Dr. Ludwig Adamec died on January 1, 2019 after a distinguished career at the University of Arizona that spanned five decades. His expertise in the history, politics, languages, religions, conflicts and cultures of Afghanistan and the Islamic world set the parameters for the interdisciplinary and trans-regional programs of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and he was an active member of the community and familiar figure, cheerful and prolific, to generations of new faculty and graduate students decades after his retirement. Dr. Adamec was the key figure in establishing a modern area studies program in the footprint of his remarkable expertise. When he arrived in Tucson in 1967, he taught the history of the pre-modern and modern Middle East and Africa, as well as Arabic and Persian language in the Department of Oriental Studies. In 1975, he won the initial funding from the US Department of Education to establish the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) and directed it for a decade, using the federal funding model to establish new permanent faculty positions and weathering the tempestuous academic politics of the time. As a charter member of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), he brought that organization's headquarters to the University of Arizona in 1981, where it remains to this day. The academic department which he helped establish as the premier nexus of Southwest Asian studies in the Southwestern US later became the Department of Near Eastern Studies and, in 2010, the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Access to a continuous stream of federal Title VI funding, the solid tradition of a first rate graduate program, a regional view that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Subcontinent are all part of Dr. Adamec's enormous legacy at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Adamec's area of expertise was Afghanistan, and he was universally acknowledged as the dean of Afghan studies in the United States and Europe. His first monograph, Afghanistan, 1900–1923: A Diplomatic History was published by UC Berkeley Press in 1967, followed in 1974 by Afghanistan's Foreign Affairs to the Mid-Twentieth Century: Relations with the USSR, Germany, and Britain from the University of Arizona Press. His encyclopedic knowledge of the country where he served as head of the Voice of America in 1986 and 1987 and married his beloved wife Rahella, subsequently was encompassed in the appropriate formats of multi-volume and multi-edition gazetteers and historical dictionaries that became invaluable references - the six volume Historical and Political Gazetteer of Afghanistan published between 1972 and 1985, Conflict in Afghanistan: An Encyclopedia (2003), Historical Dictionary of Afghan Wars, Revolutions, and Insurgencies (2nd edition, 2005), Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan (3rd edition, 2003), Historical Dictionary of Islam (2nd edition 2009) and The A to Z of Islam (2nd edition 2009), as well as numerous articles. By the 1990s, the University of Arizona was well established as the major hub of Afghan studies in the US, thanks to Dr. Adamec's work and international reputation.
Ludwig Adamec was born in Austria in 1924. Having lost his father at the age of five and his mother at the age of sixteen, he was a so-called "swing kid" in Vienna at the time of the NaziAnschluss. As he described in an essay ironically titled "The Dignity of Work," his love of American jazz music, dance and fashion brought him to the attention of the Gestapo. After working as an apprentice tool and die maker, he fled Vienna on bicycle when his friends were arrested. Apprehended at the Swiss border, he was returned to a Viennese orphanage, only to escape again, live on the streets avoiding security forces by his wits and making for the Hungarian border at the first opportunity. Once again he was apprehended by the Gestapo and served seven months in a Vienna jail, the Gestapo prison at Rossauer, and spent the rest of the war at the juvenile labor camp at Moringen working in a salt mine, a quarry and a metal shop as part of a Nazi campaign to reform wayward youth. One in ten of the prisoners at Moringen died of starvation or torture, including several of Ludwig's friends and acquaintances. He himself was nearly executed for listening to enemy radio broadcasts and announcing the fall of Bonn to his fellow prisoners. When confronted by camp officials, he convinced his captors that he had learned of the fall of the strategically unimportant town of "Pyrn" by reading German newspapers, thus saving himself. The camp commandant soon consulted with him about whether or not to arm prisoners for a last stand against the approaching Allied forces; Ludwig advised him not to waste the effort, since the prisoners would escape at the first opportunity. He himself would soon walk across American lines near Gottingen to safety. He spent the 1950s indulging in the wanderlust of his adolescence traveling extensively throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, before earning his doctorate in the US in 1954.