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Utitz, Emil

(1883–1956), philosopher and psychologist. Emil Utitz was born in Prague, studied philosophy at the universities of Prague, Munich, and Leipzig, and started his career in Rostock, Germany, where he became a professor of philosophy and aesthetics in 1916. Beginning in 1925, he lectured at the university in Halle. In September 1933 he was forcibly retired and he moved back to Prague. Thanks to the intercession of Josef Schneider, professor of German studies at the German University in Prague, Utitz was entrusted to catalog the unpublished works of Franz Brentano.

In 1934, Utitz received an offer to teach philosophy at the German University in Prague. In 1942 he was deported to Terezín, where he directed the ghetto library that had been established in November of that year. Thanks to his brave efforts and managerial abilities, more than 10,000 precious Hebrew and other Jewish works were preserved during the Holocaust, with the ghetto library (containing more than 100,000 volumes) serving as a center of spiritual resistance in the Terezín ghetto. The library secretly and illegally distributed books to youth homes, hospitals, workshops, and old age residences; it also organized public readings and exhibitions. In 1945, Utitz was named a professor at Charles University in Prague. Though he had converted to Protestantism during his youth, he returned to Judaism during World War II.

Utitz’s two-volume Grundlegung der allgemeinen Kunstwissenschaft (Fundamentals of Universal Aesthetics; 1914 and 1920) defined the relationship between aesthetics and art. Influenced by Max Dessoir and Edmund Husserl, he claimed that aesthetic values were not limited to the sphere of art, nor was art limited by aesthetic values. Rather, the content of art comes to us through aesthetic perception. According to Utitz, art should always complement the statements of science.

In 1925 Utitz had attempted to establish the field of Charakterologie (characterology), an independent discipline that would study the complex character of human beings. The difference between psychology and characterology, he maintained, was that psychology applied general knowledge to the study of the individual, whereas characterology provided a detailed analysis of the concrete structure and manifold features of individuals. Utitz served as the editor of the six-volume Jahrbuch der Charakterologie (Yearbook of Characterology; 1924–1929).

Utitz also tried to fathom the Holocaust. His Psychologie života v terezínském koncentračním táboře (Psychology of Life in the Terezín Concentration Camp; 1947), which analyzed the impact of concentration camp conditions on the character and personality of the inmates detained there, is of particular value. Another work of the same period, Německo mezi včerejškem a dneškem (Germany between Yesterday and Tomorrow; 1947), analyzed the spiritual, political, and economic situation of German society immediately after the war. Utitz ventured to compare the psychology of the German population with that of prisoners in a concentration camp.

Suggested Reading

Samuel H. Bergman, Hogim u-ma’aminim (Jerusalem, 1959), pp. 211–223; Hermann Boeschenstein, “Emil Utitz, der Philosoph aus dem Prager Kreis, 1883–1960,” Rice University Studies 57 (Fall 1971): 19–32; Daniela Šepová, “Emil Utitz a Terezín,” Terezínské studie a dokumenty (2003): 169–211; Emil Utitz, Die Gegenständlichkeit des Kunstwerk (Berlin, 1917); Emil Utitz, Ästhetik (Berlin, 1923); Emil Utitz, Egon Erwin Kisch: Der klassische Journalist (Berlin, 1956).