cr-3Gustav Landauer - Skepsis und Mystik 
Eleanor Alexander
Gustav Landauer & Fritz Mauthner
(1870 - 1919)
A Spirited Friendship

Fritz Mauthner and Gustav Landauer met in 1881 when both were members of the Board of the "Freie Bühne." Landauer was twenty years old then and, in spite of the difference in age, they became very good friends. Ten years later, when Mauthner was in danger of loosing his eyesight, Landauer became his collaborator. At the beginning of the war, in 1914,- the two friends had very serious arguments about the war, since Landauer was a pacifist and Mauthner a German nationalist; yet, they were able to remain good friends. However, in 1919, when Landauer served as Minister of Culture in the revolutionary government in Bavaria, their friendship ended. When the Communists took over the Revolutionary Council, Landauer did not serve, but he was arrested in April and later murdered in prison.

Hedwig Pringsheim wrote about these events to Fritz Mauthner.
    "His political work was certainly disastrous, but in spite of it every sensitive person, including myself, must have deplored his terrible death. For he was a man of high principle who wanted the best, but went about it in the wrong way. I read a few days ago a declaration by the Republic of the Soviets written by Landauer which was excellent in tone and form and with which everyone who is not a narrow-minded bourgeois could have agreed. His death is one of the many horrible events of the last weeks. He was not blameless, but may the one among us who is without guilt throw the first stone."
In Munich in the Spring of 1919 extremists seized power: a Republic of Soviets was proclaimed which referred openly to the Russian model. It did not last long. Government troops took over and the republic ended with tragic losses on both sides. Among the victims was Mauthner's friend Gustav Landauer. My father describes these events:
    "In a Catholic organization's meeting place, twenty-one harmless people were shot down as reputed Spartacists. Further, Gustav Landauer, author of a brilliant book on Shakespeare and a Communist idealist who had originally taken part in the Republic of the Soviets but who had nothing to do with it during the last few weeks, was killed in prison by some soldiers. Once more men saw that civil war is the most horrible of all." - Erich Eyck, A History of the Weimar Republic, Cambridge, Harvard University, 1962
Landauer was a prolific writer and an important influence in German cultural life: he wrote about philosophy, literature and history and his "Letters from the French Revolution" were widely read. Landauer considered the letters of Mirabeau to be the finest written during the Revolution.

All his life he felt very close to the Jewish people and the newly founded state of Israel. Just like Martin Buber, he considered the Israeli kibbutz to be one of the most exciting innovations of his time: it was a socialist enterprise, not Marxist, and it gave the community the first place in planning and running these farms. His mature writing and social commitment demonstrate his unbroken, consistent interest in the Jewish people, subjects of Jewish interests and concerns, as well as themes touching on Jews in world literature.

He was always restless, and often misguided, but I believe that he was truly a good man, always concerned with the well-being of others.


July 30, 1895

Lieber Mauthner,

Thank you very much for your last letter; I just sent Langerbeck "Geschwister" (Siblings) and "Knabenleben" (A Boy's Life). I have almost finished "Lebenskunst" (The Art of Living) which I will send as soon as I am done. You did not give me the address of Dr. Roth in Frankfurt; I have not yet heard from him; do you really have confidence in this affair? People who look for assistance in giving the feuilleton a more social psychological character are usually only agents of small provincial papers.

My poor dear wife unfortunately had to go back to the Jewish hospital in Berlin, Auguststr. 11- 16, Room 14 on the first floor. However, she feels so well that it is still doubtful whether the doctors will operate. Your visit (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 3 - 4) would please her very much indeed.

Beginning in the middle of August our new paper will appear in Berlin; in the end we decided to keep the old name. lt is almost certain that I will edit it, at first from here; I will probably take over the publishing and the layout. I still have some funds left that I can use for a start. You do not have to worry about me; I promise not to worry. I look forward to publishing your essay "Jüngster Tag" (The Last Day).

Should I return to Berlin one day, I will not ever leave again. If you have no money, nature and independence loose their charm. The child is well; how are you, your wife and your daughter?

Warmest greetings, your Gustav Landauer


December 27, 1897

Lieber Mauthner,

We have a very cheerful Christmas behind us, my little Lotte thought that Santa was particularly kind this year; since I do not know his address, I thought I would tell you about it. The other day I came across a poem by Hebbel, called "Two Wanderers;" I thought that it reminded me in many ways of your ideas. Also interesting is a passage from Hebbel's "Feuilleton" Berlin, 1881: I always admired Wilhelm von Humboldt as a linguist of genius; I believe that the solution of the deepest mysteries of the intellect can be found in topics that Humboldt discusses at length. I think that one can find a great deal of interesting discussions in Hebbel's writings.

I just discovered in a review of a book by Schleicher "Die Deutsche Sprache" (The German Language) the following sentences: lt is significant that a genius like Kant, who left no stone unturned, never discussed the medium he used to express his ideas; he never examined the language which is such an important part of thought. I suppose you are aware of his strange contemporary, Hamann. (There follows a lengthy discussion of his theories.)

Prosit Neujahr! (Happy New Year) which I would like to wish you in person. Would you drop me a note some time this week to give me a rendez-vous in Berlin.

Greetings, your Gustav Landauer


December 18,1906

Lieber Freund,

I am delighted that you plan to visit us. We are prepared to do all we can to see as much of you as possible and we will be glad to come and see you at Grete's place. It would be a pity if you did not have time also to see us at home.

Bon voyage - and let us know your arrival by postcard or wire.

Looking forward to your visit, your Gustav Landauer


January 20, 1907

Lieber Freund,

I am quite recovered; there seem to be no bad after effects. - In the meantime I have read your "lbsen" with great pleasure: strong and beautiful. - It is true that Piper is a publisher who is trying hard to entice you. (I also received the "Buddha.")

What do you mean when you say that you are trying to collect your minor essays? At the moment I am not sure what you would include. - I am pleased that you are in contact with the excellent Weizmann-Gunderthal that seems an excellent idea; I remember it is a very beautiful place, but could I find a good place to live there?

Warmest greetings, also from my wife, your Gustav Landauer


From now on, Laundauer uses the informal address "Du" in his letters, rather than the formal "Sie".


July 9, 1907

Lieber Freund,

I have now finished reading your book with great sympathy and was very moved by it. I believe that this book, which means so much to me, often seems to speak to me directly, and I am glad that you feel that it was addressed to me. At first I envied you your heavenly calm, which almost seemed to be the devil's, but gradually I began to understand how much suffering and renunciation finds expression in your writing. While reading it I decided to change my own ways, to try to become more even-tempered. Once you have read my book you will realize how much we have in common, but you will also learn at the same time how different are our views of the world. My first aim always is a practical one, to change society. This is most important to me, although it is often a lonely job; even if my first interest is to deal with a community I often wonder how much I will be able to achieve.

I began my letter telling you about my own feelings, but I want to say now that it is a truly excellent book. I love your style, full of so many charming, courageous incidents which I enjoyed a great deal. You yourself must realize that this book shows the strength of your feelings.

You are creating a new language that will not be lost for a long time and will have an effect in years to come. I am glad to know that we feel the same way about the state. I think that it is despicable that people like Harden, but also many others, give extravagant praise, but are unwilling to acknowledge the burden involved. I hope that you will always realize how close our views are, that you are part of me, and that I am with you in spirit.

I am delighted that you will go with me to Colmar. I am planning to arrive in Freiburg on the 18th and hope to leave with you on the 19th for Colmar, and then go on to Karlsruhe. I would be grateful if you could find me a room near the station, but far enough to be quiet. I will send you a wire, giving you the time of my arrival, not later than 1:26 p.m., but perhaps a little earlier. The three days before we will spend on the Feldberg; from there we will go to Belchen and Blauen, and from there to Staufen or Badenweiler; we'll stay in Basel for a few hours on the moming of the 18th.

Warmest greetings - see you soon, Dein Gustav Landauer


July 30, 1907

Lieber Freund,

Thanks for your postcard and grateful thanks for the lovely time we had with you. lt truly was a rare experience, and I believe that nothing could be more wonderful. lt seems that these days only art and an extraordinary personality can give you this special feeling. lt is such unexpected luck to find such a friend.


At the end of my semester in Heidelberg, in the summer of 1932, I went on a hiking trip with three friends. We first went to Strasburg and saw the beautiful Münster, then to Colmar where the famous Isenheimer Altar by Matthias Grünewald is. Then we went hiking in the dark woods in the mountains and were happy to share this experience.


I am delighted that "Die Sprache" has come out. I have asked Buber to send me a copy; I guess he did not have my address. We plan to stay here for another two weeks. Did you get the cigarettes?

Greetings that come from the heart, your Gustav Landauer

I also send you my heartfelt greetings, Hedwig Landauer


August 5, 1907

Lieber Freund,

Our publisher in Frankfurt is a dreadful man. Although Buber has written to him again, I still have not received a copy of "Die Sprache" (Language). I am telling you all of this because I would like to ask you to send me a copy of the book that will be mine alone. I am often tempted to buy it, but that does not seem right.

lt is beautiful here, and I have been able to get a lot of work done.

Kindest regards from house to house, your Gustav Landauer


June 11, 1908

Lieber Freund,

Thank you very much, not only for your long letter; for me, there was no sign of anger in this letter.

We plan to travel to Karlsruhe around the 15th of July and are looking forward to seeing you in Freiburg, unfortunately, we'll miss you in Berlin, but that cannot be helped. Yesterday my wife visited your Grete in the Grunewald and found her well and cheerful; Fritzchen was happy and lively.

In the "Neue Rundschau" Sänger praised revolution; that may seem encouraging, but what he says is altogether shallow. I am very anxious to hear more about your work and your negotiations with Cotta.

Greetings from house to house, your Landauer


November 19,1909

Mein lieber Freund,

lt must be so: lf I met you twenty years ago when I was twenty years old and since you are twenty years older, you must be sixty years old today. By now you must have heard the word "sixty" so many times that you will be quite impatient and never want to hear the word again. But let me talk a little about 3x20. You told me, not only in your parody of good old Auerbach, that 3x20 can be quite different from well, I won't say lt. You always were twenty years older, and nothing can change that; but let us be sure that nothing in our friendship will ever change. I was twenty years old when you were able to see in my passionate talk a similar spirit and something useful and called me to you. And so I want to thank you for all you have done for me: you taught me to think and you have encouraged me ever since. You accompanied me on my way with kindness all these years and always stood by me faithfully when I acted in a silly, immature or thoughtless manner. You were with me in difficult times when I was unwilling to give up; you were always willing to stand by me, and thus we did many things together: serious and silly.

We have lived an important part of our lives together, but we were always willing to let the other act any way he desired and never tried to change him. Our friendship has been strong because we were at the same time friends and strangers. Our bond was love and respect; we never asked each other favors. And that will never change: at this moment I am looking back and at the same time I am thinking of the future, and I say: it was this way, and it will always remain this way. I have been with you with all my heart, but today there will be too many who want to shake your hands. I want to belong to the privileged few, and I want to stay with you when the others have left.

I wanted to give you a small gift for this day and have sent you a French manuscript which contains a rare 1765 version of "La Vie et l'Esprit de M. de Spinoza" (The Life and Thought of Spinoza), which only was published as a manuscript. I enclose some further information with the book. The small books that come with it should also interest you. If you already own this edition of Hume, please return it; I will be able to exchange it.

Now I Join my dear wife in sending you and Hedwig our warmest wishes and to all your friends who are with you.

Your faithful Gustav Landauer


November 20,1910

Lieber Freund,

Since this letter will arrive too late, I will send you a wire for your birthday tomorrow. A small present will follow later. As always, you have given me much that was good during this year. Thank you so very much. I hope you are all well. It seems to me that the correction of your proofs progresses so well that you must be almost at the end of your work. I hope that is true; I am sure that you will always find worth while things to do.

For me it is just now a time of many things: Lectures on philosophy at the house of Frau von Mendelssohn; before a dozen ladies at the house of Frau Hauschner, speaking about Goethe, frequent theater reviews, reviews of books, and in addition essays and lectures for S. B. We have quite a few visitors to keep me from my work, too. I do wish that I could give my undivided attention to one subject, but I am afraid that will not happen for a long time, I am sure you are snowed in by now; it really must be very beautiful right now in Meersburg.

My warmest greetings to you both from your Gustav Landauer


Karlsruhe, Baden
July 28, 1913

Lieber Freund,

All is well - just as you expected. At the end of the week we will leave here and go to a place nearby in the Black Forest; from there we go to Krumbach and expect to come to your place a few days after August 20. A roorn in a private home would be the best. l'll let you know soon when we'll arrive, probably around August 23. I look forward to your introduction with pleasure. We'll be for seven days in Reichenbach near Ettlingen, Hotel Krone; then Saturday in Krumbach with Mrs. Lachmann.

Kindest regards, your Landauer


August 12, 1914

Liebe Freunde,

We are alive, and the children are well. As long as I am not called up for duty in the Landsturm to which I still belong I will try to eam enough money to take care of my wife and my children. All the usual sources of income seern gone. In addition, I will try to help others in the free professions who are in the same predicament, and then I will try to assist those who are affected indirectly, many of them almost forgotten. Much will have to be done in our community. Let us keep in touch.

All the best, Landauer


On August 4th the First WorId War started that was to end only on November 11, 1918.


November 3, 1915

Liebe Hedwig!

You gave all of us the greatest pleasure with your present of apples. We eat them with great devotion and with many happy memories of the Meersburg garden. The children are particularly charmed because they do not have to peel them, which they must always do these days. For me a good apple is an affair of the heart and almost a necessity; I hesitate to write this because I know that I should not talk this way right now. Many, many thanks for the lovely gift and for your kindness. I will think of this when I am ready to quarrel next time.

Liebe Hedwig, how are you? Are you still working? Are you continuing to write your novel or are you still doing duty as a nurse? I think of you often and only wish that we could spend a few lovely summer days together again. I spent a few days in August with my mother in Krumbach; Gustav just returned from four days in Karlsruhe with his mother to celebrate her 70th birthday. Our daily life goes on, but there is always the worry about friends and family. But life goes on - and one should not blame anyone looking for a diversion.

Warmest wishes and heartfelt greetings, Hedwig Landauer

Although I can only smell the apples, I also thank you warmly for the gift.

All the best, your Gustav Landauer


Dr. Ina Britschgi-Schimmer

September 18, 1926

Hochverehrte gnädige Frau,

May I turn to you for help with the publication of Gustav Landauer's letters? I have offered to help Dr. Buber with the work since Dr. Hans Lindau is no longer able to assist him.

A short while ago Dr. Kronstein sent mee several letters that he had found among Landauer's papers. Among them was a letter to your late husband written on September 29, 1914; I am enclosing a type-written copy, as the original is not among the letters that you were kind enough to let us have. It is evident that your husband received this letter; his letter of November 15 and his postcard of December 13, 1914, confirm this, where he speaks about his news of "Bergson." Mr. Hugo Landauer told me a few months ago that you still own some of Landauer's letters. I am considering the possibility that you still may have the original of these letters. I would like to ask you, hochverehrte gnädige Frau, for your permission to publish them. I would also like to ask you to give me permission to publish other letters that you still own. I want to assure you that we would be considerate and tactful at all times.

Unfortunately, I need your help about some other papers too; could you give us an explanation of the following: on December 30, 1909, Gustav Landauer sent Fritz Mauthner a manuscript, wishing him a good New Year, writing:" I am sending you the manuscript of a small paper of mine which is not finished, but only part of an essay," since I know that I will not have time to continue this project and publish it, I would like to show it to you. Would you have time to look at what I have written, even if it is not your way of thinking. I think it all may look crazier than it really is."

On January 8, Fritz Mauthner confirmed the receipt of the manuscript and wrote the following appreciative words: "the first effect of your manuscript was sorrow that I learned that you were still not well, that too much work and a constant feeling of fatigue prevented your finishing this work of genius. I mean "genius" in the sense that the Romantics would use it, and that is where our ways part. Your mathematical proof of the problem is simply marvellous and should certainly be continued. Our views about the concept of time are still very different. I had suddenly the idea that I might quote part of your fragment when I get to the essays "Death" and "Time." May I keep your manuscript for a little longer?

On October 2, 1910, Landauer wrote again to Fritz Mauthner. "Could you let me have my fragment for a few days, since I now believe that something may be wrong with my 'concept'." There is no further correspondence about the matter at this time. On March 18, 1911, Fritz Mauthner notified Landauer that he was sending him a few corrections, and he points out that on page 606 there are some notes containing quotes from Landauer's fragments. Landauer thanked him for this honor, but added: 'I think it would be better to delete these notes, since it only concerns me. If I could have been of service, I would have been prepared to have my views known prematurely."


It seems that Mauthner acceded to his wishes. Mrs. Britschgi continues:


It seems to me that in the spring of 1911, the manuscript was still in the hands of your late husband. You will understand, verehrte gnädige Frau, that it would be of the greatest interest to me to learn more about the contents of this fragment. I would also like to know where it is at present. I cannot find it among the papers in possession of Dr. Buber; therefore he asked me to get in touch with you. Any information about this manuscript could be most welcome.

With my warmest thanks I remain mit hochachtungsvoller Empfehlung, sincerely yours,

Ina Britschgi-Schimmer


This letter to Fritz Mauthner, typed by Landauer, was found among his papers after his death. It was written eight weeks after the start of the First World War; and shows Landauers despair, argueing with his close friend. I wonder whether this letter ever was sent; it was not found among Mauthners papers. However, Dr. Britschgi-Schimmer believes that Fritz Mauthner answered it a few weeks later. Did Fritz Mauthner receive the letter and destroy it?


September 29, 1914

Lieber Freund,

I am sending you the latest copy of the "Schaubühne" because it suddenly occurred to me that you may not get the journal any more. It so happens that this issue has an article of mine that contains a passage critical of you. I do admit that I was thinking of you when I discussed the attacks on Bergson. I found your essay very disappointing, even apart from the chauvinistic introduction. For heaven's sake, what reason can you possibly have to be angry at Bergson; the tone of the article, written for the general reader, is most unpleasant. Just show me one passage where he makes a concession to theology, and I will show you three or four passages written by you that could be misunderstood in the same way. He tries to show that there is a creative impulse in human beings, that it is impossible to predict the future by looking at the past. That has nothing to do with the legend of creation of the world - only the word is the same. He is utterly decent, and you used to speak of him with great respect. What I dislike most is the tone in which you speak. I do think you should have turned against his seemingly positive opinions without rancor. In any further research of Bergson's writing you would have come across the linguist Bergson; then you would have cheerfully shaken his hand. Why, for heaven's sake, are you so furious? Bergson is no philosopher but he is doing research in philosophy. Is that good enough reason to make him the laughing stock of the Berliner Tageblatt readers?

You will learn from the little article that I am enclosing that I will never be able to understand your attitude: I hate your uninhibited chauvinism. Well, I know that you will understand me, but I cannot understand you. You, Fritz Mauthner, the author of the "Critique of Language," you, Fritz Mauthner, the respected and famous writer to whom the intellectual world listens, who is not a political outcast: you have a duty in these terrible times. You once told me that on many occasions it was I who had given you courage to act nobly. I wish I had done better.

But all this is the consequence of these terrible times that make you so narrow-minded. I had hoped that your wonderful thoughtfulness and objectivity would shine. But you persuaded yourself that one had to be a "German" these days, and that being German meant that you had to wear the mask of Kleist. You feel you have to make excuses that you continue your philosophical studies in times of war. When should we study philosophy? Is there a better remedy against madness and murder than philosophy? We are surrounded by enemies - should we not fight when our world is in danger?

I have never advocated heroism, especially not from others. But when I see the opposite, lf someone makes excuses because he studies philosophy - then I have every reason to be sad. In 1813, in his lectures on scholarship, Fichte never apologized.

I am very unhappy and I beg you to excuse me. I should be silent, but I cannot: you must let me speak because we are friends. I think it would be best, if you did not answer this letter. I will never understand you in this matter, my respect for you is too great and makes it impossible for me to understand you.

A Memorial Service for Gustav Landauer
There will be a memorial service for Gustav Landauer, who was for many years an active member of the artistic board of the Volksbühne, on the 25th of this month at 12:30 at the Volksbühne. Tickets are free and can be picked up in the office of the Volksbühne and at the ticket office of the theater.
LITERATUR - Letters to Fritz Mauthner, Translation by Eleanor Alexander, Winter 2001