Erika Sulzmann (1911-1989) and her academic career during the National Socialist period
Katja Geisenhainer (University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
Erika Sulzmann studied during the Nazi era and was entrusted with a colonial political task including trips to France and Belgium. The lecture gives an insight into the beginning of her career, how easily she became part of the regime, and how the past was handled in the postwar period.
Paper long abstract:
The beginning of Erika Sulzmann's academic career fell to a significant extent in the Nazi era. In 1931 she started to work as a designer, photographer and librarian at the Institute of Culture Morphology in Frankfurt under Leo Frobenius. Here Sulzmann could attend courses of "Völkerkunde" simultaneously. After the death of Frobenius in 1938 Sulzmann continued her study in Vienna in 1940, where Hermann Baumann had only just become the head of the department of "Völkerkunde". Sulzmann worked as a technical assistant to Baumann. On his instruction she began to draw a "tribe-map of Africa". For this work and with support of the NSDAP Office of Colonial Policy and of the Reich Research Council, Sulzmann, who was unmarried and childless, travelled to research in French and Belgian archives. This "tribe-map" was never completed but Sulzmann used some of the material to write her dissertation after the war. Today her name is associated with the establishment of the "Institut für Völkerkunde", University of Mainz, founded after WW II, as she was one of the first assistants. Furthermore she led the Congo Expedition (1951-1954), a German post-war fieldwork project. The beginning of Sulzmann's career reminds us of several aspects: the "normal" academic lifeworld of those who were not persecuted during the Nazi period; how women undertook more tasks because many men were drafted to military-service, how easily the individual became part of the regime and how personal networks inhibited a reflection on the Nazi period at the universities in the postwar period.
On the move: fieldwork, academy and home in the early anthropologists' careers