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Norbert Jokl

Norbert Jokl (February 25, 1877 – probably May 1942) was an Austrian albanologist of Jewish descent who has been called the father of albanology.

Norbert Jokl was born in Bzenec (then Bisenz), Southern Moravia, now the Czech Republic as the only son of a merchant.

He left high school with praise and entered the law faculty at the University of Vienna. He received a degree there of doctor of law summa cum laude on June 23, 1901.

For some time he acted as a probationer of law, but then he decided to devote himself to linguistics. He studied Indo-European linguistics, Slavistics and Romanistics and received a degree with praise in that field as well.

In the late autumn of 1903, he became a probationer in the library of the University of Vienna. He would work there until 1938.

At the age of 30, he acquired Albanian language, which had been very little studied.

From 1913, he was a Privatdozent whose field "Indo-European linguistics with special special consideration to Albanian, Baltic and Slavic languages“. In 1923, he became an extraordinary Professor, and in 1937 a Hofrat.

He wrote numerous works on albanology and was a renowned specialist.

In April 1933, the paleontologist and albanologist Franz Nopcsa (Ferenc Nopcsa) shot his secretary and himself. He left the albanological part of his heritage to Norbert Jokl.

Though Jokl had had Albanian students, he had never been to Albania before 1937; he was received with awards and honours.

After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, Jokl’s manuscripts started being rejected and conference invitations stopped. After the Anschluss he was discharged on May 20, 1938. He was prohibited from entering his former place of work. The Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy Viktor Christian (later Rector) stood up for keeping Jokl’s job but this was in vain. In autumn 1938, Jokl submitted an application (supported by the Dean) to be equalized with "persons of mixed blood of 1st degree“ in order to have admittance to libraries. The application was rejected.

Georg Solta, a later Professor of Indo-European linguistics who had studied with Jokl from the winter term of 1934 to the summer term of 1938 would visit him during the following four years twice or thrice a month in order to learn from him and to have personal communication with him. Solta says that Jokl lived alone in a very ascetic way though a maidservant prepared food for him. Two rooms were filled with books. Jokl never sat in coffee-houses with his students since the whole free time he had from his work as a librarian was dedicated to his research work.

Jokl was trying to find a job abroad but this was in vain. His last chance was Albania. There was a position of organizer of libraries in Albania that was created for him with a monthly salary of 600 Albanian franks. Jokl wanted to emigrate to Albania. However, neither the efforts of Carlo Tagliavini, a professor of the University of Padua, nor the appeal of Galeazzo Ciano, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, yielded the necessary permission to leave the country to Jokl. In one of his applications, Jokl also asked for permission to take along his library. This didn’t appeal Dean Christian who was very interested in keeping Jokl’s extensive collection at the University. Jokl’s library also contained his life work, the handwritten supplements to the Albanian vocabulary by Gustav Meyer.

On March 4, 1942, at 8 a.m. Jokl was arrested in his apartment 67 Neustiftgasse by two Gestapo officers and he was taken to the collection camp (Sammellager) 2 Castellezgasse. Georg Solta, trying to save his teacher, appealed to Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the SS Gruppenführer in Vienna who had been Solta’s school comrade. Kaltenbrunner said he had no power to save Jokl from deportation.

There is contradictory information as to Jokl's fate. It is reported that on May 6, 1942 he was taken to Maly Trostinec near Minsk, where he was murdered. According to another version, he died from mistreatment in a barracks in Rossau, Vienna. Still other versions are that he committed suicide out of despair or that he was taken to a camp in Riga.

After Jokl’s arrest, the Dean tried to ensure that Jokl’s library would be given to the University in case Jokl should not allowed to go to Albania but be „transported to Poland". The Dean preferred that Jokl would be sent to a concentation camp as else it would have been difficult to prevent that Jokl would taken his library along. Paul Heigl, the director general of the National Library, applied for giving the collection to that library.

Jokl’s library that Jokl had bequeathed to the state of Albania was confiscated on April 27, 1942. Since 1942, Jokl’s library and heritage have been located in the National Library of Austria. From the books the number of which is estimated to 3000, two hundred are known. The fate of the Albanian vocabulary with Jokl’s supplements is unknown. It might be that Jokl took it along with him.

On April 29, 1982 the Senate of the University of Vienna decided to inscribe Norbert Jokl’s name to the board of honour of the University.


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