Short Portrait: Otto Reche

Otto Reche
Otto Reche

Otto Reche was born in Glatz/Silesia in 1879. He studied Medical Studies, Zoology, Anatomy and Anthropology at the University of Breslau (now: Wroclaw). Ernst Haeckel was among his teachers. Moreover, Reche studied Geography in Jena and Natural Sciences in Berlin.

After graduating in 1904, Reche worked at the Breslau Museum, where he did research on Silesian relics. Subsequently he took up a position at the Ethnological Museum (formerly: Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin. In 1906 Reche moved to Hamburg. There he not only worked at the Ethnological Museum but also lectured at the Colonial Institute, the forerunner of the Hamburg University.

In 1908/09 Reche accompanied Georg Thilenius during his expeditions to the South Pacific. He later published a number of volumes on their researches. In 1911 Reche became head of the department at the Ethnological Museum in Hamburg. Between 1914 and 1917 Reche participated in World War I.

Reche was announced professor for Anthropology and Ethnology at the Hamburg University in 1918. He completed his habilitation thesis the following year. In 1924 Reche took up a full professorship at the Vienna University, where he became head chairman of the Anthropological Institute.

In 1927 Reche became head chairman of the Institute of Ethnology at the Leipzig University, being the successor of Karl Weule. Besides lecturing on the regions Africa and South Pacific, Reche organized a number of research trips throughout the following years.

Since the mid-1920s Reche had close contact with representatives of the Nazi party NSDAP and increasingly focused his work on “race-studies” and “blood-testing”. He became a member of the NSDAP in 1937 and was a leading advocate of eugenic theories. He was arrested by American soldiers in April 1945 but disbanded shortly after.

Otto Reche died in Großhansdorf near Hamburg in 1966.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot, based on Wikipedia and an article by Bernhard Streck; Photo source: