In memoriam: Klaus Lanzinger, professor emeritus, German and Russian languages and literatures

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Candles in the Grotto

Candles in the Grotto

Klaus Lanzinger, professor emeritus in the University of Notre Dame's Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, died Dec. 5. He was 92.

A native of Austria whose research focused on American-European literary and cultural relations, Lanzinger served as chair of the department from 1989 to 1996, and served as acting chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages in 1987. 

In the early 1960s, he was instrumental in creating one of Notre Dame’s two inaugural study abroad programs — in Innsbruck, Austria. Lanzinger later served as resident director of that program on three occasions throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

“Klaus was extraordinary in his hospitality and graciousness, which surely came in part from his Austrian background, but which he and his wife, Aida, also made their own,” said Mark Roche, the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Professor of German Language and Literature, who succeeded Lanzinger as department chair upon his retirement. “His pioneering work on behalf of the Innsbruck program left a lasting legacy and influenced the pivotal years of hundreds of Notre Dame students.”

Lanzinger was the author of “Epik im amerikanischen Roman” and “Jason's Voyage: The Search for the Old World in American Literature, and he was the editor of five volumes of “Americana-Austriaca,” published between 1966 and 1983.

In 1993, he received the Thomas Wolfe Society’s Zelda and Paul Gitlin Literary Prize for the best article on Thomas Wolfe. 

He began his academic career at the University of Innsbruck, and immigrated to the United States when he was hired at Notre Dame in 1967. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1979. Lanzinger reflected on this time — as well as important chapters in Notre Dame’s and America's history — in his book “A Transatlantic Diary 1961-1989,” which he published in German and then translated to English.

Vera Profit, a professor emerita of German language and literature and longtime colleague of Lanzinger, remembers him as the “essence of civility and collegiality.”

“He truly believed you could bring out the best in people through honey and not through vinegar,” she said. “He was a kind person. He allowed you to flourish. That was his legacy.”

His wife, Aida, preceded him in death in 2013. They had two children, Franz and Christine. A funeral is planned for summer 2021.