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  • Elfriede (Kezia) Regina Knauer (1926–2010)
  • Joan R. Mertens

The death of Elfriede (Kezia) Regina Knauer, on June 7, 2010, represents the loss of yet another European intellectual who settled in America and, in an encouraging environment, published the fruits of her exceptional knowledge and experience. Kezia's distinction lay in her probing eye that was directly wired to the information stored in her brain. That repository of knowledge seemed endlessly expandable and was enhanced by an excellent memory. Kezia saw, knew—and shared.

Born on July 3, 1926, in Leverkusen, Germany, she, her twin sister Sybille, and three other siblings were brought up, as she writes, "by almost intimidatingly intellectual parents."1 She recounted that in their home, beside the toilet, there was a small bookcase with a curtain covering, among other volumes, the works of Sigmund Freud. Kezia's father, Julius Overhoff, a businessman, and his wife Edith, not only provided models for their children but also cultivated similarly accomplished friends. Kezia singled out Carl Hentze, whose knowledge of Chinese art and philology early on widened her horizons beyond Europe.

Between the ages of six and nineteen (1932–1945, bracketing the years of Hitler's Germany), Kezia and her family were centered primarily in Frankfurt, which took a heavy toll on their lives and, of course, the children's education. After the American liberation, Kezia enrolled in the University of Frankfurt in 1945. There she obtained her Ph.D. in 1951, writing a dissertation on pre-Christian apsidal buildings in Greece and Italy, with Guido von Kaschnitz-Weinberg as her advisor. Although she specialized in classical studies, she always commented with particular enthusiasm on her association with the Frobenius Institute, named after the ethnologist Leo Frobenius. This experience added anthropological methodology as well as exposure to African culture to her scholarly resources. In November 1948, moreover, Kezia met Georg Nicolaus Knauer, a student of classical philology who received his Ph.D. at Hamburg University in 1952 with a dissertation on the Confessions of Saint Augustine. Kezia and Nico Knauer married in 1951. Kezia's postwar years in Frankfurt marked the beginning of her career and adult life. One further element, essential to both, became possible at this time, the opportunity to travel. Between 1948 and 1950, Kezia began extended trips to museums and monuments in France, England, and Italy with her twin sister, Sybille, who became a noted Etruscologist and the wife of Denys Haynes, Keeper of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum.

After a brief interlude in Munich, during which Kezia bore a son and studied Arabic, the Knauers settled in West Berlin between [End Page 537] 1954 and 1975. Nico Knauer began as Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at the Free University, Berlin. Kezia served twice in the 1960s as assistant in the department of Greek and Roman Antiquities of the State Museums in West Berlin working with Adolf Greifenhagen. The Knauers traveled widely to the United States and in Mediterranean countries, for which Kezia now studied modern Greek and Turkish. Beginning in the mid-1960s, they became politically engaged, seeking especially to stem left-wing radicalism in the German educational system.

The Knauers' departure from Berlin in 1975 to settle permanently in Philadelphia closed a period in Kezia's life that had been overshadowed, if not determined, by German political events. The thirty-five years in the United States, with Nico Knauer as Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, brought the opportunities to pursue research without constraints, to travel, to engage in far-flung scholarly exchanges with colleagues and students, often when she presented her investigations at scholarly gatherings. A glance at Kezia's bibliography makes the point statistically.2 Of the seventy-six books and articles that appeared in her lifetime, fifteen were published during the German years, all the remainder thereafter. Kezia's only formal position in Philadelphia was as consulting scholar in the Mediterranean section at Penn's University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology—and scholar she was.

Beginning in the later 1970s, her articles continued investigations of Greek and Roman subjects—Greek vase-painting, Roman wall-painting, the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius...


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