Short Portrait: Herbert Baldus

Herbert Baldus
Herbert Baldus

Herbert Baldus was born in Wiesbaden in 1899. There he attended school. At the age of eleven, Baldus was admitted to the Prussian corps of cadets and participated in Word War I. He later tried to handle his war experiences through his literary work.

In 1920 Baldus came to South America. After briefly living in Argentina, he moved to Sao Paolo and worked as a language teacher. In 1923 Baldus did his first expedition, a cinematographic excursion to the Chaco region where he had his first contact with indigenous people. Through this experience Baldus not only developed a growing interest in anthropology but did further research trips throughout the following years.

In 1928 Baldus returned to Germany and took up his studies of Anthropology and Ancient American Studies in Berlin. Richard Thurnwald, Konrad Theodor Preuss and Walter Lehmann were among his teachers. Moreover, Baldus was interested in Philosophy and Spanish literature. He received his Ph D in 1932 when completing a dissertation on the Samuko language.

After the political takeover by the Nazi regime in 1933, Baldus returned to South America, where he did fieldwork on several groups both in Southern and Central Brazil (e.g., on the Kaingang, Guayaki, Terena). In 1939 he was appointed Professor of Brazilian Ethnology at the Escola de Sociologia e Politica (School of Sociology and Politics) in Sao Paulo. Besides lecturing he kept doing research trips throughout the following years, including regions of Brazil as well as Central- American countries.

Baldus became a citizen of Brazil in 1941. Five years later he also took up a position at the Museu Paulista in Sao Paolo, which he chaired from 1953 until 1960. There he established a new publication series. Baldus not only co-edited the journals »Sociologa« and »Sociologus«, but also did major contributions to the »Bibliograjia critica da etnologia Brasileira«.

Herbert Baldus died in Sao Paolo in 1970


(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in February 2012, based on Becher, Hans, 1970, ZfE, ed. 95, pp. 157 - 163; photo source:

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