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October 24, 2002 Dagobert Broh left a legacy to history graduate students




Readers may remember when Dagobert Broh graduated from Concordia in 1997, because it made newspapers across Canada. He was 91 when he received his doctorate in history, the oldest Canadian ever to receive a PhD.

Although he died in 1999, his memory will be perpetuated through a large bequest to the university. Interest generated by the money he has given Concordia is being used to set up a $12,000 graduate fellowship to be awarded each year to a student entering the MA or PhD program in history. Another $3,000 will go towards stipends and travel costs.

As noted in the inaugural issue of TimeLines, the History Department’s new newsletter, this represents the department’s first substantial sources of internal funding, and will undoubtedly attract top graduate students to Concordia.

An essay about Dr. Broh was written for Volume 1, Number 1, of TimeLines by Professor Emeritus William H. Hubbard, his doctoral supervisor. In it, he describes Broh as a quiet, modest person, whose childhood in Europe was typical of the early 20th century, but whose fierce love of learning reflected his German Jewish background.

“Dagobert was born in Berlin on 20 July 1904, the eldest of two sons in a lower-middle-class family,” Hubbard writes. “Owing to the death of his father, he and his younger brother were raised and educated in the Mosse-Stiftung, a Jewish orphanage . . . Dagobert never complained about his years there. He also never disguised his Jewish heritage, though he described himself as a non-believer.

“He worked [as an accountant] in Berlin until about 1930, and then moved to the Westphalian university town of Münster, where he spent what he described as the happiest years of his life. . . [He] showed me a picture of himself in a tennis outfit in about 1935 — a dapper, athletic chap in striking contrast to the gentle octogenarian sitting at my desk.”

He was forced to leave Germany, like so many others, in 1936, and claimed that he became passionately interested in World War I because it was responsible for the emergence of Nazism.
Hubbard describes Broh’s strong cultural interests, both in Europe (where he attended a first performance of a Bertold Brecht-Kurt Weill production) and in Montreal. While he lived and worked in Montreal, Broh nurtured his lifelong dream of attending university.

“Some time in the 1960s, Dagobert discovered the possibility of taking night classes at Sir George Williams University, and began to work towards a BA, first in French, then in history. Upon retirement, he intensified these studies [and completed] an MA in history in 1985. It was then that I became his tutor and supervisor.

“Dagobert dearly wanted to research some aspect of World War I, but soon conceded that his age spoke against long sojourns in European arch-ives and libraries. So we agreed that a history of New York’s German-language newspaper Der Aufbau would be suitable.”

It was a lengthy process, Hubbard writes, partly because of Broh’s thoroughness. “Completion was perhaps also slowed by the re-living of a difficult, even horrible, time of his own life. He also had to acquire skills in using modern technology: a tape recorder for conducting interviews and a word processor for composing the manuscript.

“We talked openly of what would happen to the work if he died before completion,” Hubbard writes. “Fortunately, this did not happen. Dagobert defended his dissertation in March 1995 with a performance that was inspiring for all who attended. He had finally fulfilled his dream.”