Short Portrait: Kunz Dittmer

Kunz Dittmer
Kunz Dittmer

Kunz Dittmer was born in Leipzig in 1907. His father was an arts dealer.

After finishing school in 1927 Dittmer studied Anthropology, Art History and Prehistory not only in Munich and Berlin but also in Leipzig and Vienna. In 1933 Dittmer completed his Ph D thesis in Vienna, where Wilhelm Koppers was among his teachers.

In 1934 Dittmer took up a position at the Ethnological Museum (formerly: Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin. There he first worked at the Department for Oceania but continued his work at the Department for Africa. In 1939 he became head of the newly founded Department for Eurasia. Moreover, Dittmer did journeys through Estonia, Poland and Slovakia in order to collect objects for the museum.

Between 1939 and 1941 Dittmer was head of the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Early History (Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, BGAEU). Throughout the following years he had to participate in World War II and became a prisoner of war.
He participated at the first meeting of German anthropologists after WW II (Frankfurt/Main, 19.-21.09.1946).

Being disbanded after 1945, Dittmer took up a position at the Ethnological Museum in Hamburg in 1946, where he was head of the Department for Africa. Furthermore, he took care of the collections of the Ethnological Museum Berlin, which were outsourced to Hannover shortly before the end of World War II. Throughout the following years Dittmer published a number of books on African Culture and History and also wrote an introduction to Anthropology.

Between 1954 and 1956 Dittmer did a research trip to Western Africa, where he collected ethnographic data in Northern Ghana and Upper Volta. In 1963/64 he did a second trip to Western Africa, this time researching on crafts and arts of ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Moreover, Dittmer not only collected a large number of objects throughout his journeys but did sound recordings, took photographs and recorded short films.

After his return to Hamburg, Dittmer began to extend and renew the exhibition of the Department for Africa at the Ethnological Museum in Hamburg but suddenly died in 1969.

(Text based on BAA Prof. Riese, photography by courtesy of Museum für Völkerkunde/Hamburg)

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