Paul ARNDT (1886-1962)

Paul Arndt SVD. ethnologist and linguist, born on January 10, 1886, in Rasselwitz, Silesia, died on November 20, 1962, in Todabelu, Flores.

After his advanced high school studies in the mission seminary at Nysa in Silesia, he joined the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and was ordained a priest in 1912. His first mission assignment was to Togo, where he worked from 1913 to 1917. He was repatriated during the First World War and then was reassigned in 1923 to Flores in Indonesia, where he worked until his death. As a student of Wilhelm Schmidt he dedicated himself to the languages and cultures found on the Lesser Sunda Islands. His best known work dealt with the languages and cultures of the Ngadha in central Flores. His comprehensive “Wörterbuch der Ngadhasprache” (Dictionary of the Ngadha Language) appeared in 1961; before this, in 1954, he had written “Gesellschaftliche Verhältnisse der Ngadha” (Social Relations of the Ngadha); “Déva, das Höchste Wesen der Ngadha” in 1936 (Déva, the Supreme Being of the Ngadha); “Totenfeiern der Ngadha” in 1959 (“Rituals for the Dead among the Ngadha); “Tod und Jenseitsvorstellungen bei den Ngadha auf Flores” in 1959 (Notions of Death and the Afterlife of the Ngadha on Flores); “Mythen der Ngadha” in 1960 (Myths of the Ngadha); “Opfer und Opferfeiern der Ngadha” in 1969 (Sacrifice and Sacrificial Rituals of the Ngadha) and finally, in 1958, “Hinduismus der Ngadha” (Hinduism among the Ngadha).

One problem to which Arndt payed special attention had to do with the origin of this group. He found many Hindu elements in their customs and religious ideas to the extent that he concluded that the original homeland of the Ngadha must have been somewhere in northeastern India.

Without doubt the Ngadha differed from the other groups found on Flores with respect to both physical and cultural characteristics. Nor was it likely that these differences were the consequence of direct trader influence, because the Ngadha lived far from any trade routes in rather inaccessible mountains. Moreover they were considered to be robbers and warlike and were feared by others as a result. Scarcely any other Indonesian group has been as thoroughly researched and documented as the Ngadha and all because of Arndt’s work.

Paul Arndt 
Paul Arndt