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Prof. Dr. Hermann Berger (†)

In memoriam: Hermann Berger

The Indologist and Linguist Hermann Berger, Emeritus Professor and former Head of the Department of Indology at the South Asia Institute, passed away on the 31st of January 2005 in Heidelberg.

Berger was born on the 17th of October 1926 in Koetzing (Bavaria). After school and military service he studied indology and comparative linguistics at the Munich where he also completed his doctorate (1953) and habilitation (1957). In the same year he became Asisstant Professor at the University of Münster. 1959 he was appointed a member of the German-Austrian Karakorum Expedition. It was the first time that he visited the Hunza valley which fascinated him all his life. From 1962 he spent a period of two years as Visiting Professor at the Sanskrit College in Calcutta, India. In 1964, he became Professor of Indology at the newly founded South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg and was active there till his retirement in 1993. He was the Director of the South Asia Institute in 1974/75, the Dean of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Classics between 1979-81 and remained a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences starting 1981.

Hermann Berger was a fine and learned scholar who devoted his life and his research to the study, in particular, of the endangered languages of South Asia. Most of his studies were published as small articles or miscellanea of linguistic problems. Many appeared in the Münchner Studien für Sprachwissenschaft. His extraordinary knowledge of Burushaski, one of the most complicated languages of North Pakistan, earned him international fame in the field of linguistics. His expertise and painstaking work in documenting Burushaski through many fieldtrips in the Karakorum region resulted among numerous report and articles in the three volume standard work on this language:Die Burushaski-Sprache von Hunza und Nager. I: Grammatik, II: Texte mit Übersetzung, III: Wörterbuch Burushaski-Deutsch /Deutsch-Burushaski (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1998).

Inspite of chronic health problems, the result of the war years, he engaged himself energetically and with great success in teaching, in building up the South Asia Institute and in encouraging research in the classical and modern languages of South Asia. He will be long and fondly remembered by the faculty of the South Asia Institute and his former students — some of them honoured him by the Festschrift Nanavidhaikata (ed. by Dieter B. Kapp, 1999) — for his excellent research, his commitment to teaching as well as his gentle sense of humour and humanity.

— Axel Michaels, Heidelberg

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