German Biographical Encyclopedia

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The German Biographical Encyclopedia (DBE) is a biographical reference work edited by Walther Killy and (from the third or fourth volume) Rudolf Vierhaus , the first edition of which was published in 13 volumes from 1995 to 2003 by KG Saur Verlag . Between 2005 and 2008 a twelve-volume second, revised and expanded edition was published.


The first edition of the German Biographical Encyclopedia contains articles on around 56,000 people. In the second edition this number grew to around 63,000 people. The majority of the articles are short biographies compiled by the editors; there are also around 1,300 detailed personal articles written by experts and signed by name.

The recording period begins with the beginning of the written transmission and extends to the present - with the exception of living people. Life and work, origin, educational path, influential encounters, significant works and achievements, friendships, membership of groups and associations, reception, in special cases prizes and honors are documented. The geographic area to which the DBE refers is defined by the German language. In addition to people from Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland, who from a historical perspective also include those from Alsace, the Baltic States, South Tyrol, etc., the DBE also includes emigrants or German-speaking minorities abroad.

First edition criticism

In contrast to the New German Biography (NDB), which has not yet been completed , the DBE was largely created as a compilation from other reference works, with only a very small proportion of articles written specifically for the DBE. As a result, it was able to be implemented in a comparatively short period of time, but it also attracted corresponding criticism. The FAZ reviewer Patrick Bahners described the DBE as a "huge copier company".

Ernst Klee criticized the content and accused the DBE of whitewashing Nazi careers. It reflects “denazification in the science sector in the most beautiful way. There are no more Nazis. Even the highest-ranking physicians in Himmler's Schutzstaffel, the elite of Nazi terror, are honored as honorable ordinaries ”.

The reviewer of the Internet review magazine , an entrepreneurial activity at the Philipps University of Marburg, provides a general overview of the origins of the individual articles in the first edition and indicates specific areas for improvement.


In the encyclopedia there is also an entry about a fictional person ( Carl August von Schimmelthor ). The employees of the encyclopedia involved in the publication include the medical historian Dietrich von Engelhardt and the church historian Bernd Moeller .


German Biographical Encyclopedia ,

Web links

Individual evidence

  3. cf. Review (PDF) by Klaus Schreiber in Informationsmittel für Libraries (IFB) 1999, Supplement 9
  4. Patrick Bahners: Must be missing in an educated house. The German Biographical Encyclopedia teaches thinking away . In: FAZ . November 30, 1999, p. L 33.
  5. Ernst Klee: Of German Fame. The example of the popular “German Biographical Encyclopedia” shows how the Nazi careers of a number of scientists are still covered up and concealed today . In: The time . September 25, 2003 (online edition).
  6. Helge Schmid biography: More than a game. The "German Biographical Encyclopedia" by Killy / Vierhaus . In: , November 2001 (online edition).