Essential Reading on Nazi-time European Indology (I)

Jan E.M. Houben j_e_m_houben at YAHOO.COM
Sat May 5 13:57:49 EDT 2007

Essential Reading on Nazi-time European Indology
  In view of the warm interest which friends and colleagues accorded to an earlier reference to items that should form part of “Essential reading on Nazi-time European Indology” published in 1995 as part of a conference report and still accessible in the on-line archive of the IIAS-Newsletter (<>), I suggest here an updated list, which, it should be emphasized, by no means tries to be exhaustive but is to be regarded as an introductive bibliographie raisonnée on this sensitive topic. Indology was more or less since its beginnings, end 18th – beginning 19th century, mainly “European” in character with intensive cooperations between French, British and German specialists, and has thus not only been sharing Oriental dreams but also a Nazi-nightmare. Since 5 May is the date of the foundation of the Council of Europe (1949) [not to be confounded with the European Economic Community] which adopted the European convention of human
 rights in 1950, this is perhaps a proper date to launch this new version of Essential Reading. Because of its length I will send it in installments between today and 9 May, birthday of Sophie Scholl (1921-1943), heroin of German non-violent resistance for whose persecution and speedy execution the then rector of the University of München, the indogermanist Walther Wüst (cf. Titus galeria:, was probably co-responsible. 
  A. Full fledged studies of Nazi-time European Indology
   – nil –
  On this important lacuna both in the history of nazi-time Germany and in the history of Indology cf. Hufnagel 2003: 160 note 20 “Eine kritische Forschungsgeschichte der deutschen Indologie liegt bisher nicht vor. ... Hinweise finden sich bei Pollock 1993.” On the impossibility to isolate German from European indology in a meaningful way cf. Halbfass 2004: 237-244: “ ... the whole notion of a specifically German encounter with India makes me somewhat uncomfortable. ... Max Müller ... Is he German? Is he British?”
  B. Studies (partly) dealing with (aspects of) Nazi-time European Indology
  (1) 1993 Pollock, Sheldon I. 
  “Deep orientalism? Notes on Sanskrit and Power beyond the Raj.” Orientalism and the postcolonial predicament: Perspectives on South Asia (ed. by C. Breckenridge and P. van der Veer): 76-133. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 
  Several strands are intertwined in this essay: (a) a widening of the scope of Saidian orientalism critique, (b) the history of Nazi-time German Indology, (c) discourses of domination of “high Brahmanism” (Mimamsa, Dharmasastra), and (d) reflections on the development of a “critical Indology.” In our present context important is Pollock’s study of the history of Nazi-time German Indology (strand b), a study that can be appreciated independent of Pollock’s theoretical reflections which he offers for discussion. For a brief discussion and critique of Pollock’s widened orientalism critique (strand a), see p. 18-19 of Halbfass’s first essay in Beyond Orientalism (ed. by E. Franco and K. Preisendanz; Amsterdam 1997; cf. my review in IIAS Newsletter 1998 no. 15 p. 16). Halbfass makes a joke about Hitler as a “deep Mimamsaka.” The indologist Friedrich Wilhelm (well-known for instance for a study of Prüfung und Initiation im Buche Pausya of the Mahabharata), was directly
 acquainted with several persons and events discussed by Pollock, and after the publication of Pollock’s article he recommended it to private students who used to come  to his home, adding the comment that things were in fact even worse than described by Pollock ... 
  Pollock’s article is the first easily accessible publication where some data on Nazi-time German Indology are found together, for instance a list of victims of the Nazi-German policies – the list is incomplete because of his focus on Germany. Pollock’s observation with regard to nazi-time German indologists: “Apart from the Indologists victimized by the "aryan paragraphs" whether as Jews themselves or because they were married to Jews (including Betty Heimann [emigrated], Walter Neisser [suicide, 1941], Walter Ruben [emigrated], Isidore Scheftelowitz [emigrated], Richard Simon, [died 1934], Moritz Spitzer [fate unknown], Otto Stein [died in Lodz Ghetto, 1942], Otto Strauss [died in flight in Holland, 1940], Heinrich Zimmer [emigrated]), none publicly opposed the regime, or left the country.” The observation can be extended to the countries cooperating with nazi-Germany or partly or fully occupied by them (helped by local nazis). Friedrich Wilhelm’s introductions to his
 editions of Otto Strauss’ and Otto Stein’s Kleine Schriften (resp. Wiesbaden 1983 and 1985) are brief but significant contributions to the biographies of these indologists and victims of the nazi-German government. Junginger 2003: 191-2, note 22 refers to Ausgegrenzte Kompetenz. Porträts vertriebener Orientalisten und Orientalistinnen 1933-1945. Eine Hommage anlässlich des XXVIII. Deutschen Orientalistentages, Bamberg 26.-30. März 2001, zusammengestellt von Ludmila Hamisch, Halle: Hanne Schönig,  2001, which I could not yet obtain.  
  (to be continued)
  Jan Houben

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