Hans Helfritz (composer)

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Hans Helfritz

Hans Helfritz (born July 25, 1902 in Hilbersdorf near Chemnitz , † October 21, 1995 in Duisburg ) was a German composer , musicologist , writer and photographer .


At the urging of his parents, Hans Helfritz began an apprenticeship as a banker, which he soon broke off to begin studying music and musicology in Berlin and Vienna . Inspired by his teacher Erich von Hornbostel , he traveled in 1930 Egypt , Palestine , Syria and Iraq to folk music for ethnomusicological to gather research. In 1935 he traveled to India , Sri Lanka , Malaysia , the Republic of China and Singapore .

Helfritz continued to make films about Yemen and Mexico on behalf of UFA . In doing so, he deliberately circumvented the directive issued by Joseph Goebbels to portray foreign peoples as culturally inferior.

In 1939 Helfritz, whose homosexuality and political stance had brought him the hostility of the Nazi state , fled first to Brazil and Bolivia before settling in Chile . As official photographer Helfritz participated in the Chilean Antarctica - Expedition part. He became a Chilean citizen in the late 1940s.

After Helfritz had explored Central America and West Africa archaeologically and ethnologically in the 1950s , he changed his job first to tour guide, then to lecture traveler. In 1959 he settled in Ibiza .



Helfritz began as a composer, inspired by the atonal music of Arnold Schönberg , by jazz and the language of Paul Hindemith , whose pupil he was also briefly. Another collaboration in the 1930s connected him with Carl Orff . Hellfritz dealt early on with the then new forms of radio and film music , and he provided his films with his own music. Helfritz's style is characterized by great clarity in composition and instrumentation , he preferred small ensembles and the technique of linear counterpoint .

Writer and photographer

As a writer, Hans Helfritz was best known through numerous travel reports. His publications ranged from books for young people to art historical and ethnological depictions of non-European peoples. His photographic legacy (over 80,000 photos) can be found in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne.


  • Morocco Berber castles and royal cities of Islam . DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1970, ISBN 3-7701-0517-7 .
  • Voyages of discovery in South Arabia . On unknown routes through Hadramaut and Yemen (1933 and 1935). DuMont, Cologne 1977, ISBN 3-7701-1023-4 .
  • South America : Pre-Columbian high culture and the art of the colonial era. A travel companion to the art venues in Colombia , Ecuador , Peru and Bolivia . 9th edition. DuMont, Cologne 1988, ISBN 3-7701-0624-5 .
  • Likan Antai / In the land of the Atacameños . In: Kosmos. Issue 12. Franck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1954, pp. 561-566.
  • Arabia: the last wonders of the desert . P. List, Leipzig 1944.
  • In the land of the Queen of Sheba . E. Brockhaus, Wiesbaden 1952.

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