Accepted paper:

"War in particular offers exceptionally favorable opportunities for surveying foreign racial material" (Otto Reche (1879-1966), 1944)

Author:

Katja Geisenhainer (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

During the Second World War Otto Reche offered his services as an expert in the racial question in "settlement and resettlement of the former Polish East". Furthermore he tried to use the situation for his own research: he instructed to scrutinise Jews and other people who were sentenced to die.

Paper long abstract:

During the First World War, social anthropologists, physical anthropologists, linguists and musicologists in Germany and Austria took advantage of an unique situation: they had the opportunity to study and measure people of foreign countries without having to travel long distances. On their expeditions overseas most of the social and physical anthropologists behaved in a manner as if they were superior to the inhabitants. Now, in the prisoners-of-war camps the balance of power was clearly defined and without ambiguity. In the Third Reich scientists in both countries examined not only people in prisoner-of-war camps, but also people in occupied areas or of their own state who were persecuted. The paper will focus on Otto Reche, director of the institute of ethnology and racial studies in Leipzig from 1927 until 1945, for whom race or racial affiliation was the base of all his explanations and his ethnological theories. He was one of the anthropologists who studied prisoners of war during the First World War. Later on he concentrated on the Slavs in particular - mainly for political reasons. When the Second World War began he regreted that he could not fight as a soldier - he celebrated his 60th birthday in 1939. He therefore offered his services as an expert in the racial question in "settlement and resettlement of the former Polish East". Furthermore Reche tried to use the situation for his own research: he instructed students and former students to scrutinise Jews and other people who were sentenced to die.

panel W050
Studying anthropologists in war and conflict zones: spies and freedom fighters, scholars and advocates