Nachrufe / Obituaries

Professor Helmut Gneuss (1927–2023)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Professor Helmut Gneuss on 26 February 2023, aged 95. We are mourning the loss of an eminent scholar, a devoted teacher and a great lover of manuscripts and books.
Born in Berlin on 29 October 1927, Helmut always knew his much-loved home city like the back of his hand even after his academic career had led him away from the Freie Universität Berlin to the universities of Heidelberg, Cambridge, UNC at Chapel Hill, and, finally, to the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, where he held the Chair for English Historical Linguistics and Medieval English Literature from 1965 to 1997.
Helmut was a “man of letters” in every sense of the term. Being passionately devoted to a wide range of research interests – encompassing historical linguistics, the history of English language scholarship, manuscript studies, Anglo-Saxon liturgy, palaeography, and medieval English literature and culture – he managed effectively to enhance students’ and scholars’ understanding of these subjects and their appreciation of interdisciplinary approaches. By generously sharing his impressive learning and his scholarly passion for the exploration of the English past, he inspired generations of students to love Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and the Old English language as much as he did. Through the substantial number of doctoral dissertations and other academic work initiated by him and supervised with utmost care, he became the head of what has been called the “Munich School”.
Helmut’s numerous publications include some of the most important scholarship in the field. With his doctoral dissertation on Lehnbildungen und Lehnbedeutungen im Altenglischen (1955) and his monograph on Hymnar und Hymnen im englischen Mittelalter (1968) he set the high standards early on that were to be characteristic of all his work. His inaugural lecture in Munich on “The Origin of Standard Old English and Æthelwold’s School at Winchester”, published in 1972, proved to be path-breaking, initiating the ongoing scholarly debate on the origins and nature of “Standard Old English” and the “Winchester vocabulary” in the context of the Benedictine reform movement – a topic that was further pursued by his beloved wife, Mechthild Gretsch, whose untimely death almost exactly ten years ago meant a great loss to him.
The “Essential Gneuss”, as Simon Keynes once called it, is contained in two volumes of collected papers with the programmatic titles Books and Libraries in Early England and Language and History in Early England (1996). Among Helmut’s enduring contributions, his manuscript catalogue stands out as an indispensable standard reference tool. It saw a successive growth from a “Preliminary List” (1980) to a Handlist (2001) to, finally, an impressive volume entitled Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A Bibliographical Handlist of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100 (2014; together with Michael Lapidge, to whom he felt greatly indebted for his enthusiastic cooperation). This catalogue became a lifelong occupation for the fervent booklover, who painstakingly continued to collect material for updating the Handlist virtually up to the end of his life.
Helmut’s involvement with research and varied academic matters, such as his work for Anglia, the Munich monograph series Texte und Untersuchungen zur Englischen Philologie, and the DOE, did not stop with his retirement. Just as during his active years, he continued sharing his scholarly enthusiasm and his superb expertise in early English studies with all of the academic community, from undergraduate students to professional colleagues. Many a publication has profited immensely from his insightful comments and the wealth of bibliographical information which he miraculously retrieved from his memory, from his well-ordered set of constantly updated bibliographical notebooks and from his legendary lever-arch files. His extensive personal library filled his home from floor to ceiling, and he managed to navigate between the shelves and among the books with instinctive certainty. It was only a few weeks before he passed away that his deteriorating health forced him to give up the academic work that had been his main mission and passion in life.
Helmut’s great expertise and judicious advice will be deeply missed. In his seminal works – many of them being timeless – in the scholarly inspiration, guidance and support he provided for numerous students and fellow researchers over the decades, and in many grateful memories by those who have so greatly benefited from his kindness and generosity, Helmut Gneuss will live on.

Ursula Lenker and Lucia Kornexl, writing on behalf of the Chair for English Historical Linguistics and Literature of the Middle Ages (University of Munich) and Helmut’s students

The funeral will take place in the most immediate circle of friends and colleagues. In lieu of flowers, you might want to consider a donation "In Memory of Helmut Gneuss" to the Dictionary of Old English as a tribute to Helmut's commitment to the DOE via


Dr. Michael Skiba († 30. August 2022)

Erschüttert mussten wir zur Kenntnis nehmen, dass unser ehemaliger Mitarbeiter Herr Dr. Michael Skiba am 30. August 2022 im Alter von nur 44 Jahren völlig überraschend in Hildesheim verstorben ist.

Michael Skiba, der von 2014 bis 2020 als wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für englische historische Sprachwissenschaft und Literatur des Mittelalters beschäftigt war, bleibt uns als außerordentlich gebildeter und dabei immer bescheidener Mensch in Erinnerung. Er war jemand, der sich nie mit einfachen Lösungen zufrieden gegeben hat, sondern immer tief nachdachte. So war Michael Skiba auch ein außerordentlich beliebter akademischer Lehrer. Die Studierenden schätzten vor allem seine Ruhe, seine Freundlichkeit und seine unglaubliche Geduld, die ihn zu einem ganz besonderen Lehrer machten.

Sein wissenschaftliches Vermächtnis hat er in seiner Doktorarbeit hinterlassen: Skiba, Michael. 2021. Participial Prepositions and Conjunctions in English: A Diachronic Study. München: Utz (

Möge er in Frieden ruhen!


Prof. Hans Sauer

It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden and unexpected passing of Prof. Dr. Hans Sauer on 31 May 2022. Hans will be remembered as an outstanding teacher, researcher, and person.

Born on 9 September 1946 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Hans Sauer attended school there. He studied English, Latin, and German at LMU Munich.

Hans Sauer taught and lectured at many universities in Germany (Würzburg, Dresden, Eichstätt and Munich), in Europe (e.g. Innsbruck, Austria; Brno, Czech Republic; Warsaw, Poznan, Lodz, and Katowice, Poland; Palermo, Italy) and worldwide (e.g. Columbus, Ohio, US; Tokyo, Japan; Beijing and Chongqing, China; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).

He was a caring university teacher and supported both his students and his staff beyond the call of duty. Hans Sauer supervised more than 30 dissertations and habilitations, and innumerable M.A. theses.

Hans was a never-ending fountain of knowledge and wisdom. His publications bear witness to his expertise in a wide variety of topics. He published more than 20 books, editions and studies on medieval English texts as well as more than 200 articles. These covered a wide range of subject areas: word-formation; plant names; glossaries and lexicography; Beowulf; especially Beowulf translations and adaptations; the history of linguistics and of English studies; the varieties of English; pidgins and creoles; advertising language; interjections, and binomials.

He was co-editor of Anglia, LexMA (Lexikon des Mittelalters), MET (Middle English Texts), MUSE (formerly TUEPh = Texte und Untersuchungen zur englischen Philologie), and of the book series English and Beyond.

Hans Sauer was a unique person of unparalleled kindness, generosity, and wisdom, of unprejudiced curiosity and open-mindedness, and with a heart of gold, rooted in his deep faith in God. He will be remembered with great admiration and respect, and above all, with much affection. We have lost a great scholar and a wonderful person.

Gaby Waxenberger, Kerstin Majewski, Renate Bauer, Ulrike Krischke and Ursula Lenker

Colleagues wishing to send their condolences can address these to Prof. Dr. Hans Sauer's wife: Gabriele Sauer, Peter-Dörfler-Straße 4, 82131 Stockdorf