Jews and Romantics: The Puzzle of Identity Rahel Levin von Varnhagen

  • Dagmar Barnouw
Part of the Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 138)


Ever her faithful recorder for the posterity she so urgently desired, August Varnhagen transcribed what Rahel said to him a few days before her death:

What a history! — A fugitive from Egypt and Palestine, here I am and find help, love, fostering in you people. With real rapture I think of these origins of mine and this whole nexus of destiny, through which the oldest memories of the human race stand side by side with the latest developments. The greatest distances in time and space are bridged. The thing which all my life seemed to me the greatest shame, which was the misery and misfortune of my life — having been born a Jewess — this I should on no account now wish to have missed. Will the same thing happen to me with this bed of suffering, will I not rise once again in the same way and not to wish to miss it for anything? Dear August, what a consoling idea, what a significant comparison.... Dear August, my heart is refreshed; I thought of Jesus and shed tears over his suffering; I felt, really felt for the first time, that he is my brother. And Mary, how she suffered! She saw her beloved son suffer and did not succumb, she stood at the cross! I would not have been able to do that, I would not have been that strong. God forgive me, I confess, how weak I am.1


Early 20th Century Jewish Woman Social Intercourse Jewish Question Romantic Poet 
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  1. 2.
    Quoted in Leon Poliakov, The History of Anti-Semitism (New York: The Vanguard Press, 1975 (French 1968)) III, 200f.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Hannah Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewish Woman (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974); all references are to this edition.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See the argument in Dagmar Barnouw, Visible Spaces Hannah Arendt and the German-Jewish Experience (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

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  • Dagmar Barnouw

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