer was in many ways an old-fashioned academic. He had a very wide range and he taught at different times for all three MPhils – International Relations, Politics and European Politics. The last of these was his brainchild and he brought it to fruition.

He was particularly interested in the role of political parties and was still working on a history of the German party system at the time of his death. But he was equally interested in the small acts of kindness which hold societies together when they are falling apart – for instance, the Viennese taxi driver who took his father and grandfather home without charging a fare, after they had been abused and threatened at the Gestapo headquarters in November 1938.

He was the leading spokesman in Congregation against the award of an honorary degree to Margaret Thatcher in 1985, as a protest against the cuts in funding to universities, and the proposal was rejected by a large majority.

In retirement, he went for a year as Visiting Professor to Dresden University to help the transition of the ex-GDR to unification. He was in constant demand as a lecturer and he rarely refused.

Above all he was a kind, modest and loyal friend to colleagues and students alike.

Jonathan Wright, Emeritus Professor of Politics & International Relations at Christ Church

  • There will be a memorial service for Professor Peter Pulzer in Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday 10 June at 2 pm followed by refreshments in Hall. Everyone is welcome.