Georg HÖLTKER (1895–1976)

Georg Höltker was born at Ahaus, Münsterland, on 22 May 1895. His schooling in Steyl was disrupted by military service during the First World War. He joined the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) after the war and did his philosophical-theological studies at the Missionary Major Seminary, St. Gabriel in Mödling near Vienna. Already at this stage his interest in ethnology was awakened and he published a study on the African shield in Anthropos under the guidance of Paul Schebesta, his teacher. He was assigned to study ethnology, which he completed with the dissertation on the family structure among the Aztecs. He was responsible for the publication of Anthropos from 1932 to 1935. In 1936, he was sent to New Guinea, where he worked for three years in close contact with the missionaries. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to Anthropos Institute in Posieux near Freiburg in Switzerland, where he dedicated himself to the publication of his research and succeeded Wilhelm Schmidt as professor of ethnology at the university there (1948).

In 1960, he moved to Germany and lectured in ethnology at St. Augustin Missionary Major Seminary. As professor, he was known for his comprehensive knowledge and his lucid presentations, moreover, for his constant willingness to guide and advise the students in their scholarly work. He died on 22 January 1976.

Georg Höltker left behind a colourful literary work, including many valuable articles and book reviews. His focus was on the detailed description of the peoples, cultures and languages of Northeast New Guinea. He also received ethnographic materials from missionaries both in oral and written form and helped them to publish their ethnographic writings.

Georg Höltker's fame is also based on the ethnographic objects he acquired during his research in New Guinea. These were widely disseminated not only in SVD houses, but also in numerous European museums and collections. Objects from his collection can be found in the Museum der Kulturen in Basel, the Weltmuseum in Vienna, the Statens Etnografiska Museum in Stockholm and the Museo Etnologico Vaticano in Rome.

Georg Höltker 
Georg Höltker