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Agathe Lasch * 1879
Gustav-Leo-Straße 9 (Hamburg-Nord, Eppendorf)
PROF. DR. AGATHE LASCH
HAFT IN BERLIN
Professor Agathe Louise Lasch, PhD, born 4 July 1879 in Berlin, deported 15 Aug. 1942 from Berlin to Riga, murdered 18 Aug. 1942
Agathe Louise Lasch was born on 4 July 1879 in Berlin, the third of five children of Siegbert (1841-1918) and Emma (née Fraenkel, 1850-1922) Lasch. Her father owned a leather goods shop. She and her sisters Hedwig (*1875), Elsbeth (*1877), and Margarethe (*1890) all trained as teachers. Agathe finished her training in 1898. She taught at various girls’ and vocational schools in Berlin until 1906, then went to college and studied German Studies at the universities in Halle and Heidelberg. In Heidelberg she was a student of the philologist Wilhelm Braun (1850-1926), an important representative of the Neogrammarians. She received her PhD in 1909, with her dissertation "History of the Written Language in Berlin before the mid-16th Century.” She wanted to work in an academic field, but this was impossible in turn-of-the-century Germany, so she decided to begin an academic career in the US. From 1910 to 1916 she was an Associate Professor of Teutonic Philology at Bryn Mawr. While there she published "Middle High German Grammar” (1914), which is still the standard work for low German philology. She returned to Germany during the First World War "for patriotic reasons.”
Soon after she returned to Germany in 1917, she found a position as a research assistant in the German Department of the pre-cursor to the Hamburg University. She joined the Verein für Hamburgische Geschichte (Hamburg History Association) the same year. After the University was founded in May of 1919, she was granted the title of Professor after submitting her post-doctoral dissertation, "The Influence of Low German on the Mentality of the Lower Elbe Region in the 17th Century,” on 4 November 1919. This was the first post-doctoral dissertation in German Studies to be written by a woman. In 1923 she became the first woman to be named a professor at Hamburg University and the first female German Studies professor in Germany.
In December 1926 a chair in Low German Philology was created for her. She became co-director of the German Studies Department in 1927. She and the philologist Conrad Borchling (1872-1946), began the projects of collecting the vocabulary of the Middle Low German spoken during the Hanseatic Era and the Hamburg dialect into systematic, academic dictionaries. In 1917 they had created the Workshop for the Hamburg Dictionary, a project to which she gave extraordinary support. At the same time, she was working on two other dictionaries: the Middle Low German Dictionary and the Hamburg Dictionary.
Agathe Lasch never married. She joined the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community in 1919. When the Law for the Reconstitution of the Civil Service was passed on 7 April 1933, she was able to retain her position at the university thanks to a petition by her students and the intervention of Swedish professors, but only for a short time. On 4 April 1934, the Board of Education informed her that, in accordance with a pronouncement of the Senate on 26 March 1934, she was to enter retirement on 1 July 1934. Later that year, she was forbidden from entering the library, which was a particularly severe measure for her. This prohibition was blatantly illegal, as the above-mentioned law removed her as a civil servant, but did not affect her status a member of the university. Since her situation in Hamburg seemed untenable in every way, she moved to Berlin in the spring of 1937, where she lived with her sisters. When she left the city she also left the Hamburg German-Israelitic Community. The situation in Berlin was little different than in Hamburg. She was prohibited from publishing, and from using public libraries. Her private library was confiscated. She was prevented from accepting a position as a lecturer in Lund, Sweden in 1939. The University of Oslo and the University of Dorpat (Tartu) in Estonia both offered her professorships, but the German Embassy and the Reich Minister of Science, Education and National Culture raised objections and prevented her from accepting them. In 1939 her pension payments were discontinued.
Agathe Lasch and her sisters Elsbeth and Margarete were deported to Riga on 15 August 1942, on the 18th Eastern Transport from the Berlin-Moabit freight yard. Her date of death is given as 18 August 1942.
Her sister Hedwig Kauffmann had been deported to Riga on 19 January 1942. Her date of death is unknown.
Work on a Low German dictionary that Agathe Lasch had begun in Hamburg could not be continued during her lifetime. The first edition of the Hamburgischen Wörterbuch (Hamburg Dictionary) was published in 1956. With the publication of the 30th edition in May 2006, the work begun by Agathe Lasch was finally completed.
1971: a street in Othmarschen, Agathe-Lasch-Weg, was named for her
1992: the Agathe Lasch Scholarship for students of Low German was established
1999: a lecture hall at the Hamburg University was named for her
Translator: Amy Lee
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: March 2017
© Ina Lorenz
Quellen: 1; 5; AfW 040298 Martin Goldschmidt, Schreiben vom 6.5.1957; Bachhofer, in: Hamburgische Biografie, Bd.1, S. 179f.; Kopitsch/Brietzke (Hrsg.) Hamburgische Biografie, Bd. l, 2001, S. 179f.; Krause, in: Das Jüdische Hamburg, 2006, S. 171f.; Bachofer/Beck, Deutsche und Niederdeutsche Philologie, in: Krause/Huber/Fischer (Hrsg.), Hochschulalltag, 3 Teile, 1991, Teil 2, S. 641–703, hier S. 651–653, 693– 695; Gottwaldt/Schulle, "Judendeportationen", 2005, S. 255; Christine M. Kaiser, "Ich habe Deutschland immer geliebt ..." Agathe Lasch (1879 bis 1942) – Deutschlands erste Germanistikprofessorin an der Hamburgischen Universität, in: Joist Grolle und Matthias Schmoock (Hrsg.), Spätes Gedenken. Ein Geschichtsverein erinnert sich seiner ausgeschlossenen jüdischen Mitglieder (Hamburgische Lebensbilder 21), Hamburg 2009, S. 63–97; Zum Gedenken an Agathe Lasch (1879–1942?). Reden aus Anlass der Benennung des Hörsaals B im Hauptgebäude der Universität Hamburg in Agathe-Lasch-Hörsaal am 4.11.1999, Hamburg 2002 (= Hamburger Universitätsreden, N.E., Bd. 2), darin vor allem: Mohn, Dieter, Die Geschichte in der Sprache. Die Philologin Agathe Lasch, Vortrag anlässlich der Benennung des Hörsaals B im Hauptgebäude der Universität Hamburg in Agathe-Lasch-Hörsaal am 4.11.1999, ebd., S. 14–27.
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