The history of the department
The department was established in 1948 with the appointment of Werner Caskel (1896-1970) to the Chair for Oriental Philology. Caskel had worked at the Orient-Forschungsinstitut (Oriental Research Institute) founded by Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, which had been transformed into a foundation in 1929 and whose goal was to research the ancient and modern Middle East. Following the Second World War, he brought the remains of the foundation's holdings (books, manuscripts, archaeological finds, and works of art) to Cologne. The library formed the basis of the library of the Max Freiherr von Oppenheim Stiftung, which also moved to Cologne and had its inaugural ceremony on 22 March 1950.
Caskel was succeeded in 1961 by Erwin Gräf (1914-1976). Following Gräf's early death in 1976, Werner Diem took over the chair, which he held until 2009. Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf has held the Chair for Islamic Studies since 2012.