Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.3.20


Utz Maas, Verfolgung und Auswanderung deutschsprachiger Sprachforscher 1933-1945. Band 1: Einleitung und biobibliographische Daten A-F. Osnabrueck: Secolo, 1996. Pp. 288. DM 98. ISBN 3-929979-23-3.


Reviewed by Martin Haase, University of Osnabrueck, martin.haase@cl-ki.uni-osnabrueck.de.

As the title says, the book deals with the "persecution and emigration of German-speaking language researchers" during the period of Nazi rule in Europe. The first 157 pages give a general overview of the people involved, of the political background, the events and their consequences. They contain a detailed bibliography (pp.112-138) and various overview tables. It becomes obvious that the present state of the language sciences and philologies was largely determined by the described events. Of course, the main focus of the book is on Germany and Austria, but the difficulties and the opposition that the immigrants encountered in the process of integration in US academia and the consequences for the development of the field are discussed as well (see especially pp.36-41).

The second part of the book contains the biographies of persecuted language researchers. In this first volume, only the letters A-F (47 biographies) are treated in depth (although the biographical data of other people can be retrieved from the huge apparatus of 774 notes). In the preface, the author leaves it open whether a second volume containing the remaining 131 biographies (G-Z) will appear. The reason for using the unfamiliar term "language researchers" comes from the difficulty of clearly assigning the majority of the scholars to one specific field or philology. Until the middle of the century, it was not unusual to work on the borderline of linguistics, philology, and literature (e.g. E. Auerbach, K. and H. Collitz, or L. Spitzer) or in even wider fields of investigation (e.g. K. Buehler or E.A. Cassirer). Not surpringly, there are a number of Yiddishists and Hebraists; in spite of their sometimes impressive contributions to the field, some of them are hardly known nowadays. Specialists in Medieval and Classical Philologies are also taken into consideration.

The interesting biography of the philologist Eva Fiesel (1891-1937) may serve as an example (pp.269-272): In spite of the unfavorable circumstances of the first World War (Eva Fiesel worked as a nurse) and in the 1920s (as a divorced mother she had to earn her living outside her field and look after her young daughter), her outstanding dissertation on Etruscan made her immediately known in the field of Classical Philology. Having started a promising carrier at the University of Rostock in Germany, she lost her teaching appointment in 1933 (she has Jewish ancestors) in spite of her colleagues' and students' protest. She was able to emigrate to the United States with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation and obtained a temporary position at Bryn Mawr. It turned out that her specialization did not allow for a regular professorship. With the help of some colleagues, funds were raised to create a professorship especially for her. Her work on gender in Etruscan and Indo-European is still unparalleled, moreover she contributed to a variety of subjects in Classical and Modern Philology as well as in general linguistics, she was an active member of the young Linguistic Society of America. Her methodologically rigorous approach to philology (very common especially among the first generations of women in the field, cf. footnote 683) anticipates post-war tendencies in the language sciences. As in many other biographies, it seems obvious that certain methodological choices which can be explained by the experience of persecution, and emigration became the foundation of later developments in the field. The author of the book is, however, very cautious with such conclusions.

The author did not study published material only, but mainly relied on personal interviews, public and private archives, unpublished material or material accessible only with difficulty. His provocative, but well documented approach makes the book highly readable.