Professor Emeritus of Languages and Literature and Visiting Professor of Literature
Academic Program Affiliation(s): French Studies, Jewish Studies, Literature
Academic Expertise: Foreign Languages, Cultures, and Literatures
Area of Specialization: Politics and ideology in modern literature
Biography:Justus Rosenberg, a French Legion of Honor recipient for his resistance work during World War II, has been a member of the Bard faculty since 1962. He received France’s highest honor, Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, in 2017, when, at 96, he was the last surviving member of the Varian Fry Group, which rescued hundreds of artists and intellectuals from Nazi-occupied France. He later worked with the Forces Françaises de l'intérieur and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. At the time of the ceremony and afterward, Professor Rosenberg was teaching courses in the 19th-century novel, plays that shook the world, and contemporary literature from Africa, the Middle East, India, and Asia—some 20 years after “retirement.” At Bard and at Swarthmore College, where he began his teaching career after earning his PhD, he also taught many languages, including French, German, Russian, Yiddish, and Polish.
Born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), Rosenberg was sent to school in Paris as a teenager after the Nazis expelled all Jewish students in Danzig. He lost contact with his family in 1939 and fled Paris after the Nazi occupation in 1940, finding his way to Toulouse. There he met someone who worked for Varian Fry, a journalist and head of operations in Marseille for the American Rescue Committee, a New York–based organization of political activists. Among the refugees the group helped to escape were Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, and Max Ernst. Rosenberg later worked for the U.S. Army as a scout and translator, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. After the war, which his parents and sister survived, he worked for the UN, helping thousands of displaced persons. In addition to his classes at Bard, Rosenberg taught a weekly course in political and cultural history at the New School until 2013. In 2011, he and his wife, Karin, started a foundation to fund efforts fighting hate and anti-Semitism; the Bard Center for the Study of Hate was established in 2018 with a generous endowment from the foundation. In 2020, Rosenberg’s memoir, The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground, was published by William Morrow. Publications also include Constant Factors in Translation; Sound and Structure of English; Rilke’s Duino Elegies; Bertolt Brecht in Mandarin; Le Bateau Sobre; and numerous reviews, biographies, and translations. Additional honors include awards from the New York Council for the Humanities and New School University. He has served as a guest professor at the universities of Belgrade, Cologne, Singapore, and Aix-en-Provence.
PhD, University of Cincinnati; LL, Sorbonne, Paris. Postdoctoral research fellow, Columbia University, Syracuse University. At Bard since 1962.
- Research Interests: The writing of biographies and autobiographies
- Teaching Interests: Translations, Senior Projects; contemporary non-Western literature; 19th-century European novel; ten plays that shook the world; understanding Modernism and post-Modernism
- Other Interests: History and cultural history; the theater
Office: Room 201