Hugo Bernatzik

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hugo Adolf Bernatzik (born March 26, 1897 in Vienna ; † March 9, 1953 ibid) was an Austrian ethnologist and a founder of applied ethnology . Bernatzik has also become known as a photographer .


Hugo Adolf Bernatzik was the son of Edmund Bernatzik , full professor for public law, rector of the University of Vienna and member of the Imperial Court of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. After graduating from high school in 1915, he volunteered for the Austro-Hungarian army and was deployed in Albania , among other places . In 1920 he broke off his medical studies for financial reasons and studied at the University of World Trade , later also anthropology and ethnology at the University of Vienna . Bernatzik tried his hand at entrepreneurship and, after the untimely death of his first wife Margarete Ast (1904–1924), began extensive photo and research trips that became his profession and passion: 1924 Spain and Northwest Africa; 1925 Egypt and Somaliland ; 1927 Anglo-Egyptian Sudan ; between 1926 and 1930 Romania and Albania ; 1930/31 Portuguese Guinea (with Bernhard Struck , Völkerkundemuseum Dresden ); 1932/33 British Solomon Islands , British New Guinea , and Indonesia ( Bali ); 1934 Swedish Lapland ; 1936/37 Burma , Thailand and French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia). 1949/50 French Morocco .

Bernatzik financed his research and livelihood as a travel writer and freelance scientist, through photo reports, slide shows and acquisitions for ethnographic museums in Germany and Switzerland. His intensive journalistic activity and his extraordinary photos of foreign peoples made him a well-known personality; He planned to create a global photo archive of tribal peoples whom he saw as existentially threatened. In terms of colonial politics, Bernatzik later advocated an administration that should take greater account of the way of life of the residents and their environment.

In 1927 he married Emmy Winkler (1904–1977), who studied psychology in Vienna , became his assistant and accompanied him on several trips. From 1930 he studied ethnology , psychology, anthropology and geography at the University of Vienna and, on his return from Portuguese Guinea, received his doctorate in 1932 with a monograph on Kassanga . In 1935, Bernatzik published an article with the title “The extinction of the melonesians on the British Solomon Islands ” in the “ Zeitschrift für Rassekunde ”. In June of the same year he sought the venia legendi in Graz with a thesis on the development of children on the Solomon island of Owa Raha , and he received confirmation of his habilitation in May 1936 in Rangoon , in what was then the British colony of Burma . After his return from India in May 1937, in addition to his journalistic activities, he devoted himself to his - admittedly in vain - efforts to find a permanent academic position. At the beginning of 1939 he was finally appointed "extraordinary professor" at the University of Graz - a position without fixed pay. Plans for another expedition to the Chinese province of Yunnan , the area of ​​origin of some of the rear Indian hill tribes, came to an abrupt end with the beginning of the Second World War .

At the beginning of the war, Bernatzik was drafted into the Wehrmacht and, as a former officer of the First World War, was posted to Wiener Neustadt for pilot training . However, he did everything in his power to be released by the Wehrmacht for the publication of a manual for Africa, which colonial officials and European settlers should provide basic knowledge about the country and its people. The “Handbook of Applied Folklore” was intended as an instruction book for the Wehrmacht, which is why it was classified as “ indispensable ” together with other participants . Bernatzik also tried to create a basis for a future colonization policy with his work at that time. He rejected the concept of the cultural groups of Viennese folklore. This project was commissioned by the Colonial Political Office in Munich, the head of which Ritter von Epp was employed as a company commander in German South West Africa from 1904 to 1906 . As a revanchist, he became involved in the extremely conservative German colonial movement, which he eventually integrated into Hitler's Nazi party . Bernatzik was introduced to the "General" after a slide show in 1937.

Bernatzik tried since 1938 to become a member of the Research Foundation for German Ahnenerbe , Department Inner Asia , but was found unsuitable despite his NSDAP membership before 1935 and his good network within the party. Bernatzik came to Heinrich Himmler several times to discuss projects and his “conception of ethnology and its significance for the colonial problem”.

During the war he owed Ritter von Epp those courtesy reports which classified the work on his handbook for Africa as "important to the war effort", although Hitler had long since ceased to be interested in the "colonial question" and the KPA was torn apart by various party interest groups and soon only more existed on paper. After all, the protection of the “general” enabled Bernatzik and numerous employees to get through the war relatively unscathed and that some of his interventions in favor of persecuted personalities were successful. During the war, Bernatzik worked on the Africa handbook as well as on the completion of what is undoubtedly his most important work, the monograph Akha and Meau - Problems of Applied Ethnology in Back India . The finished manuscripts of both works were finally destroyed by a bomb attack on the Bibliographical Institute in Leipzig in 1944, and in the same year all the negatives in his archive burned after a bomb attack on a train station. With great effort, Bernatzik self-published the Africa Handbook as well as Akha and Meau in 1947 with unchanged text; the term “colonial ethnology” had already been replaced by “applied ethnology” in 1944.

Political engagement in the time of National Socialism and spying activities

Contrary to occasional claims that Bernatzik was a member of the NSDAP , which was banned in Austria until the Anschluss in March 1938 , postponed correspondence and documents in the Vienna City Hall between 1923 and 1944 show that he did not join the NSDAP until May 1, 1938. Since this was by no means easy at that time due to the NSDAP's ban on membership , he used a manipulated certificate of his alleged service for the party since 1933, for which a former school colleague and now full-time party official vouched. Bernatzik also became a member of the NSKK , the NSV , the RLB in 1938 and, on July 1, 1938, also a member of the Reich Chamber of Literature . In the application for membership of the Reich Chamber of Literature, Bernatzik referred to other memberships, including that of the Association of German Writers in Vienna .

From 1944, Bernatzik also worked as a passive political informant for the National Socialist Abwehrstelle , from April 1944 on he was listed as a "feeder, ethnologist" in area III C 1, which had the task of fending off enemy espionage in the ministries and state offices. Together with Oswald Menghin and Baumann, he was assigned to the specialist and personnel group “Science and University”.

Bernatzik's political commitment during the Nazi era had clear consequences after the end of World War II. 1946 files were "suspected of the crime of high treason created" which were based on Bernatziks illegal party membership before 1938 and Bernatzik blaming it, since the foundation of the Reich Chamber of Culture to have been in 1933 its member and also in conjunction with since then Kurt von Barisiani stood by to carry out important missions at home and abroad on his behalf. In addition, Bernatzik is said to have worked abroad on a special assignment from the German News Office .

In 1947, Bernatzik applied for amnesty to the Federal President. The request was not granted at first, but it was not accepted until the end of 1947, and the proceedings were then discontinued on suspicion of high treason. However, the Security Directorate saw the information presented about Bernatzik's well-networked career under National Socialism as evident and subsequently passed it on occasionally as information, which limited Bernatzik's further professional career and hindered his projects.

Death and posthumous honors

Hugo Bernatzik lived with his family in Vienna- Heiligenstadt in a villa that was built in 1911 by the architect Josef Hoffmann on behalf of his father and furnished by artists from the Wiener Werkstätte . In 1953 he died after years of serious illness at the age of 56. He left behind an important photographic work that is publicly available in Vienna at the Photoinstitut Bonartes, as well as numerous book publications that were translated into many languages ​​and reprinted again and again until the 1960s.

Bernatzik was buried at the Heiligenstädter Friedhof in Vienna. In 1957, Bernatzikgasse in Vienna- Döbling (19th district) was named after him.


  • Between the white Nile and the Belgian Congo , large quarters, with 204 photos. LW Seidel & Sohn, Vienna 1929.
  • Gari Gari. The call of the African wilderness , LW Seidel & Sohn, Vienna 1930.
  • Europe's forgotten land . With 105 illustrations. LW Seidel & Sohn, Vienna 1930 [later editions under the title: Albania. The land of the Schkipetars ]
  • The dark continent, Africa . Großquart, 256 photos (also by other authors), orbis terarum, Atlantis, Berlin 1930.
  • Mysterious islands of tropical Africa. The Empire of the Bidyogo on the Bissagos Islands , Wasmuth, Berlin-Zurich 1933.
  • Ethiopia of the west. Research trips to Portuguese Guinea , 2 volumes, 378 photos, 11 color plates, 67 drawings, LW Seidel & Sohn, Vienna 1933.
  • South seas . With 66 photos, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1934.
  • Lapland . LW Seidel & Sohn, Vienna 1935.
  • Owa Raha . Bernina Verlag, Vienna-Leipzig-Olten 1936.
  • The Spirits of the Yellow Leaves: Research trips to the back of India , with the collaboration of Emmy Bernatzik. 204 pictures, Bruckmann, Munich 1938.
  • Akha and Meau. Problems of applied ethnology in back India , 2 volumes, 108 photos, 4 color plates, 431 drawings, commission publishing house of the Wagner'schen Univ.-Buchdruckerei, Innsbruck 1947.

As editor and co-author:

  • The great ethnology. Manners, customs and beings of foreign peoples . 3 volumes. Leipzig: Bibliographical Institute 1939.
  • Africa. Handbook of applied ethnology , 2 volumes, 202 photos, 10 maps, with the collaboration of 32 specialist authors from Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Belgium. Wagner'schen Univ.-Buchdruckerei, Innsbruck 1947.
    • Volume 1: North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Northwest Africa, Sahara), Sudan (Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Nilots, tribes between Shari and Nile, Central Sudan, Central Sahara, West Sudan, Guinea Coast), West Africa (Gold Coast, Togo, South Nigeria, Cameroon).
    • Volume 2: Congo region (Belgian Congo, Lower Congo-Ogowe), East Africa (North East Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Rwanda-Urundi), Angola-Zambezi region (Portuguese East Africa, Nyassaland, South-North Rhodesia, Angola) ; South Africa (South West Africa, African Union and British Protectorates), Madagascar.


  • Annemarie Schweeger-Hefel:  Bernatzik, Hugo Adolf. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 103 ( digitized version ).
  • Hermann Mückler : ethnologist, photographer, publicist - An Austrian in Melanesia: Hugo A. Bernatzik. In the S. (Ed.): Austrians in the Pacific. Vol. 2. Österreichisch- Südpazifische Gesellschaft , Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-9500765-1-4 , pp. 185–196.
  • Doris Byer : The Hugo A. Bernatzik Case. A life between ethnology and the public 1897–1953. Böhlau, Cologne / Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-412-12698-5 .
  • Jacques Ivanoff: Hugo Adolf Bernatzik, The Birth of a Tutelary Spirit of Southeast Asian Ethnology. In: Bernatzik, Southeast Asia. 5 Continents Editions, Milan 2003, pp. 19–42. Ibid: Alison Devine Nordström: Of Art and Ethnography: Photographs of Southeast Asia by Hugo Adolf Bernatzik. ISBN 88-7439-044-0 , pp. 43-49.
  • Florian Stifel: Who was Hugo A. Bernatzik? In: Tribal, The Magazine of Tribal Art. Volume 38 (Summer 2005), pp. 108-111.
  • Jacques Ivanoff: Introduction and Analysis of the Moken Oral Corpus. In: Moken and Semang, 1936-2004 Persistence and Change, Hugo A. Bernatzik. White Lotus, Bangkok 2005, ISBN 974-480-082-8 , pp. XV-XLV.
  • Jørgen Rischel: Introduction, linguistic analysis of the Mlabri. In: The Spirits of the Yellow Leaves, Hugo Adolf Bernatzik. White Lotus, Bangkok 2005, ISBN 974-480-071-2 , pp. XI – XXXVIII.
  • Doris Byer , Christian Reder (ed.): Drawing as a universal language. Works from Southeast Asia and Melanesia. Hugo A. Bernatzik collection. Springer, Vienna / New York 2011, ISBN 978-3-7091-0799-7 .

Web links


  1. a b c d e f Street names in Vienna since 1860 as “Political Places of Remembrance” (PDF; 4.4 MB), p. 210ff, final research report, Vienna, July 2013
  2. ^ Foundation German Historical Museum: Just seen on LeMO: LeMO biography. Retrieved June 3, 2020 .