Foreign Affairs Reporter Dies at Age 88

Photo: Dan Kurzman
Dan Kurzman

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Former Washington Post foreign correspondent, author of 17 books and former writer for The Daily Californian, Dan Kurzman, died Dec. 12 at the age of 88 in Manhattan. According to The New York Times, he died of pneumonia following cancer treatments.

In a journalism career that took him to places like Israel and Guatemala and led him to write books about military history, Kurzman reported on topics such as a 1966 Guatemalan election dispute between the military government and opposition groups to a 1967 exchange of prisoners between Jordan and Israel.

Born March 27, 1922 and raised in San Francisco, Kurzman attended UC Berkeley and wrote for the Daily Cal until he joined the army in 1943. After the war, he returned to UC Berkeley to graduate in 1946.

According to Betsy Brown, who met Kurzman while working at The Daily Californian in the early 1940s and stayed in touch with him up through his last years, it was Kurzman's experience at the Daily Cal that shaped his future path in journalism.

"We all said to each other that The Daily Californian meant more to us than any other class we took and set us on our careers," Brown said of she, Kurzman and some of their classmates from the Daily Cal.

At the Daily Cal, Kurzman reported and worked a shift once a week in night production, according to Brown. He served as a night editor at one point in 1943 and also wrote articles on topics from sorority girls "whose only goal in life is to enrapture some handsome fraternity man," to UC Berkeley students involved in an intensive Japanese language program who hoped to work in government positions during World War II.

After graduating, Kurzman began reporting for various news organizations in Europe and Israel before taking a job with The Washington Post and receiving the George K. Polk Memorial Award for foreign reporting in 1965.

At one point, Brown said Kurzman had worked in Paris for the European Recovery administration and the two were able to reunite for Brown's wedding in Paris.

"He joked that he was the only living witness that I was married," Brown said.

Kurzman published his first book, "Kishi and Japan: The Search for the Sun" - a biography of former Japanese prime minister, Nobusuke Kishi - in 1960. He continued producing books until 2008, writing on topics ranging from David Ben-Gurion and Israel to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to Adolf Hitler and Germany.

"He was very intense, very intense. And when he talked to you, he absolutely glued you with his eyes," Brown said. "He would want to know every detail, but I think that's what made his books so successful, very detailed."

Brown said though she stayed in touch with him throughout their respective careers, which ultimately brought them both to New York, they would only occasionally see each other because he was always travelling. She added that he was very modest about his world-travelling.

"He would say to me did I think he was right in going into journalism instead of working in his father's shoe store?" Brown said. "I mean can you imagine? The man has traveled all over the world, thinking about his shoe store in San Francisco."

Kurzman's wife, Florence Knopf, died in 2009, according to The New York Times. Brown said she believed Kurzman had been working on writing his life memoirs before his death. He is survived by his brother, Calvin.


Emma Anderson is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected]

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