A former University of Minnesota professor, he later taught at Indiana University and Bard College in New York state.
Otto Pflanze, a former University of Minnesota professor of modern European history whose biography of the 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is a standard reference work around the world, died on March 3 at his home in Bloomington, Ind.
He was 88.
Theofanis Stavrou, professor of Russian history at the university, said the three-volume work, which Pflanze began while in Minnesota, was much more than a biography of Bismarck.
"It was his major contribution to modern European history, not just German history, because of the central role Bismarck played in reforming Germany, as well as being a major power broker in the 19th century," said Stavrou.
"It remains still the standard reference work," said Stavrou. "In his time, he was really on the cutting edge."
He left the U in 1976, winning several fellowships and eventually moving to a professorship at Indiana University, where he also served as editor of the American Historical Review.
Pflanze, a native of Maryville, Tenn., graduated with a history major from Maryville College in 1940. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Yale University in 1950.
He served as an officer in the Army Air Forces during World War II in the South Pacific.
For several years after the war he worked as a historian for the State Department. In 1948 he witnessed the Berlin Airlift in Germany, said his daughter, Katrine Pflanze, of Pittsburgh.
A former student at the University of Minnesota, Gordon R. Mork, now a professor of history at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., said Pflanze was an outstanding teacher, dispensing support and "helpful criticism," long after students graduated.
"Even as a severe critic, he always had a twinkle in his eye" said Mork, who recalled that when he told his mentor that he had become an assistant dean at the University of California, Davis, Pflanze replied, "Oh dear, you know what an assistant dean is? An assistant dean is a mouse in training to become a rat."
In 1987, Pflanze became a professor at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where he retired in 1992.
In retirement, he enjoyed travel, especially to the German Alps, and he worked overseeing the German translation of his opus on Bismarck.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Hertha, of Bloomington, Ind.; sons Charles, of St. Paul, and Stephen, of Lake Forest, Calif.; a sister, Eleanore Graham, of Winter Haven, Fla., and two grandsons.
Services will be held in Tennessee.
Ben Cohen firstname.lastname@example.org