Essential Reading on Nazi-time Indology (III)

Jan E.M. Houben j_e_m_houben at YAHOO.COM
Wed May 9 10:07:42 EDT 2007

 Essential Reading, third and last installment
  (5) 2004 Sanskrit and ‘Orientalism’: Indology and Comparative Linguistics in Germany, 1750-1958, ed. by D.T. McGetchin, P.K.J. Park, Damodar SarDesai, Delhi: Manohar.
  Particularly relevant to nazi-time european indology are “Innovation Amid Controversy: Indology at Leipzig, 1841-1958” by Frank Neubert (p. 173-195) and Hartmut Scharfe’s “Comments on Chapters Six to Eight” (p. 231-236); although not specifically dealing with our period several other contributions are important for its historical background, esp. Wilhelm Halbfass “Special Comments” (p. 237-244) and Pascale Rabault’s “From Language to Man? German Indology and Ethnology in the Epistemological Battlefield of the Nineteenth Century” (337-360). 
  (6) 2006 Grünendahl, Reinhold “Von der Indologie zur Völkermord: die Kontinuitätskonstrukte Sheldon Pollocks und seiner Epigonen im Lichte ihrer Beweisführung” in Jaina-Itihasa-Ratna: Festschrift für Gustav Roth zum 90. Geburtstag (ed. by Ute Hüsken, Petra Kiefer-Pülz, and Anne Peters in the series Indica et Tibetica ed. by Michael Hahn, Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Konrad Klaus, Roland Steiner), 209-236. 
  A layer of distortive polemical rhetorics (for instance: “some indologists at least”= “german indology”, "someone citing or referring to Pollock 1993"="epigone") creates the impression, I hope incorrectly, that the author not only tries to refute Pollock 1993 – the importance of which for our present subject is only further confirmed – but also tries to scare away scholars from ever daring to cite or refer to it. One may therefore question whether it is a suitable contribution to a Festschrift for the sound and serious scholar and thorough humanist Prof. Gustav Roth. 
  Apart from polemical rhetorics, what do we find in Grünendahl 2006? Courageously beating the dead horse of Saidian orientalism critique which formed the theoretical starting point of Pollock’s 1993 (what I called ‘strand a’ above), it presents an enthusiastic, if not desperate, apologetic of nazi-time german indology (apparently only an imagined "pure" indology), at the cost of the personality and integrity of its exponents; for instance, Grünendahl’s split of the philologist Wüst and the political ideologue Wüst (“Trotz der Bezugnahme auf Rgveda und Edda spricht hier nicht der Philologe Wüst, sondern der politische Ideologe, wie nicht zuletzt der zeitgeschichtliche Bezug auf die „völkische Wiedergeburt“ deutlich macht”) goes counter to Wüst’s own emphatic and repeated selfpresentation as a scientist addressing a wider public. 
  Grünendahl 2006 gives additional references to nazi-time Walter Wüst, for whose role in that period Pollock 1993 is the first easily accessible publication. Junginger 2003: 190 note 19 emphasizes the lack of historiographic attention for Walter Wüst and can only refer to a publication or working paper of the Gesellschaft für interdisziplinäre Forschung Tübingen entitled Mit Akribie und Bluff ins Zentrum der Macht: Walther Wüst und das ‘Etymologische und vergleichende Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen’. See now also the recent message on this list from Prof. Stella Sandahl on a Munich thesis on Walther Wüst.   
  Wüst's work Indogermanisches Bekenntnis: sechs Reden (Berlin 1942) which he explicitly wrote as scientist for a wider public (cf. the Nachwort) was an important Ahnenerbe publication, part of which was translated into Dutch and appeared under the title Indogermaanse Belijdenis (publisher Hamer, Amsterdam 1944). If the humanities are a science in the german concept of it (Geisteswissenschaft), Wüst’s Indogermanisches Bekenntnis (1942; containing lectures given between 1936-1942) with its careful, scholarly justifications (citations of primary sources and references to the publications of german and international scholars) of each major statement and judgement, was nothing more or less than a work of applied science with very specific aims and goals entirely in tune with those of the contemporaneous government. The predicate "deep Mimamsaka" from Halbfass' joking statement (see Essential Reading (I)) would perhaps not have been entirely innadequate for some of Hitler's
 devoted professors. 
  As rector of the university of München it seems most likely he was co-responsible for the persecution and fast execution of Hans Scholl (1918-1943), Sophie Scholl (1921-1943), Kurt Huber (1893-1943) and other members of the non-violent resistance group the White Rose (see now Wikipedia-articles on this movement and its members).  Not only protesting indologists and orientalists were rare in Germany and in Europe – and protesting was dangerous indeed – but protesting academicians from any discipline (an exception was R.P. Cleveringa, prof. of law at Leiden University, which was closed after his protest speech on 26 November 1940). Fortunately there were also a few common people such as Sophie Scholl who could not be scared away from expressing their view in spite of an indology professor in powerful position... 
Jan Houben 
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