Horst S. Daemmrich, professor emeritus and former director of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, died on November 26 at his home in Flourtown, Pennsylvania. He was 91 years old.
Born in Pausa, East Germany to parents who ran a successful business of making delicate white fabrics and lace, his idyllic childhood ended at the age of 9 when Germany invaded Poland . Her family was forced to make Nazi uniforms instead of lace. For the next six years, her family faced a food shortage, decaying shoes, and even the bombing of her boarding school. His father was drafted in 1944 and captured by the US military. In 1947, with Germany divided, schools reopened and his father returned safe and sound, he joined a friend to protest against the East German Communist regime by distributing banned Western newspapers before fleeing to West Germany. .
He graduated from high school in Munich and worked for a US Army PX. In November 1953, he embarked on a freighter for America. In Detroit, Dr. Daemmrich lived with an aunt while studying political science at Wayne State University. After graduating from Phi Beta Kappa, Dr Daemmrich won a scholarship in 1959 to pursue graduate studies at the University of Chicago. He oriented his studies towards German literature and obtained his doctorate in 1964.
Dr Daemmrich trained two generations of graduate students in German literature at Penn and chaired the department for a decade before retiring in 1998. Famous for his engaging lecture style, Dr Daemmrich made his course popular ” Mann, Hesse, Kafka “a must-see for many undergraduates outside the German realm. Before coming to Penn, he taught from 1962 to 1980 at Wayne State University.
“In his lifelong engagement with literature as a true human quest, he extended the themes and motifs to a study of eternal moral conflicts, providing the advice of great poets and writers,” said professor emeritus by German Frank Trommler.
In 1990, Penn awarded him his first teaching award, the Ira H. Abrams Award. His career has included over 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as additional books he has edited. Dr Daemmrich and his wife, Ingrid, assisted Penn in establishing and increasing the value of the Daemmrich-Guenter Fund by awarding prizes to graduate students in Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature.
Dr Daemmrich has devoted more than six decades to literary criticism, studying leading German writers ranging from Goethe to Günter Grass. He is best known for his research on recurring thematic patterns, which he has explored in a series of books. Dr Daemmrich remained focused, asking his family to send copies of his latest book, a self-published memoir he wrote for his family, which was published in September. .
Dr Daemmrich is survived by his daughters, JoAnna Daemmrich (David Loughlin) and Ursula Daemmrich von Luttitz (Eckart); his son, Arthur Daemmrich (Saiping Tso); and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in honor of Dr Daemmrich on Saturday January 8, 2022 at 11:00 am at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, 411 Susquehanna Road, Ambler PA 19002. Interment is private. In lieu of flowers, contributions on her behalf can be made to the University of Pennsylvania.