Following the advent of the National Socialist regime in the year 1938, more than 2,700 mostly Jewish affiliates of the University of Vienna were dismissed and subsequently driven away and/or murdered - lecturers, students and administration employees. Furthermore, over 200 people were stripped of their academic titles.
In 2008, 70 years after the so-called "Anschluss" [annexation] and the pogroms of what came to be cynically called the "Kristallnacht" [Crystal Night], the University of Vienna commemorates this injustice and  ...


Bernhard Geiger

  • Born: 04-30-1881
  • Faculty: Faculty of Philosophy
  • Category: expelled teacher

Bernhard GEIGER (born on April 30th, 1881 in Bielitz, Bohemia/Austro-Hungarian Empire [Bielsko-Biała/Poland], died on July 5th, 1964 in New York, NY/USA) was extraordinary professor (ao. Prof.) for Iranian and Indian philology at the Philosophical School of the University of Vienna in 1938.

He was persecuted in times of Nazism for political reasons, lost his position and was thrown out of the university in 1938.

Geiger attended the Protestant elementary school in Biala and from 1892 until 1900 the imperial-royal state secondary school in Bielitz [Bielsko-Biała], [1] where he joined the Zionist youth organization "Hasmoneah" Bielitz [Bielsko-Biała]. He then studied Hebrew, Persian and Sanskrit at the Universities of Vienna, Bonn, Prague, Göttingen and Heidelberg. During this time he also belonged to the Zionist student organization "Emunah" Bielitz [Bielsko-Biała] as well as the Jewish organization "B’nai B’rith". Geiger obtained his doctorate at the University of Vienna in 1904 and habilitated as private lecturer for Sanskrit and Persian in 1909. [2] In the academic year 1913/14 he received an honorary teaching assignment, which he held until he became associate professor. In the following years he regularly held courses on the Avestan language and middle-Persian dialects. [3]

Due to Geiger’s Jewish religion and his endorsement of Zionism, the conferment of the title of associate professor did not go smoothly. In the faculty, for example, the Botanist Richard Wettstein warned, that "the character of the university must remain German". [4] In the end, the authorities did, however, accredit him with the attribute "German": In a note from the ministry it read that Geiger belonged to "the German cultural sphere in regard to his school and scientific education". Even though he was "committed to Zionism [underlined in the original]", "in light of the whole situation" the faculty as well as the office of the rector was in favor of "treating him as a German". Inquiries at the government of Lower Austria had further shown that he was a "German-Austrian citizen" and "was descended from German parents, according to his own account". [5] The habilitation request was approved and Geiger became associate professor for Iranian and Indian philology on May 26th, 1919. [6] This was to be his last career step at the University of Vienna.

Geiger’s scientific career in Vienna ended abruptly after the "Anschluss" in March 1938: The ministry of education removed him from office by a decree from April 22nd, 1938, and suspended him "until further notice". [7] Dean Viktor Christian entrusted the private lecturer Erich Frauwallner with the continuation of Geiger’s lectures. [8] After a further disciplinary measure against him - a forced retirement as of May 28th, 1938 - Geiger decided to flee and emigrated to the United States in September. [9] In that same year he found employment at the Tibetan-Iranian institute in New York, where he worked as professor for Indo-Iranian philology. From 1951 until 1956 he was visiting professor and then adjunct professor for Indo-Iranian philology at the Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University. [10]

Geiger was a member of the American Oriental Society and the Linguistic Society of America. He received the Homayoun medal from the Iranian Shah for his achievements in the study of Iranian culture. [11]

One of Geiger’s most important accomplishments was the study of pre-Islamic Iranian languages and literature, in the course of which he also worked on middle-Iranian inscriptions at the synagogue of Dura-Europos. [12] Among his most famous works are "Die Religion der Iraner" (1929) and "Middle Iranian Texts" (1956). [13]

Lit.: Austrian State Archive/AdR, PA Geiger; Austrian State Archive/AVA, PA Geiger; Archive of the University of Vienna/PH PA 1727, PHIL GZ 659 ex 1937/38; MUEHLBERGER 1993, 40; KILLY/VIERHAUS Vol. 3 1996ROEDER Vol. 2 1983TETZLAFF 1982.

[1] UA, PA, Curriculum vitae, o. D.

[3] OeStA/AVA, PA, Oesterr. Staatsamt für Inneres und Unterricht 10736/1919, Antrag auf Ernennung zum ao. Prof.

[4] UA, PA, Protokoll zur Ernennung Geigers zum ao. Prof., 28. 1. 1918.

[5] OeStA/AVA, PA, Oesterr. Staatsamt für Inneres und Unterricht 8004/1919, Vermerk, o. D.

[6] Ibid., Oesterr. Staatsamt für Inneres und Unterricht 10736/1919, Dekret, 26. 5. 1919.

[7] UA, PHIL, GZ 659-1937/38, O.-Nr. 43, PHIL Dekanat an Geiger, 23. 4. 1938.

[8] Ibid., O.-Nr. 45, PHIL Dekanat an Frauwallner, 23. 4. 1938.

[9] ÖStA/AdR, BMU GZ 11.713-III712a-B/55, Vermerk, o. D.

[11] Ibid.

[13] TETZLAFF 1982.

Andreas Huber (translated by Thomas Rennert)


Bernhard Geiger wandering in the Vienna woods with Prof. Norbert Jokl, Ing. Knoepfelmacher and librarian Walter Frischauf, pre 1914 (c) Archive of the University of ViennaBernhard Geiger wandering in the Vi...

zuletzt aktualisiert am 01.05.2021

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