Short Portrait: Franz Baermann Steiner

Franz Baermann Steiner
Franz Baermann Steiner

Franz Baermann Steiner was born in Karolinenthal, Bohemia (now a district of Prague) in 1909. He grew up in a German speaking jewish family and developed an early interest in literature and languages as well as in Marxism . His father was a merchant.

Baermann Steiner entered secondary school in 1920. From 1928 onward he studied Semitic Languages and Anthropology at the German University of Prague. He furthermore studied Arabic in Jerusalem in 1930/31. After his return to Prague Baermann Steiner graduated with a Ph D thesis on Arabic word formation in 1935.

Due to the increasing Antisemitism and Nazism Baermann Steiner was forced to leave Prague. He moved to London in 1936 and became a student of Malinowksi at the London School of Economics (LSE). Baermann Steiner eventually returned to Eastern Europe to do research on Roma communities in Eastern Czechoslovakia.

From 1938 onward Baermann Steiner continued his studies of Anthropology in Oxford. Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard were among his teachers during the following years, while Meyer Fortes, Louis Dumont and Mary Douglas were among his fellow students.

Many members of his family were exterminated during the Holocaust and their properties were confiscated by the Nazi regime. During the 1940s Baermann Steiners personal situation and state of health became increasingly delicate.

Baermann Steiner began lecturing on Social Anthropology in Oxford in 1949. He died of a heart attack only three years later. His book "Taboo" was published posthumously while his major work on the Sociology of Slavery remained unfinished.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in July 2012, based on German and English articles at; photo source:

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