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October 02, 1959 - Image 57

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1959-10-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Rahel Varnhagen - Germany's Stepchild

By ERWIN FETTERS
"If fate wants to mock a
human being, it creates a soul
of dynamic energy and glow-
ing will, a soul that strives to
divine heights and then lets
this soul be born of a Jewish
mother" — these bitter words
uttered by the German poet
Karl Beck, best illustrate the
tragic duality of a German-
born Jewish creative mind.
This is the story of a bril-
liant woman who was born in
Germany in 1771, who pas-
sionately loved the country of
her birth, its language and
customs and who wanted
nothing better than to live
and work for it, to offer gen-
erously of her gift of heart
and mind. She was Jewish,
but like Heinrich Heine, she
forsook her people and her

Sincere Holiday Greetings

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ancient faith, changed her
philosophy to suit the domi-
nant majority and gave away
her self-respect and personal
integrity only to realize soon
afterwards that her apostasy
had been in vain; and like
Heine, she would return re-
pentantly to her ancient faith
she had deserted.
Rahel Levin, wife of the
Prussian diplomat and au-
thor, Karl August Varnhagen
von Ense, was considered
the greatest woman of Ger-
man Jewry. For many years,
her highly cultured, beauti-
ful home was a pleasant
meeting place ("salon" they
called it at that time), where
the elite of German aristo-
crats and scholars met. Here
Goethe read his manuscripts
to understanding and appre-
ciative scholars; it was
Rahel who discerned the
uniqueness of the great
German poet.
She was a human magnet
who, by her beauty, education
and shrewdness, attracted Ger-
many's greatest minds. Heine
called her admiringly the most
gifted woman of the universe.
From the early days of her
youth, her Jewishness was a
source of embarrassment and
heartbreak to her, for her first
lover to whom she was offi-
cially engaged, Count Finken-



Sincerest New Year's Greetings

stein, had to break off all ties
because his aristocratic family
objected to his alliance with
a Jewess.
She felt her Jewishness as
a stigma, as a cruel obstacle
in the way with her complete
amalgamation with • German
culture. In 1793, she writes
to a friend: "I imagine that
just as I was being thrust into
this world, a supernatural be-
ing plunged a dagger into my
heart, saying: 'Now, be sensi-
tive, see this world as only a

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A Happy New Year to Our Friends and Patrons

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RAHEL VARNHAGEN

T334 E. VERNOR

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JOHN E ISSITT & ASSOCIATES

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Happy New Year

few are able to see it, be great rc-b o
15-611111?
17377 Livernois UN 4-7939
and noble, nor can I deprive
you of a restless, continuous
flow of thought. But there is
Greetings on the New Year
one reservation: be a Jewess!'
Sincerest Best Wishes to All
And now my whole life is one
On the Dawn of a New Yea?
long bleeding."
On her wedding day, Sept.
Sheets — Plates — Bars — Structurols
27, 1814, her conversion to
Complete Shearing Facilities
Protestantism took place. She
Oak Park, Mich.
LA 1-1100
11675
EAST
8 MILE
21701 Republic
was then 47 years old, Varn-
Lincoln 6-3440
hagen barely 30.
She began to understand
and appreciate Judaism only
New Year Greetings
when comparing the texts of
Best Wishes for a Joyous New Year
the Old and New .Testament.
The anti-Jewish riots in Ger-
To All Our Friends and Clients
many in 1819 caused Rahel
more grief than similar in-
Industrial and Commercial Tractor Repair
cidents had done before her
All Forms of Insurance
conversion; the cruel perse- Ci 922 WEST VERNOR
WO 3-9752
cutions rudely woke up her
WO 2-5352
313 FOX BLDG.
Jewish consciousness and she
turned back to the old faith
■ .••••4
■••■ "
ammt ).■■■•■ o •••••. ■1,•■••■■ ••• ■■
,•o
r S i n ■••■••■■•••■, i o
of her ancestors. Bitterly,
New Year Greetings
she asked why the clergy did
New Year Greetings
not speak out when syna-
gogues were burnt and
Torah scrolls torn up.
In many instances, Rahel in-
"Service Is Our Business"
Engineering Service
terceded quietly in behalf of
Dealers in Shell Oil Products
Industrial Contractor — 24-Hour Service
Jews and inspired her aristo-
UN 1-9772
FOrest 6-1800
18911 Livernois, at Clarita
19003 John R.
cratic friends to drop their

■0
early ingrained contempt and
■ ■
■ 0■



to associate with Jews on
terms of mutual respect and
Happy New Year
genuine equality. Of such great
New
Year
Best
Wishes
*
influence was her soft insist-
ence and perseverance that
many biased people gained
Michigan's Largest Restaurant and Bar
sympathetic insight to the
Equipment Outfitters
WAREHOUSE
Jewish soul and attained im-
4403 RUSSELL
SCHRIER
BROS.,
Props.
munity to the prejudice ram-
LO 7-1600
1256 Meldrum
pant in certain circles. The
o******************************************** 1 man whom she convinced most
effectively was her husband
Varnhagen, 13 years her
Holiday Best Wishes
Greetings and Best Wishes
younger, who found out that
Jews were in truth God's
chosen people, the progenitors
"Finest Food in Chinatown"
of two religions, one for them-
Aviation - Fire - Casualty - Auto
Orders to Take Out
selves, the other for the world.
All General Insurance Lines
At the end of her life,
WO 2-5851
1246 THIRD, corner Abbott
BR 3-4930
Rahel's early discontent with
16315 WEST SEVEN MILE RD.
her Jewish origin gave way to
happy acceptance of her an-
-Q.SULSULOMMIS.Q.SLCULSULSLQ-SUUS.S:
cestral faith. Five days before
her death in 1833, she called
Best Wishes for a Happy New Year
herself a refugee from Egypt
Holiday Greetings and Best Wishes
and Palestine. In a letter to
a friend, she wrote: "-With
suprefne delight do I think of
2765 Penobscot Building
my origin and this entire in-
terconnection of fate through
Detroit 26, Michigan — Telephone WO 1-1894
which the oldest memories of
• 6/FIFISTIMC6 6 blrbM-61M121- 6- 66-61MCIM rtrinrinsinninni the human race are bound up
with the newest happenings,
Holiday Greetings
and through which the fur-
thest reaches of time and page
Season's Most Cordial Greetings
are linked. What for a long
"Your Friendly Service Drug Store"
period of my life seemed to
Prescriptions Carefully Compounded
be my greatest disgrace, my
bitterest pain and misfortune,
14601 WEST 8 MILE
FREE
Corner Hubbell
Pick-Up and Delivery
namely to have been born a
Michigan Liquor Control
of
Prescriptions
WE 5-9625
9345 Grand River
Jewess, I would not now dis-
Commission Distributor
VE 5-4530
pense with at any price."

IRVING A. LEVY AGENCY

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