Agathe Lasch

Agathe Lasch. Photo: University of Hamburg, Centre for University History

Since 2017, five books from the library of Agathe Lasch could be returned.

Agathe Lasch was born on 4 July 1879 in Berlin into a Jewish merchant family. She had four siblings. Little is known about her family.

She attended a secondary school for girls, passed the teacher's examination and taught in her home town at girls' and trade schools until 1906, when she graduated from Berlin's Kaiserin-Augusta-Gymnasium and embarked on an academic career. Since she was not allowed to study in Prussia as a woman at that time, she studied German in Halle and then in Heidelberg in 1907. She received her doctorate in Heidelberg in 1909 and in 1910 she passed the state examination for teaching at grammar schools. That same year she was appointed Associate Professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania/USA, an important women's university. In 1917 - when the USA entered World War I, she returned to Germany, received an assistant position at the German Seminar for Hamburg Colonial History and habilitated in 1919 at the newly founded Hamburg University. She was not only the first woman to hold a professorship at Hamburg University, but also the first woman in Germany to hold a professorship in German Studies. Despite groundbreaking research and publications on the Low German language, it was not until 1926, after overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, that she was able to fill the Chair of Low German Philology established for her.

In 1934 she lost her chair in Hamburg due to the Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums ("Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service"). Submissions by her students and international advocacy were unsuccessful and further sanctions followed in the following years. In 1939, the Nazis prevented her from being appointed to a chair of German studies at the University of Dorpat/Estonia. Two years earlier, in 1937, she had moved to Berlin, where she was living at Caspar-Theyss-Straße 26. The apartment with its 4,000-volume private library was her place of research and communication until it was confiscated by the Gestapo in July 1942. Shortly afterwards, on 15 August 1942, Agathe Lasch was deported to Riga and murdered there on 18 August 1942.

Three of the books are evidently, the fourth probably from a depot of the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt - RSHA) at Eisenacher Str. 11-13 in Berlin Schöneberg. The RSHA had collected looted books from all over Europe there. Some of these books were distributed to libraries in Berlin by the Salvaging Office ("Bergungsstelle") after the end of World War II in 1945.

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