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Georg Gimpl

Born May 26, 1949 Abtenau (Austria). Died October 10, 2014, Linz (Austria)

Master of Arts 1975 (Germanic philology, pedagogics), PhD 1980 (Germanic philology and psychology), University of Salzburg (Austria)

University lecturer 2004–2014, University of Helsinki
Acting associate professor 1993–1995, University of Helsinki
Docent in the history of science and ideas, University of Oulu
Lecturer in German language and Austrian literature 1975–2003 (permanent appointment 1981), University of Helsinki

Research themes:
The history of philosophy, particularly the history of Austrian philosophy; Austrian and German literature; the cultural history of Bohemia’s German speaking (including Jewish) population; the virtual museum of Russbach, his home village


Kuva: Hartmut Lenk
Written by Hartmut Lenk, Marja Ursin, Valtteri Hyvärinen, Jouni Heikkinen, Helena Leheckova, Susanne Frejborg, Kaarle Holmberg, Faruk Abu-Chacra, Ove Knekt, Mark Shackleton, John Calton, Liisa Tiittula, Andrew Chesterman, Anni Aarinen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by  Matthew Billington

Reconstructing the Past to Build the Future

The most striking feature in the career of Georg Gimpl was the high personal integrity that he maintained. He was independent-minded, forming his own view of what was going on in the world, whether it was the Austrian populist Jörg Haider, the European economic crisis, Greece’s Euro problems or the annexation of Crimea. The overemphasis that is placed today on economic neoliberalism and its speculative financial politics often troubled his mind. So did the endless warfare in the Middle East. He had an exceptionally wide range of interests. The domestic policy of Austria and the problems facing his hometown of Russbach, however, exceeded all other considerations.

Georg was also an attentive listener, conversationalist and advisor when colleagues and friends would bring up the problems they were dealing with, usually relating to the content and methods of teaching or higher education policy. His personal qualities made him an excellent listener. He had both pedagogical and practical experience, a degree in both linguistics and philosophy, and work experience from the business world as well as the University.

Georg was a modest person in every respect. He did not try to influence his peers through vainglorious behaviour, nor did he care about establishing an academic career. Achieving quality results was more important to him than adding an extra line to his CV. Stress was a foreign concept to Georg. Throughout his entire academic career, he never wore a watch, nor did he care if he was slightly late for lectures or faculty meetings. He also categorically refused to accept a watch when an attempt was made to give him one. However, he was still considered an extremely conscientious teacher. Georg was always ready to help his friends.

Georg Gimpl with his friends on a spring sojourn to Suomenlinna in June 2013. Photo by Ove Knekt.

Georg was an exceptionally sociable person. He had a wide social circle that extended to several countries, particularly in Central Europe, including Germany and Czech Republic in addition to Austria. He sent “Christmas letters” (Weihnachtsbriefe) to his friends and colleagues, which most of the time were small academic treatises on the history of his native area. In the summer he would gather materials from the archives of Russbach, often on the religious and social conflicts of the area.

Green values were evident in the love Georg had for his hometown and in his admiration for the flora and fauna of Finland. In the spring he could often be found reading through his students’ work in the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden, maintained by the Natural History Museum of the University of Helsinki, or in a sheltered spot in Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna was also the destination of an annual spring sojourn Georg made with his friends. His hobbies also included hiking in the Austrian alps, where he would also invite his friends.

In summer Georg would usually travel to Russbach, but even during winters in Helsinki he would work to advance the interests of his home region. He had been building a large collection of old postcards and photographs, and had interviewed people from Russbach for a virtual museum. For him, an honest reconstruction of the past was a necessity when it came to building a peaceful future. Georg was often amazed at how slowly and modestly the early 20th century idea of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past) had spread through Finland.

Georg Gimpl with his son Martin at Bodenberg (5007 ft.) in Russbach in August 2009.


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