Gabain, Annemarie von

Annemarie von Gabain (July 4, 1901 — January 15, 1993)


Below is the original obituary by Denis Sinor, published in the PIAC Newsletter No. 21, May 1993. At the occasion of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, Peter Zieme paid tribute to her 120th birthday: In commemoration of Annemarie von Gabain (1901-1993).

In Memoriam
Annemarie von Gabain

On January 15, 1993 Annemarie von Gabain, alias Maryam apa as she was affectionately called by most of us and as she usually signed her letters, died in Berlin. She was in her 92nd year and moved to Berlin only recently from her charming mountain-village of Anger in Bavaria.
Obituary notices giving details of her life will appear in due course in various periodicals; the remarks made in this ephemeral Newsletter do not wish to trace the various stages of her life and career but are intended to evoke her Connections with the PIAC and put on record some of my personal Souvenirs.
Maryam apa was part of that small group which in 1954, on the occasion of the 24th International Congress of Orientalists, met in Munich and decided to bring into existence a much smaller group of Altaists who, escaping the formality of big congresses, would get together to listen not to lectures but to each other. It was part of her character that she loved the exchange of ideas, she loved company and received with much charm her many visitors in Anger, a place of no easy access.
Until the time when age made travel difficult for her, she attended many of our meetings. In 1971, this founding member of the PIAC became the recipient of the Indiana University Prize for Altaic Studies, usually referred to as “the PIAC gold medal”. Attached to a gold chain around her neck, she happily and proudly wore it at many of our subsequent meetings.
With the death of Annemarie von Gabain, a whole and important chapter of Turcology comes to a close; to the best of my knowledge she was the last of Willy Bang’s students to depart. Her whole activity was deeply influenced by Bang’s personality and working methods and throughout her life she has remained attached to the manuscript and art treasures deposited in Berlin by the German Turfan expeditions.
I first met her in the summer of 1937 in Berlin when she listened with great patience to what may have seemed to her the rather brash political comments of a young man of twenty-one. At that time she was very hard of hearing, modern hearing-aids had not yet been discovered, and the very fact that one had to speak loud in order to be understood increased the intensity of any conversation. She helped me in many ways, including the publication of an article in the Ostasiatische Zeitschrift. We met again during my stay in Berlin in the summer and fall of 1938 and I recall her great pleasure in accepting my invitation to watch from the grand stand the impressive military parade organized in honor of Admiral Horthy, the visiting regent of Hungary. Daughter of a general, deeply patriotic, Annemarie von Gabain was much impressed by the achievements of the Hitler regime in the restoration of German might. Political acumen was not her strong point, but her naiveté was so genuine, her humanity and honesty so obvious that, to the best of my knowledge, no one ever held her past sympathies against her. Be it noted that these sympathies she has never denied and I can recall several instances when she referred to her activities in the Frauenwerk as a model to be followed in a given Situation.
After the war, I first met her in 1952 in Hamburg where, thanks to the remarkable administrative skills of Bertold Spuler, she found a niche in which she could work until her retirement. If she had any ambitions to assume administrative responsibilities, she had never manifested them to me. In the 1950s German academic life was very much a man’s world and Maryam apa’s gentle feminism was limited, or at least so it seemed to me, to a touching interest in her woman students for whom she was something like a mother-hen.
Her scholarly output should be and certainly will be summarized in other obituaries. To me, her lasting contribution to Turcology lies in her editing of Old Turkic texts and in her path-breaking Alttürkische Grammatik.
In December 1992, already from Berlin, I received from her a number of offprints; a welcome sign of her mental alertness. Most probably she has never received my letter of thanks. Another, more important communication, which would have given her much pleasure, has not reached her either. The Royal Asiatic Society had awarded her the first Denis Sinor Medal for Inner Asian Studies, a decision which pleased me greatly. But this last, indirect link between Maryam apa and myself was not to be forged; the Society has never received an acceptance letter of the honor which she so richly deserved.

Denis Sinor

(Source: Permanent International Altaistic Conference Newsletter No. 21, May 1993, pp. 2–3)

Another Obituary:

Zieme, P. (1994). In memoriam Annemarie von Gabain (4. 7. 1901-15. 1. 1993). Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 144(2), 239–249.