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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 89
Henry—named Heinrich Max Franz Hönigswald at birth—was born on April 17, 1915, in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), into an academic family, the son of Richard Hönigswald, an eminent professor of philosophy at the University of Breslau. Henry received a traditional education at the Johannes-Gymnasium in Breslau and, after his father moved to the University of Munich, at the Humanistische Gymnasium in Munich, which he entered in May 1930 and from which he graduated with honor and distinction in the spring of 1932. He went on to study at the University of Munich, where from 1932 to 1933 he pursued studies in the Department of Humanities, working with such scholars as Eva Fiesel, an authority on Etruscan, and the renowned Indo-Europeanist Ferdinand Sommer. The latter was also a friend of the Hönigswald family.
Henry became interested in the classics, Indo-European, and linguistics at an early age. Years later he reminisced (1980, p. 23) about how his interest in these areas was first aroused:
My story is very different. I suppose I was a fairly typical product of German secondary education. We had a Greek teacher who must have had a course in Indo-European and who taught us some of the things he knew. I bought Kiecker’s Historical Greek Grammar (“Sammlung Göschen”1) and one birthday I got Brugmann’s Kurze vergleichende Grammatik. Since then I knew I wanted to be a classicist or, even better, a linguist.
As was true for many scholars of that time, Henry’s family was subjected to the dictates of German Nazism. His father was nominally a convert to Christianity (his mother died when Henry was only six)—and Henry was confirmed in the evangelical church, but these were formalities to ensure tenure at a university and a place in civil society for an intellectual family that was ancestrally Jewish—though they rejected all religion and superstition—in a place in Ger-