Short Portrait: Hans-Dietrich Disselhoff

Hans-Dietrich Disselhoff
Hans-Dietrich Disselhoff

Disselhoff was born in Trebblin in 1899. His father was a pastor and died when Disselhoff was twelve years old. Throughout the following years his family moved several times within Germany. Disselhoff finished school in Berlin in 1918. During the last months of World War I he had to join the German marine.

In 1919 Disselhoff took up his studies. His major subjects were Romance Philology and Art History, which he not only studied in Freiburg but also in Göttingen and Munich.

Due to growing financial problems Disselhoff was forced to interrupt his studies and decided to migrate to Argentina in 1923. There he worked not only as a gardener and private teacher but also as a fireman. Due to his contact with Creole workers Disselhoff developed an interest in American-Spanish literature, Anthropology and Archaeology.

After visiting Mexico and Spain Disselhoff returned to Germany in 1928. He continued his former studies in Berlin and Würzburg. Karl Sapper and Adalbert Hämel were among his teachers. Moreover, Disselhoff took courses on Anthropology. He finished his Ph D thesis on landscapes in Mexican poetry in 1930.

The same year Disselhoff returned to Mexico and did his first research excavations. In 1931 he took up an assistant position at the Ethnological Museum (formerly: Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin, where he was member of the Department for America. Throughout the following years Disselhoff not only worked in the museum but did research trips to Peru and Ecuador.

During World War II Disselhoff he had to serve as a soldier. After 1945 he took up a position at the Munich State Museum of Ethnology. Moreover, he did a second research trip to Peru in 1953.

After his return to Germany one year later, Disselhoff became chairman of the Ethnological Museum (formerly: Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin, being the successor of Walter Krickeberg.

Throughout the following years he organized a number of considerable exhibitions, for example on Ancient American Cultures and Bolivia. Moreover, Disselhoff was responsible for restructuring and extending the Department for America. He retired in 1964 but did further research trips (e.g., in Peru).

Hans-Dietrich Disselhoff died in Berlin in 1975.


(text written by Vincenz Kokot in February 2012, based on an obituary by Eisleb, Dieter, 1976, ed. 24, Baessler-Archiv Neue Folge, pp. 1 - 4; photo source: Baessler-Archiv, Neue Folge, Rand XXIV (1976))