Writing the PhD Thesis during the war. Bähr’s book Baskisch und Iberisch translated and revisited



Few researchers have been unluckier than G. Bähr (1900-1945). The progresses made by this German author grown up in Legazpia could have been more influencial if he hadn’t written his PhD Thesis during Spanish Civil War and World War II.  Nonetheless, he is still considered as one of the pioneers of Palaeohispanic studies. His doctoral dissertation, on the relationship between Basque and Iberian, was defended the 1st March 1940 in Göttingen.

Once his dissertation was defended, Bähr struggled to see it published; but finally he couldn’t: he was seen for the last time in 1945 in Berlin. It was his wife who gave the manuscript to K. Bouda, professor at the University of Erlangen and also Bähr’s friend, who could have Bähr’s work published in 1948 in the French journal Eusko Jakintza (Bayonne). Its dissemination among Spanish academics was extremely difficult, given that the book was written in German, published in France and dealing with Basque language (under Franco’s dictature).

Fortunately, J. Gorrochategui (UPV / EHU), with the precious collaboration of J. M. Vallejo (UPV / EHU) and C. Castillero (UPV / EHU), has given G. Bähr his due. This AELAW member has prepared a detailed translation of Bähr’s thesis into Spanish complemented with a commented introduction to this volume and with some letters wrote by Bähr to J. de Urquijo, director of Eusko Jakintza journal and his friend, while he was trying to finish his work during the war. This translation is the result of a proposal born with the occasion of the 50th anniversary of G. Bähr’s death within the Euskaltzaindia, Real Academia de la Lengua Vasca.

In spite of his struggles for keeping updated in Palaeohispanic novelties during the last 30’s and first 40’s (hard times for Spain), he didn’t achieve to read Gómez Moreno’s work, which could have definitively changed some aspects of his PhD thesis. Even though, Bähr's doctoral dissertation meant a considerable advance for Palaeohispanic languages and writings, which has a high merit. As the maps included in Baskisch und Iberisch show, Bähr achieved to see a clear separation of Iberian and Celtiberian texts, a differentiation that won't be generally assumed until A. Tovar's and J. Untermann's works: the graphic documents of this PhD Thesis show that the German researcher had already seen the high frequency of place names ending in -briga in the Celtic-speaking area and of place names with the sequence -ili in the Iberian-speaking region of the Iberian Peninsula.

Bähr also did progress in the decipherment of Palaeohispanic writing systems. He studied systematically the graphemes of the texts written with the Palaeohispanic Levantine system and proposed a model of evolution for this script which, after him, was based in a Phoenician model.

Now that Bähr's work has been translated into Spanish and widely disseminated thanks to the UPV / EHU server, it is time to enjoy this treasure of the historiography of Palaeohispanistics.