Herbert Hochhauser, who led Kent State University’s Jewish studies program from 1980 to 1999, died Jan. 1. He was 83.
“He was a beloved director,” said Chaya Kessler, director of Kent State University Jewish studies, adding he was a mensch. “He was short in stature, but he was a giant in the field of Holocaust education. He always had a smile, and he always got what he wanted. He would pick up a phone. He did not stand on ceremony and received a lot of donations and support.”
In May 2015, Hochhauser was the honored guest at a dinner held on Kent’s campus and attended by 125 people.
“When I took this job, I enjoyed myself so much, it was a pleasure to do this, “Hochhauser said at his 2015 honoring dinner. “There was a dinner honoring a gentleman who was very important in the Columbus Jewish community and I had heard of him. When I looked at the seating chart, I saw I was way in the back and he was way in the front. It took only a couple of seconds to change a few cards, and I sat next to him. Throughout the dinner, he learned all about Kent State. The next week he flew into Kent, private plane, and (then-KSU president) Dr. Mike Schwartz and I had lunch with him and we told him this is a good place to invest your money – and he did. The next week, I got a check for $100,000 for Jewish studies. I didn’t turn over that check right away to the foundation. I never had a check with so many zeros in my hand, and it was a mechiah (a great feeling), a certain warmth.”
Schwartz said he enjoyed working with Hochhauser.
“Herb was a bright, dedicated professor who did a superb job of leading KSU’s Jewish Studies program,” he wrote in an email. “He had a wonderful, very Jewish sense of humor and a mischievous twinkle in his eye all the time. He’d have been a great Tevya.”
Hochhauser lived in Akron until 2016 when he moved to Boise, Idaho, to be near his family.
He taught German literature and Jewish studies at Kent State for 35 years. He was the director of the Ohio Council on Holocaust Education (now Ohio Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education) and director of Kent State’s Ethnic Heritage and Jewish Studies programs. He served as director of the Akron Jewish community high school and led meetings and seminars featuring guest experts about Holocaust studies in Northeast Ohio and beyond. His later work focused on helping to expose German physicians and corporations that conducted unethical medical experiments on prisoners of war.
Kent State has the Dr. Herbert Hochhauser Endowed Fund for Jewish Studies, which funds scholarships for students, guest speakers and education-abroad opportunities.
In addition to his academic career, Hochhauser produced films about the Holocaust, winning seven Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, including his documentary, “Beyond the Fence,” the story of two survivors of Buchenwald and the American G.I. that helped in their liberation.
Hochhauser was born May 2, 1935 in Berlin. After his parents were sent to a labor camp, he spent four years in orphanages in Switzerland and France. He was reunited with his parents and immigrated to the United States in 1948.
He grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Collinwood High School in Cleveland. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in German history from Ohio University in Athens, his master’s degree in German literature from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., and his doctorate in 19th-century German literature from the University of Akron and the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
His wife, Karen, predeceased him. They had three children, Shari, Mark and David, and four grandchildren.
A funeral was held Jan. 4 at Gordon-Flury Memorial Home in Akron.