Short Portrait: Günther Spannaus

Günther Spannaus
Günther Spannaus

Günther Spannaus was born in Northeim near Hannover in 1901. His father was a book trader.

After finishing school in 1920 Spannaus took up his studies at the business school in Leipzig in order to become an international tradesman. He graduated in 1923. Moreover, Spannaus began to study Anthropology, Geography and African Studies at the university in Leipzig. Karl Weule was among his teachers.

Spannaus eventually moved to Göttingen, where he also studied Law and Economics. In 1927/28 he completed his Ph D thesis on the political structure of African states and passed his exams on Anthropology, Economics and African Languages in Leipzig.

The same year Spannaus took up an assistant position at the Institute for Ethnology chaired by Otto Reche. In 1931/32 Spannaus was head of an expedition to Mozambique where he and his team not only collected objects but also did ethnographic research. After his return Spannaus began to write his habilitation thesis.

Spannaus joined the SA in the 1930s and became part of the High Command of the German Army in 1938. Between 1939 and 1941 he participated in World War II. Eventually he began lecturing on the Anthropology of Africa at the university in Berlin but had to serve as a soldier again in 1944. In 1945 he became a prisoner of war in the french sector.
He participated at the first meeting of German anthropologists after WW II (Frankfurt/Main, 19.-21.09.1946).

Disbanded in 1946 Spannaus briefly worked at his brothers bookstore in Northeim. Between 1947 and 1949 he was interim chairman of the Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology in Göttingen. Spannaus eventually was financed by several fellowships and worked on summarizing the results of his expedition to Mozambique. Moreover, he supported the re-edition of the german encyclopedia »Brockhaus«.

In 1956 Spannaus took up a position at the Institute for the Scientific Film in Göttingen, where he worked for the following three years. Since 1959 Spannaus held a professorship at the Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology in Göttingen, being the successor of Hans Plischke. Due to health problems, he retired in 1966.

Günther Spannaus died in 1984.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in January 2012, based on BAA Prof. Riese; photo source: Obituary written by Peter Fuchs)