Eric H. Boehm
1918 - 2017
Eric H. Boehm passed away peacefully at home on September 11, 2017, at age 99.
Eric was born in the town of Hof, Germany, on July 15, 1918. Eric’s father fought in World War I, and although wounded twice, he returned after the war to operate a retail textile business like many of his ancestors before him. The family settled in a village in Germany’s northern Bavarian region, not far from Hof, a small alpine city noted for its textile mills and breweries.
Concerned about the evolving anti-Semitism in Germany, Eric’s parents Karl and Bertl sent Eric, then age 16, to Youngstown, Ohio to live with his paternal uncle and aunt, Jacob and Blanch Oppenheimer. They became Eric’s surrogate parents during his formative teenage years.
Not until 1941, after being forced out of their home and placed in a ghetto, were Eric’s parents able to escape from a certain death in Germany to the safety of the United States. They first came to New York City, eventually joining Eric in Santa Barbara in the 1960’s.
From 1936 to 1940 Eric attended the College of Wooster in Ohio, graduating with degrees chemistry and history. In later years Eric’s alma mater honored him twice: in 1973 with an honorary doctorate for advances in computerization in publishing for the library market and for work in the dissemination of knowledge, and later, in 1990, with a “Distinguished Alumnus” award.
A pivotal point in Eric’s choice of career came when his Wooster chemistry professor sent him to a job interview, and he was turned away because of his religion. Outraged, the professor found Eric a post as a teaching assistant at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. With a full fellowship there, Eric flourished and pursued his enthusiasm for history and political affairs, obtaining a master’s degree in 1942.
In 1942, Eric enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He became a 1st Lieutenant in the intelligence branch, first stationed in an interrogation center in England. He is generally credited with conducting successful interrogations of top leaders of Germany’s aerial warfare branch, the Luftwaffe. He ended up in Berlin in 1946 to help dissolve the Supreme Command of the German Luftwaffe. He was working at the headquarters of the U.S. Military Government when he met his wife Inge. They were married in 1948 in Glencoe, Illinois, in a joint wedding ceremony alongside his brother Werner and sister-in-law Bernice. Eric and Inge were married for 52 years before Inge’s death in November 2000.
After the Air Force, Eric attended Yale University in 1951 where he earned a PhD in international relations and history. While Eric was a graduate student at Yale he published the highly successful book We Survived: Fourteen Stories of the Hidden and Hunted in Nazi Germany, still in print. He wrote it to convey to an American audience the impact of a totalitarian dictatorship on the lives of dissidents, Jews and all those who opposed the Nazi regime.
In the 1950s, during and after the Korean War, Eric was employed by the Department of the Air Force in Vienna and Munich, again in intelligence.
A lifelong interest in “preserving knowledge” led Eric to a start a career in historical bibliography. In 1952, in Vienna, Austria, Eric and Inge started work on what became the publishing company ABC-CLIO, an internationally known publishing company now based in Santa Barbara, California. He and Inge moved to Santa Barbara in 1960, and the firm grew locally and internationally. Eric took pride in his wife Inge’s achievements in the business and deeply appreciated her role as co-founder. In the 1960’s Inge was honored by the mayor of Santa Barbara and others on the occasion of the naming of the Library of the American Bibliographic Center as the Inge P. Boehm Library.
Eric was an early environmentalist. He launched the publication Environmental Periodicals Bibliography shortly after the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1968 within the non-profit International Academy at Santa Barbara, which he helped found. He worked closely with Joanne St John.
Although he never “retired,” in 1982 Eric left his position as CEO of ABC-CLIO in the hands of his son Ron, and shortly thereafter launched ISIM (The International School of Information Management). Eric was an early pioneer of distance learning, and all ISIM courses were offered only remotely, online (but before the Internet). Courses at ISIM were taken by senior executives at Xerox, Sun Microsystems, and other multi-national companies. ISIM also offered an MBA and M.S’.s in Information Management and Information Technology. He worked closely with his colleague Mary Adams in Santa Barbara and in Irvine.
BoehmGroup, Eric’s late-in-life business, specialized in the publication of personal, nonprofit and business stories in the form of books, audios and videos. Notable among book production was Santa Barbara City College: A Century of Success: A Future of Possibilities, published on the 100th anniversary of the college’s founding. Eric was especially happy to work closely in BoehmGroup with his son Steve and grandson Jeff.
Eric served on the boards of the Anti-Defamation League and Santa Barbara City College Foundation. The Inge & Eric Boehm Research Room was named in their honor at the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society. Eric contributed funds to the SBCC Foundation, which supported the Global and International Studies Programs, as well as a genealogy course at the School of Extended Learning. He was Rotarian and a member of Congregation B’nai Brith.
Eric was preceded in death by daughters Beatrice and Evelyn, who died in childhood, and by his wife Inge. He is survived by three sons and their families: Ulli and his spouse Edith who live in Germany, and in Santa Barbara, son Ronald and spouse Marlys (children Kevin, Kristin and Katie), and son Steven and spouse Ingrid (son Ryan and son Jeff and spouse Ashley, and daughters Lucy and Nora). Aaron and Nancy Baker, who lived with Eric and Inge for 35 years, were his extended family. During the latter years of his life Eric enjoyed the companionship of Judy Pochini.
The family wishes to thank Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care for their vital end of life assistance. Also, the family deeply thanks caregivers Carmen Camarillo, Maria Guerra, Adela Guzman, and Nina Vazquez.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in honor of Eric’s deep commitment to education and peace (Scholarship Foundation and United Way of Santa Barbara and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Anti-Defamation League).
Eric’s memorial service will be held at a date to be announced.