Kurt Steiner, Professor Emeritus in Political Science, who was known on the Stanford University campus as "Mr. Austria," died at his home on October 20, 2003. He was 91 years old. Kurt Steiner was born in Vienna, where he earned a law degree in 1935. After the Nazis seized power in Austria, he emigrated to the United States in 1938. After his arrival he studied Japanese at the U.S. Military Intelligence School, and subsequently served in the Far East with the military government in Tokyo.
His foundations in European civil law and his linguistic skills led to his appointment as a member of the war crimes staff. In 1948 and 1949, he served as a prosecutor of major war criminals during the trials in Japan. Under the direction of Gen. Douglas MacArthur he worked closely with the Japanese Diet to write its postwar constitution. He included sweeping changes to the constitution which assured the equality of all citizens. The previous law was based on a 1,000 year-old feudal code that had granted supreme power to individual family patriarchs. After his service in Japan, he went to Stanford where he earned a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1955. While a member of the faculty he taught Comparative Politics and chaired the Visiting Professorship of Austrian Studies. He published numerous works on Austria and was honored by the Austrian government for these valuable contributions.
Former Ambassador to the United States, Peter Moser, wrote in an obituary: "Kurt Steiner was a fine and excellent professor, teacher and role model. He combined the best of two continents. He will always be in our memory." A memorial service was held on March 6, 2004 at the Faculty Club of Stanford University. Funds are being collected for a memorial bench to be placed on the Stanford campus. Donations may be sent to the Steiner Bench Fund, 420 N. McKinley St. #440, Corona, CA 92879-6504.