Fractured Biographies


Editor: Ian Wallace
A physical chemist (Fritz Haber), a photographer (Josef Breitenbach), a cabaret artist (Georg Kreisler), two writers (Otto Alscher and Albin Stuebs), a pioneering scholar in Irish-German studies (John Hennig) and a Celtic philologist (Julius Pokorny) are the focus of this volume. What they have in common is a biography fractured by the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933. Six were forced into exile; the life of the seventh, the Romanian-German writer Otto Alscher, shows that even the biography of a Nazi sympathiser could be dislocated by the years of dictatorship. As the previously unpublished letters which are reproduced here show, Fritz Haber, a Nobel prize winner, spent ‘his last lonely months’ seeking a dignified way to leave the country to which he had once felt the deepest attachment. Although a prominent member of Germany’s academic élite, Julius Pokorny had to retire because of his Jewish ancestry in December 1935 and yet was allowed to continue publishing on ethnic themes until his exile in 1943. Albin Stuebs was forced to seek refuge in Prague and later England when his left-wing political convictions made him a certain target for the Nazis. Because of his marriage into a liberal Jewish family, John Hennig had to renounce all hope of an academic career in Nazi Germany and, after his exile to Ireland, struggled in straitened circumstances to support his family while at the same time developing into an unusually prolific scholar. Proof that exile may stimulate creative energy is provided by Josef Breitenbach, whose remarkable biography appears to show that loss and uprootedness may release otherwise undeveloped creative potential. Similarly, the flight of Georg Kreisler from Vienna in 1938 was the start of ‘a remarkable voyage of discovery’ which saw him grow into a major, if consistently undervalued figure in the world of post-war German cabaret.

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Ian WALLACE: Foreword. Ian WALLACE: 'A Genius for Friendship': Fritz Haber. Wolfgang SCHOPF: Blende auf: Josef Breitenbach. Gisela HOLFTER/ Hermann RASCHE
'Was ausgewandert sein heisst, erfährt man erst nach Jahrzehnten' - John Hennig im (irischen) Exil. Pól O 'DOCHARTAIGH: Julius Pokorny: An Outsider between Nationalism and Anti-Semitism, Ethnicity and Celticism. Ian WALLACE: 'Lob der Emigration': Albin Stuebs. Axel GOODBODY: A Life among Gypsies and Wolves: Otto Alscher's Quest for an Alternative to Modern Civilisation. Colin BEAVEN: Georg Kreisler - The Pessimistic Optimist
Notes on Contributors