Short Portrait: Erich Podach

Erich Podach
Erich Podach

* 22. November 1894 in Budapest; † 20. August 1967 in Heidelberg

Podach was baptized as Erich Friedrich (Frigyes) Podach as son of Ágoston Podach and his wife Irma, née. Feiler, into a German-Hungarian-Jewish family. He received his PhD in 1927, he moved to Switzerland in 1931 and to Germany in 1941.

As a philologist, Podach was a specialist on Friedrich Nietzsche. 

Podach was one of the few participants from the Sowjet Zone at the first postwar meeting of the GAA (Sept. 19. to 21., 1946 in Frankfurt/Main). He propagated a cultural science approach which was marginal at the time in German anthropology.

In his analysis of hair color and social ranking he rejected an approach based on a racial basis. In his analysis of Lévy-Bruhls writings, he also fought against romanticism in German anthropology: whilst in Germany it was common to focus only on the early writings of Lévy-Bruhl and to interpret participation as a feature of primitive mentality, Podach argued that Lévy-Bruhl changed his position in later years, an issue that was not recognized in the German debate.

As one of the first anthropologists, in 1948 Podach calls for researching the displaced persons that settled in Germany after WWII.  He argued that anthropologists should help those persons to acculturate to the new situation.

In 1948 Podach left Germany and dedicated himself to study the History of Science in the 16th century.

In 1952, Podach lived in Paris. In the Mid-1950s, he taught Ethnology at the High School for Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung) in Ulm. In the Mid-1960s, he taught as honorary professor for Systematic Culture Science (esp. Cultural Anthropology) at the University of Stuttgart.

(text written by Dieter Haller, 2011; photo source:

Important writings:

  • 1927 Body, Temperament and Character (Orig.: Körper, Temperament und Charakter), Ullstein, Berlin
  • 1932 Personalities around Nietzsche (Orig.: Gestalten um Nietzsche), Weimar
  • 1937 The Sick Nietzsche (Orig.: Der kranke Nietzsche), Wien
  •  1951 About Lévy-Bruhls Theory in Primitive Mentality (Orig.: Zum Abschluß von Lévy- Bruhls Theorie über die Mentalität der Primitiven), in: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, N 1., S. 42-49
  • 1952/53 Hair Color and Rankting. A Contribution to the Ethnology of Beauty (Orig.: Haarfarbe und Stand. Ein aktualisierter Beitrag zur Ethnologie des Schönen), in: Tribus, Jahrbuch des Linden Museums, NF 2/3, S. 103-24
  •  1958/59 Alexander von Humboldt and Condorcet (Orig.: Alexander von Humboldt und Condorcet),
  • 1961 Friedrich Nietzsches Oeuvre on Decay (Orig.: Friedrich Nietzsches Werke des Zusammenbruchs), Wolfgang Rothe Verlag, Heidelberg