David Honigmann has an entry in Encyclopedia Judaica. He published two long articles on his life in Jewish publications. "Aus einem Knabenleben von vor 50 Jahren", appeared in Liebermann's Jahrbuch, 1884, p. 22. This publication seems not to be held by libraries in the US. Fortunately for us, my grandmother owned a copy, which my grandfather let me take when I visited in 1975, a month after her death. "David Honigmanns Aufzeichnungen aus seinen Studienjahren" was, from internal evidence, written in 1871. It was either printed or reprinted in Jahrbuch fuer juedische Geschichte und Literatur in 1904, page 133, with an introduction by the noted scholar Dr. Markus Brann. Dr. Brann's wife was my greatgrandmother Caecilie Fraenkel Schueler's sister. My copy of this work once belonged to Honigmann's daughter Anna, my grandmother's grandmother. The last work I used in this pastiche is an article published in 1921, for the centenniel of his birth. A copy, torn out of its original publication was among the material I brought back in 1975. We also own a handwritten copy [which seems to be in his wife's hand] of his intellectual autobiography, dedicated to his wife Anna. I have not managed to plow through it. The German cursive of the time is very difficult to read, even when well-done [Anna had a lovely hand], and his sentence structure is extremely complex.
Kempen was a small town with a large Jewish population. It was well-known for its religious school . The Jewish population of Kempen still had a largely medieval attitude, which is described at length in David's memoir of his childhood, from which most of the following section is taken. For example, this story about the previous Rabbi of Kempen was current in David's childhood: a young man had been possessed by a demon. All efforts at curing him having failed, the Rabbi was consulted. He sent an assistant with his staff, filled with "Shemoth", to the patient. The demon refused to be exorcised, until the assistant informed him that if the Rabbi had to come in person, it would REALLY be rough on it. It tucked in its tail and left.
The sole educational institution for children was the Cheder, run by a Melammed and an assistant. This not being enough to support them, they usually had other occupations as well, such as tavernkeeping. The schoolroom was dark, dingy and dirty--it was only cleaned annually, before Passover. The course of study involved memorizing Bible verses in Hebrew, as well as their literal translation into Yiddish, the native language of the Jews of Kempen. After the Bible, the students learned the Commentaries, and finally the Talmud, by the same method. One afternoon a week they spent an hour learning to write Hebrew cursive. There was no grammar, arithmetic, history, or any other subject. In the winter there was an extra hour from 7 to 8 PM, from which one went home armed with staffs and lanterns, which was felt to be a nice variety in the usual routine. He says that the absence of any context for the Bible led to some strange fancies on the part of the students: they all pictured the generals Abner and Joab, for instance, in the full regalia of the Prussian army! On Sabbath afternoons, the melammed would visit the parents of his students, in turn, and the children would be subjected to an oral examination of what parts of the Torah they'd memorized.
Some parents felt this was not a complete education, and pooled their resources to hire a private tutor to teach their children a few more things. David felt they were extremely fortunate in hiring a young man, whom he calls 'H' . He taught them Hebrew grammar, Hebrew composition, Logic, Moses Maimonides' Introduction, the Talmud, and the Bible from Mendelsohn's translation into German. This is how David and his schoolmates learned German! The atmosphere in this classroom was rather bizarre: the young man wasn't an officially registered melammed, so, strictly speaking, the whole enterprise was illegal, and there were many alarums that the 'school' was about to be busted. The students scattered, H. hid the books, and took off for the designated hiding place of the house: classes were held, in turn, at the homes of the participating families. H's nerves couldn't take this situation in the long term, and he eventually resigned the position, but not before inspiring David with a drive for secular knowledge. [H. is probably Samuel Holdheim, a well-known pioneer of Jewish Reform].
The Mendelssohn translation of the Bible was felt to be blasphemous in the Kempen area and much of Poland, and had been banned by the Rabbis since its first publication. (As the Bible was transmitted to Man in Hebrew, it should stay in that language!) This conviction was still current in the area: David relates how, one day, a Polish Jew, finding the man of the house away, decided to listen in on H's class while he waited to do his business. The class was studying the Lamentations of Jeremiah from the Mendelssohn translation. The visitor was appalled to find the Holy Words being cast into this blasphemous mode, being read in a simple conversational style, instead of being chanted in accompaniment to 'davvening', and in the absence of the traditional commentaries from the Talmud and Midrash. When the class got to the verse "Feuer sandte er in meine Gebeine, ha wie wuetet es da!" (Lamentations 1:13 "From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them....), the visitor could no longer contain himself and shouted, " Yes, the fire from Heaven will descend on YOU and consume YOU, like Korah and his corruption, for this blasphemy!!" and stomped out, slamming the door. David says that, at this time, certain of Mendelssohn's expressions for God, such as "the Eternal One" were considered by pious Jews to be too close to the True Name of God to be used.
Even after H's departure, the Mendelssohn Bible was prized by his former students. The big problem was getting access to a copy! On the same floor as his grandparents' apartment, lived a family of three generations. The grandfather owned a copy of Mendelssohn's Bible, written in Hebrew letters, with a moving commentary by Mendelssohn's friends. David had no idea how this edition, in 5 volumes, came into the family's possession, or what became of it. The grandson was part of his class, and could be bribed by David to 'borrow' this or that volume from his grandfather (who kept the Book locked up, except on Saturdays, when he took it to services, to follow along with the readings).
Shortly after H's departure, a Christian teacher founded a private, nondenominational school for both girls and boys. David prevailed on his family to enroll him. This was an enormous concession on their part, because its hours coincided with those of the Jewish Talmud school. David had to promise to study Talmud on his own before and after school, so as not to miss out on this vital part of his education. In this school, he learned all the usual secular subjects, and beginning French.
(He'd had another brush with French: there was a Monsieur Pierre living in Kempen. He was a disabled veteran of Napoleon's army, who somehow-no one knew how- ended up in Kempen. He eked out a precarious existence giving French lessons. When sober, he was extremely gallant and courteous, and when drunk - often - he was bellicose. David didn't think the French he taught could have been particularly correct, as he wasn't well- educated).
His Talmud studies were with his former schoolmates. Kempen had a large (for its size) "Beth Hamidrasch". This was a large room, heated in winter, with a small library of religious works, and tables for studying. Groups formed at the tables, and it was a noisy place, because some of the traditional methods of study involved the instructors and students debating the various points. Besides, individual study called for reading aloud to onesself. Rabbis and transient teachers held continuing education classes in Jewish law, the Talmud, and the Bible in this hall, as well. A man named Reb Lebusch was in charge of it: he took care of the lighting (candles), made sure the books were properly shelved, and evicted boys who got too unruly. He was very respected for his piety and learning, and widely feared for his sarcasm: a boy was showing off by asking for various difficult works. Reb L. asked him who his teacher was. The boy replied he was studying on his own. Reb L. intimated that he'd end up just as well-educated as his instructor. The Beth Hamidrasch was open all the time, and thus served as a place for the nightwatch to warm up in winter, and the homeless sometimes sought refuge there as well.
After several years of this sort of sporadic education, a man named A. moved into Kempen, to take care of his aged mother, who lived there. He hung up a shingle as a teacher of French and Polish, and David signed up for his third try at French, which, he says, wasn't terribly successful either. After a while, A., noting David's good handwriting and proper style and grammar, proposed to give him French lessons in exchange for a few hours work per day copying documents for his 'business'. It turned out that business was 'Winkeladvokat". This means he was (secretly, because it poached on lawyers' business!) transacting legal business for illiterate people, and for people who had minor cases for which they didn't care to pay the long price for a lawyer. A. couldn't afford to have his own handwriting presented before the court, and David's obviously youthful, but legible, handwriting made a good front for him. His business throve to the point that David's services were soon required 6 hours per day. He got to know the inside scoop on a lot of village goings-on, some of which he says weren't appropriate for a person his age to know, but the experience was valuable when he later became a lawyer. He says he could have set himself up in competition to his teacher after a while, commenting that that is, after all, how law was learned in England and America in those days. Except that one reads with real lawyers, and not persons of dubious background, like A.
As David did more and more work for A., he began giving him a weekly salary, to keep him loyal. But what really kept him working was that A.'s sole hobby was reading. He borrowed books from the (new) circulating library, and not only let David read them during breaks and slack times at the office, but take them home, and they would then discuss them. This reading provided David with his background in literature.
This is how David passed the time until his thirteenth birthday, when his bar mitzvah was celebrated, and it became time for him to choose a profession. For one of his talents, the choices were to stay home and specialize in the Talmud, or to go 'abroad' and join the culture he'd only seen second hand through his readings. He said it didn't take him long to decide: he wanted to go to X., and go to school there. His parents had worked out an arrangement for this, so their permission was no problem. His father tried to get him admitted to Rabbi Samuel's 'Schiur' (Talmud classes), but one of R. Samuel's favorite students, and his assistant (who later became one of David's best friends), thought he wasn't mature enough, and convinced the Rabbi to turn him down. This meant there was nothing for it, but to let David go away to school: which, he felt later, had been a great favor to him. [X. is Breslau; I don't know why he felt compelled to disguise the city's name this way].
His parents made him promise not to neglect the Talmud, which was the only 'learning' they knew, and to not stray from a religious life. The more conservative relatives shook their heads and predicted that no good could come of this. His father took him to X., where he was going to be staying with relatives and business associates of his father's, and asked certain pious men to watch out for his spiritual education. So David started dropping by the Beth Hamidrash at X., which wasn't a very lively place there, occasionally, but eventually he only had time for the work of catching up to what was supposed to be his grade level.
The school in Breslau was progressive: in other words, it was like what we'd consider a school, with college-educated professional teachers. (His previous teachers had all been mostly self-taught). He did the upper two classes at this school,(the Koenigliche-Wilhelms-Schule, helping to pay tuition by tutoring other students ) spent a few weeks in private study of Latin and Greek, and entered the Gymnasium. He was doing fairly well in the Gymnasium, and even outstandingly in some subjects, when he decided to drop out and study on his own - a stupid move, he felt in retrospect. He particularly missed out on scientific subjects. After a year and a half, he entered another Gymansium; this wasn't easy, as there were huge gaps in his education, but he graduated. In fact, he was later told that the autobiography he'd had to write for the Abitur had attracted very favorable notice among the examiners .
Having gotten to his graduation, David switches, in the second part of his narrative on his childhood, to a more general description of aspects of life in Kempen. His first subject is the relation of Jews to the Catholic Church, which was the dominant sect in Kempen. The statuary and ritual of the Catholic Church so reminded the Jews of Kempen of all the idolatrous practices that the Bible inveighed against, it gave them the fantods. The Jews of Kempen avoided even the vicinity of the Catholic Church, if they could. When a procession passed, they averted their eyes, giving the Catholics strong reinforcement of their preconceived prejudices that Jews were anti-religious, etc.
The Lutherans in Kempen, on the other hand, were very 'low Church', using only a cross on their church and in their processions, to which it was much easier for the Jews to relate. The pastor seems to have been an extraordinary man: for the fiftieth anniversary of his pastorship, the Rabbi and all the high officials of the Jewish community came in his honor. (The Rabbi had to do some fast talking to get them all to come).
One of the first things David had noticed as a child was that, in spite of apparently friendly relations, there was an unbridgeable something between his family and certain people: the ones who weren't Jews.
The mayor and chief of police were fairly human characters to the small children of Kempen: the chief of police, who doubled as tax collector, was even known to take a drink, if he was offered one while stopping by to collect taxes or transact some other official business. He had an assistant, who was suspected of being a spy and informer, who was a Jew (to the horror of the remaining Jews, but it was felt this relationship could be exploited if necessary). The various border guards and excise officials were also no strangers, but one was cautious around them: they represented real power. Then there was the Justice of the Peace, an office that was left over from the Napoleonic era. It was quite a mysterious post to the children of Kempen, who tried to figure out what sort of Justice the Peace might require. The Justice of the Peace was a gaunt, aristocratic man of middle age who looked very elegant with his beardless face. (Jewish men in Kempen were all bearded). His name was St-P., and he may have been of French extraction. He lived near the manor, which was near the Catholic rectory, in a fine house called 'New Berlin', which had once been a hotel, but now had his apartments and some of the local government offices. It was assumed he was a bachelor, because he never had any female company, only his three purebred greyhounds and young Mr. von D, a Polish nobleman and his 'Greffier', beloved by all the aristocratic ladies of Kempen, but who disappeared in the aftermath of the Prussian Civil Service Exams. The greyhounds were spotted white and brown, nearly identical, constantly circling their master, whereever and whenever he was seen. Their presence didn't help clear up the function of Justice of the Peace for Kempen youth. He was an interesting person, mirroring, as he did, a world far off from that of the local peasantry with their sheepskins, felt hats, kaftans, and untrimmed frizzy beards. A Mrs. Brown lived nearby. Rumor had it she was English, or at least the widow of an Englishman, who'd somehow been cast adrift in Kempen during the Napoleonic wars. She had three beautiful daughters, of whom the eldest was cast by gossip as Herr von D's bride, because he was forever carrying her shawl, and disappearing with her into the shrubbery during walks in which the Catholic Deacon, the Justice of the Peace, and the greyhounds walked on ahead. This came to naught when he failed the Exam: she married a lawyer, older than she, who'd saved enough to build a fine house and wanted a fine wife to grace it.
The most fearsome personality in Kempen's firmament was the Criminaldirector from K., which is where the jail was. His name, Kaulfuss, was enough to send shivers up the spine of children and adults alike. He was suspected of being able to ferret out the least malfeasance. David says that at the time there were various revolutionary (Polish nationalist) plots, so that official vigilance was necessary; various people, even Germans, got involved out of sympathy for the Poles, who were widely seen to be martyrs in the cause of independence. (Poland had been carved up among Austria, Russia, and Prussia. Only a small fraction still existed in David's youth, and that not for long). In addition, there was an official boycott of trade with Russia, and import duties were very high, so that smuggling was a tempting operation. This led to a sort of official paranoia, so that there were, at the slightest breath of rumors, house searches for contraband of totally innocent people, and ill-conceived raids with serious casualties, deaths even, that turned up nothing. One time they did catch some livestock dealers from the next town, devil-may-care sorts, ready for anything. But it was suspected that there were people behind them: even, rumor had it, some Jewish merchants from Kempen, who were thought to be financing the operations. Kaulfuss set about to bring all of this to light. For weeks on end, round the clock, inquiries were made and depositions taken. In the end, he found nothing, and took himself off to K., while the population of Kempen breathed a sigh of relief.
A few weeks later, rumor had it, he was coming back. David vividly recalls the day: the assistant had taken over his class (at a private Jewish school), while the teacher went out on some errand. He came rushing back, completely out of breath, and whispered to his wife, (class was in their house, and she did her housework around the class, so to speak) "Kaulfuss is back!" The reason he was so shaken is that Kaulfuss had decided that some of the Jews had perjured themselves. For the following reason: to a Jew, an oath is meaningless if the object on which it's sworn is not authentic--so said local folklore-- and some of them had contributed a forged Torah to swear on--so said the latest gossip. This was all nonsense, of course, as the Jewish attitude toward an oath is exactly the same as anybody elses': the ideal is the same, but there are always a few degenerates to whom it means nothing... Anyway, Kaulfuss was back, in a great pother, but didn't find anything this time, either. David says this is a shining example of the deleterious effects of allowing the state to be corrupted by religious mania and superstition, having once given them access by way of improperly allowing entree to sectarian religious elements. But, he says, instead of drawing this conclusion, events like this only strengthened the suspicions with which the Jews were regarded.
David met Kaulfuss at a ball later, while on a visit home after he'd graduated from law school: he was a man like any other, and had completely lost the aspect of horrible Fate for him...
The village of Kempen belonged to a manor, or castle: the noble owner of which actually owned large tracts over which he still had certain feudal rights, which led to extensive lawsuits between townspeople, tenants, and the noble Polish family that owned the manor. He was a real pip: dressed in the traditional way, with his fur hat, and never separated from his whip. He had a terrible temper, stormed through the streets, spoke very loudly, and was generous with his curses and whip when he felt moved to it. Rumor had it, he'd been involved in one of the infinite number of plots against the Czar of Russia, had been banished to Siberia, and had just recently returned from exile. The children avoided him, and not just on account of the whip: he had a sinister aura.
In an alley not far from the manor, which was next to the Catholic church, was an old house with an extensive, but wildly overgrown garden. An old man named Starek lived there, no one knew what he did, but the children of Kempen were absolutely convinced he was a sourcerer, while adults admitted to believing he had the evil eye. It was rumored he'd shared the lord of the manor's exile in Siberia.
The manor grounds were fenced with a wooden fence, and the gate was usually closed. But through it, one could see up a drive bordered with yew hedges, to the manor house. The only living things visible were a pair of peacocks. The children used to watch them through the fence. It was believed that peacocks were embarrassed by their feet (as they don't come up to the esthetic standard of the rest of a peacock's body), and that whenever they catch a glimpse of them, they let out a mournful cry, and to compensate, fluff out their tails and stretch their necks.
The lady of the manor was deceased, and the children lived abroad, so that this man was the last slavic lord. His heirs sold the property to a German baron, who in turn sold it to a developer, who subdivided the property and dissolved all the feudal remnants. Thus the local nobility came to a prosaic end. But David doesn't recall what became of the peacocks.
The other important local personalities were the doctors. The first one he personally recalls was the elderly Dr. Burchard, who was called in when children were seriously ill, because grandmothers took care of any mild ailments, and Tante R. was called in for moderate sickness by non-family members. For family, she showed up without consultation. The doctors in the area treated her as a colleague because of her great experience.
Old Dr. Burchard, who used to sit with the golden knob of his cane pressed to the side of his mouth as he deliberated before writing a prescription, was a serious but confidence-inspiring man, for whom children gladly stuck out their tongues, and even took foul tasting brown medicine out of regard for him. David remembers him sitting by the bedside of his next youngest sister, a spirited and cheerful child, of whom Dr. B. was very fond, and who'd very suddenly become seriously ill. She was at death's door, and her mother had been taken to the neighbor's, so she wouldn't see her child die. Aunt R. and the doctor sat helplessly by the bedside, as the child was in a coma and seemed lifeless. He doesn't remember how long it took, but suddenly she woke up, and started to get better, after a few weeks she was back to her old self. Only all her hair had fallen out, and it grew back very curly, so they called her 'Frizzyhead' (Krauskopf).
Besides Dr. Burchard there was a surgeon name Ehrlich, whom the townspeople called "Dr. So-so" because they'd only go to him for illnesses if they had to. (Dr. Burchard being on another case, for example). He practiced in Kempen well into David's adulthood. The other man was a barber, who was a Jew. Since orthodox Jews follow the Talmud and don't go to barbers (David says the injunction made sense in the days before sharp scissors and razors were available), he had very little business in that line. But he was a barber-surgeon, and did a good business in bloodletting, since people still believed that to stay healthy you should have yourself bled about four times a year.
Dr. Burchard's predecessor had been a Jew. David doesn't know if he'd gone to medical school in Germany or in Poland (apparently some Polish medical schools were open to Jews even in those days). He was believed to have been devout. Dr. Burchard's successor was a German, Dr. P., who was very modern, and looked as if he'd just blown in from an elegant salon in Berlin. He had fine blond hair, a dreamy expression, always dressed in blue, and was the darling of the local ladies. He'd rented a nice house, from which one could hear him playing piano in the evenings. One day it was rumored he'd fallen ill. No one knew with what, as he'd no family or close friends in town, and no doctor was called in. A few days later, the horrible news circulated in the early morning that someone had pulled the unfortunate young man from a well near his house. Of course the rumors flew! It was finally decided that he'd gotten up at night, in a somewhat confused, ill, state, to get a drink, and had fallen in. The Rabbi, who was about the same age as the doctor, and had been friends with him, led the funeral procession and gave an oration which put to rest any rumors of suicide.
When David was about 8 or 9, and he was recovering from some illness: he wasn't going to school yet, but the teacher was coming by in the evening to give him his assignments and lecture some. One of these evenings, he and the teacher were alone, because everyone else had gone off to watch the duel. Yes, there was a duel in Kempen, between a 'Rittmeister' (some level of cavalry officer) and a younger man. The older man shot the younger, who died instantly. The procession carrying the body passed by the window, and David was distracted from his lessons. The teacher was discussing the story of Joseph and his brothers, but David's distraction and the tolling of the church bells for the funeral (the Holy Word shouldn't be defiled with such infidel sounds...) put an end to the lesson early.
With this scene, David ends his memoir on his youth.
He took up the tale of his life again in 1869, though he didn't finish his essay on his student years until 1871, when the approach of the 25th anniversary of his Doctor juris jogged him. He was among the first Jews to attend law school in Prussia, and he'd been one of the early supporters of Abraham Geiger's reform movement, which is why his reminiscences of that time were considered to be publishable. They were reprinted after his death, introduced by Marcus Brann (in which he refers to David as a "fearless pioneer for the inner and outer emanicipation" of Jews), and the following material is taken from this essay .
David starts this second essay on his life with extensive comments on a book he has recently read: the first volume of Gabriel Riesser's collected works, containing Dr. Isler's biography of Riesser, which was liberally sprinkled with extracts of Riesser's letters. He comments on the harmony between Riesser the man as revealed in these personal letters and the public literary and political figure of Riesser. Riesser's writings, in spite of his broad personal interests, deal with the single topic of Jewish emancipation (we'd say Jewish liberation or Jewish rights these days); a single-sidedness he seems to have felt, but done nothing about, perhaps seeing any deviation from this one subject as a dereliction of duty. He was also very modest. In spite of his modern attitude toward Jewish civil rights, he was very much against the religious Reform movement, although he was personally not Orthodox in the literal sense. After several pages of this, David informs us that Riesser served a role model for him, once he'd decided to work for Jewish civil rights himself.
When David entered the university in Breslau, where he studied two years (1841-1843), he had no specific goal in mind. In fact, choosing a major and a career (to use the modern terminology) seems to have been every bit as difficult for him as for so many modern students. He registered for the philosophy department, as providing the least restrictive choice of courses. He's somewhat critical of the curriculum for beginning undergraduates: he felt that taking introductory courses in a wide range of subjects was too distracting, intellectually, and that he would have been better off in the long run to have been set at something (anything) in more depth, in order to develop some intellectual discipline in his thought and study habits. He says he recalls very little that he learned in his courses in those two years: the highlights were Professor Braniss, whose philosophy lectures were so outstanding they cast even those he attended in Berlin into the shade, and Professor Movers, who lectured on old Testament exegesis and Biblical archaelogy. Movers was a Catholic, but very openminded, and David took his course because he was toying with the idea of going into Jewish Theology. Scientific Jewish theology was a very new field at the time; Abraham Geiger, who'd recently come to Breslau (1840) as Rabbinatsassessor (Dayan, I think), and assistant Preacher, was one of the pioneers in this field.
David was personally introduced to Geiger by Salomon Nissen while he was still at the Gymnasium. Nissen took promising Jewish students under his wing, inviting them to his home, where they could use his library. He'd not gone to university, but he was very learned, without, David says, being able to creatively synthesize his learning: he was a sort of human encyclopedia on all areas of Jewish accomplishment, from the earliest Talmudic authors to the most contemporary literature. He was a very nice man, and his daughter Theresie provided another attraction to the young men in his circle, a large part of whose purpose was to provide an atmosphere conducive to retaining their Jewish identity. In his last years he turned away from the Reform movement, and destroyed many of his notes on it.
Other early members of the Nissen-Geiger circle were Bernhard Friedmann and Moritz Goldstein. Friedmann was very learned, sharp, and a convincing debater, but shared Nissen's liablility in not being able to accomplish anything original with his knowledge. He eventually turned toward the neo-conservative side of Judaism, and broke with Geiger completely, although in his youth, he'd been well ahead of everyone in his philosophy. Friedmann, David, and Ferdinand Lassalle studied 'junghegelsche' philosophy (neo-Hegelian(?)) together. They had great fun applying the method to everything.
The three of them, plus several other students, were, for a time, instructors at the "Lehr-und Leseverein" (a continuing education union whose purpose was to educate its members on the literary achievements of Jews) founded in 1842 by Geiger. Its intended audience was Jews who'd just come to Breslau from the provinces, and whose education had gaps, due to the exclusive concentration on the Talmud in those places. The (future) Russian minister and Professor Daniel Chwolsohn (later at St. Petersburg) attended sessions for a time. He came, David says, from Vilna, wearing a flowered kaftan and sidecurls, and in a few years of very hard work turned himself into a modern man. Eduard Lasker also studied there. Lasker later became known as a leader of the National Liberal Party . It was his influence that led David to become active in the Revolution of 1848.
Although David maintained a cordial relationship with Friedmann, based on their shared experiences during this time, in spite of their later divergence in outlook, he broke with Lassalle after only a few years. He says that those who knew him early on didn't see him the way he appears from consideration of his 'cometlike' career. They saw how conflicting elements of his character were fired by his ambition, which awakened early in him, and a congenital and nurtured vanity, which, fed by adulation, resulted in egomania. Lassalle, he says, looked like an Olympian figure, but if you looked closely, you saw it wasn't real, but ersatz-marble. David met him when Lassalle was 17 or 18. He'd dropped out of the commercial school in Leipzig that he'd been sent to, and had come home to to study for his Abitur, which examination he planned to take at David's gymnasium. He studied far more than the required material, sometimes spending day and night on it. His parents treated him like a prince, and there was no shortage of money, so that he and his friends had access to any books they might want.
His father was an impulsive hothead in whom David detected no softer characteristics; he was more inclined to be hard, self-centered, and reserved. His mother seemed stupid, though David doesn't know to what extent her hearing disability contributed to the impression. However, she was only interested in the superficial (in other words, an airhead). Both parents spoiled him, so that the basis for good character development was totally lacking.
He failed his first try at the Abitur exam, to the astonishment of his friends. In retrospect, David realized that the examiners must have noticed that his knowledge had more flash than substance, and that he was deficient in the basics. Although a severe blow to Ferdinand's self-consequence, it wasn't a fatal one, and he soon decided that the powers-that-be were intimidated by and jealous of his brilliance. He passed on his second attempt, and threw himself into neo-Hegelian dialectic philosophy. In the meantime, David had moved to Berlin, where he ran into Lassalle by accident, was invited to his apartment, and accepted. He told David of the elegant circles in which he was accepted, talked condescendingly of the faculty at the university in Berlin, saying he was going to study independently and not attend a single lecture. This, and his affected elegance- an attitude that was quite new to him - impressed David so negatively that he never went to see him again. David felt Lassalle to be quite heartless, and wholy disapproved of the entanglement that proved Lassalle's undoing.
Moritz Goldstein , another early disciple of Geiger, was quite different from Lassalle and Friedmann. He was poetical and modest. He'd never been strong, but had been sent by his family to a Talmud school in Hungary nonetheless. The experience was very hard on him, and he seems to have contracted tuberculosis in the course of it as well. He died very young, as a highly regarded Rabbi of a congregation in Posen.
The young professor Gustav Freytag , whose speciality was old German Grammar, but also lectured on contemporary literature, collected a circle of students with literary ambitions, and editted their contributions into the "Studenten-Musen-Almanach", for which some of David's poems were accepted . The group was hailed as the nucleus of a Silesian school of poetry, but they all scattered in time. Honigmann says that the best he accomplished along literary lines were a few novella, as most of his attempts floundered from his self-critique, and that he made no further attempts at literature is probably his greatest contribution to German letters. On this cheerful note, he dropped the essay for a year and a half.
When he picked up again, he noted that he'd now been at university for nearly two years, and had no better idea of what to do with his life than when he'd entered, but that he was getting worried about that state. He'd done some Orientalia, history, philosophy, as well as considering theology, due to his increasing closeness to Geiger, but somehow the idea never took off. This unsatisfactory state of things came to an abrupt end in a remarkable manner.
Dr. Wilhelm Freund (a native of Kempen), known as a philologist for the massive Latin dictionary, of which the first part had been published, came to Breslau on a visit in the fall of 1843. He'd lived in Breslau, but had been absent a long time. He was close to Geiger, and had worked to bring him to Breslau, although later they quarreled. David attributes the quarrel to Freund's manipulative nature; a footnote says it's described in Ludwig Geiger's work on his father. In 1843, Freund published a monthly magazine called "Zur Judenfrage" (On the Jewish Question) in Berlin. This magazine concerned itself with Jewish civil rights and Reform, and had very able contributors: Dr. Sigismund Stern , A. Bernstein , Geiger, and Muhr . Freund took notice of David on account of some newspaper articles he'd written, was encouraged by Geiger, and offered David a salary of 200 Taler per year to write articles for the magazine. He also encouraged David to study law, as it was felt that Reform communities were going to need modern constitutions, and that men trained in modern legal techniques would be needed to draw these up. David would have to relocate to Berlin to take this position, and to study at the university there. His parents agreed to allow him to do this, once he'd convinced them that he wasn't going to try to get a job with the civil service, which would have required conversion to Christianity.
Changing his major to law was not as sensible a move as it would appear today. His literary future actually looked better, because until that time, no Jew had ever been "Advokat", let alone judge or civil servant . However, David accepted the position enthusiastically, as putting an end to the uncertainty of choosing a major, giving him an opportunity to go to Berlin, and because the idea of having to write something regularly appealed to him as a beneficial exercise. He happily put his affairs in Breslau, which had been his home for eight years, in order, bade farewell to his friends, and set out for Berlin.
He took the train to Berlin, through Frankfurt/Oder: the line was nearly brand new in November 1843. He remembers his first sight, from the train, as it went over a bridge, of the Palace (destroyed in WWII, and never rebuilt by the Communists), and the depressing feeling of being thrown in with all those people: Berlin being by far the largest city he'd ever seen.
He was astonishingly homesick, but soon had no time to indulge it: right after enrolling in the legal school, Freund was after him to write an article for his magazine to counter an essay by Geheimrat Wohlfahrt, who wanted Germany to return to a medieval relationship between Church and State, with all its ghastly consequences for Jews. "Herr Geheimrat Wohlfahrt und die Juden" was the result, and was received favorably by the liberal press.
This literary life made him uncomfortable at times, as he felt it could too easily degenerate into mechanical and cynical hackwork if carried on too long. But he was grateful that Freund never asked him to write anything he didn't believe in.
Some of his pieces were banned in outlying areas as being too radical. During this period he also wrote a pamphlet "Wie ich glaeubig wurde" (How I came to believe), which was published anonymously, and was popular among his old circle in Breslau for the poetic outlook in it. He also wrote the essay "Die deutsche Belletristik als Vorkaempferin der Judenemanzipation" in 1844. He says his examples were all from memory. He submitted it to Theodor Mundt , for his magazine "Freihafen", and never heard a word about it, had assumed it had been rejected, until he received, to his surprise, a preprint. He also submitted material to Dr. Hess' "Israeliten" , a progressive magazine at the forefront of reform. This magazine was eventually published in Frankfurt/Main, and facilitated later contacts for him in south Germany.
In spite of all this activity, he didn't neglect his studies. One of his professors was Dr. Dirksen , a prominent legal thinker who looked like an English country squire. In spite of which he had mischievous tendencies, and livened his lectures with humor. He also had Herr Geheimrat Puchta , who was very famous, but not a dynamic lecturer, Dr. Homeyer , the leading Germanist of his time, taught a course on German legal history. He was so softspoken, he could only be heard if utmost silence was kept in the lecture hall, and seemed so frail that everyone expected him to die young, which he didn't. He maintained strict objectivity, and refused to allow discussion of contemporary implications of legal history in his classroom. Professors seemed afraid that they might accidentally ignite revolutionary flames by open discussion of the implications of the law. Professor Mittermeier in Heidelberg, on the other hand, a politically active liberal, never missed an opportunity to point out contemporary implications. The only professor in Berlin who allowed discussion of contemporary affairs was the most conservative one: Professor Stahl , who later led the reactionary party in chipping away at the gains of the 1848 revolution. His field was Federal and Church Law, and he tried to regenerate the mouldering underpinnings for the medieval relation between them. These attitudes weren't apparent in his lectures, however. There, he seemed to be supporting an English-style constitutional government. He didn't preach against the new ideas, he only tried to point out how internal inconsistency made them impractical. He was gaunt, with glowing black eyes, and spoke nasally, which made understanding names & foreign phrases difficult. When the students shuffled their feet, it was a sign for him to enunciate more clearly.
The university at Berlin was full of world-famous professors, and David attended lectures by many of them out of curiosity. The list includes Schelling , Steffens , Jacob Grimm , Karl Ritter , Johannes Mueller , August Neander , Werder, and Trendelnburg .
There were student protests, which if not precisely suppressed, were rendered harmless. The inspiration was the banning of public lectures by Dr. Karl Nauwerck. He'd 'habilitirt' in Berlin (wrote a second thesis), in Oriental studies, and someone in Breslau had given David a letter of recommendation to Dr. Nauwerck, so he'd met him personally. In the winter of 1844, he proposed a course on "the History of State Philosophy", which was a neutral sounding topic, but he soon used the writings of the Greeks and Romans to attack the status quo and the official political theories. He spoke without emotion, even monotonously, but with a Mecklenberg dialect that added an air of the exotic, and with this air of objectivity told truths that had never been heard in those halls. Soon it was standing room only, and the government stepped in to cancel the course on a technicality. Columns on this course were censored from the newspapers. The students were, of course, very agitated over this, and began demonstrations and protests, but had no other result than to sow the seeds of 1848 among the students. Nauwerck himself was later persecuted as a radical democrat and had to flee to Switzerland, where he was still living in 1871. David took an active part in all of this, and had contacts among the students.
He regrets not having approached any faculty members at this time, which, he says was harder in Berlin than in smaller universities, because in his fourth semester, when he undertook to solve the Faculty Prize problem, "de crimine et judiis repetundarum", he ended up not entering the competition, partly from lack of time, and partly from not finding the necessary references in the library. If he'd had some contacts among the faculty, he'd have had greater access to reference material.
The French custom of the salon, where cultured people gathered to converse on intellectual matters of all sorts, was most highly developed in Germany in Berlin, but only literary matters were discussed. It was easy for students to get access to these events, and David participated in his share of them. He'd brought recommendations from Breslau to a merchant named Josephson, whose only outstanding characteristic was his uprightness, but whose wife, born in Silesia, was the perfect housewife. They had four daughters, two of whom were just children. He found with them a home from home. The wife presided over a salon, in which readings were held, music performed, works discussed, and, finally, theatrical pieces performed. He functioned as poet, dramatist and director in these events, contributed prologues and epilogues and celebratory skits for the lady's birthday.
He was also received by Dr. Leopold Zunz . Zunz was reserved, and, especially when there were strangers present, liked to leave the entire conversation to his wife, who was friendly and very cultured. The first time David was at dinner there, on a Friday night, he didn't realize this, and kept trying to draw him into conversation. Zunz would either smile ironically or say something short and sarcastic, both of which put a damper on his efforts. David's forgotten what it was he said that finally broke the ice, and a real conversation ensued. His wife told David later what a relief it had been to her when it happened. After that, he was invited there often. He was never in Zunz's study, he says, because he had no professional interest in his specialty, medieval Jewish literature, at an appropriate level.
In his youth, Zunz, along with Eduard Gans , Heinrich Heine, and Moses Moser had helped found the :"Verein zur Befoerderung der Kultur unter den Juden" (the Union to further Culture among Jews). When the coworkers lost interest in this project, Zunz developed a jaundiced view toward romantic reform efforts. However, he did support the democratic reform movement of 1848.
Zunz worked to establish the study of Judaism as a scholarly endeavor equal to any other of the subjects studied at universities of his time. In his youth he was very much in favor of reform, and hoped that a scientific study of Judaism would lead to an understanding of how it could be changed to meet present needs without violating its spirit. As he got deeper into the study of tradition over the years, he became increasingly conservative in his outlook, though .
Another acquaintance David felt fortunate in having made in Berlin was with A. Bernstein (pseudonym of August Rebenstein). During David's Berlin years, he hadn't become famous yet, and lived in modest circumstances (he seemed to support himself from a book shop), but surrounded by a circle of intellectual acquaintances in all areas, and spent much of his time writing in a wide range of areas: belle lettres, critique, theological, and scientific. He had close ties to Willibald Alexis, Barnhagen von Ense and the 'Spenserian Newspaper' circle. Shortly before David came to Berlin, he'd written a spectacular article on Jewish Reform for Freund's Monatsschrift. Through Freund, David was introduced to Bernstein and Dr. phil. Sigmund Stern. Bernstein was very nice to David, even inviting him to his home. No matter how widely his intellect ranged over modern science, his heart and outlook were rooted in traditional Judaism, as his stories "Voegele der Maggid" and "Mendel Gibbor" attest. Bernstein's wife died young, and his oldest daughter died shortly after her marriage to a hardworking young student. He published a series of articles on the history of Germany since 1848, in the course of describing which David says he hasn't belonged to a national liberal and democratic party since the big split in the Germany progressive movement. (Which occurred shortly after 1848). David says that whatever one may think of Bernstein's politics, the articles clearly described events for the less-educated newspaper reader. Bernstein also wrote articles explaining science for the average reader. However, when David first came to know him, Jewish Reform occupied the lion's share of his efforts.
In beginning his description of this aspect of Bernstein's work, David says the (spiritual) condition of the Berlin Jewish community of the time can only be described as "decayed". Any attempts to introduce change of any sort into the ritual were met with the utmost resistance from the Orthodox faction. A few changes had been pushed through, but they were only superficial, and failed to satisfy the spiritual needs of the faction seeking accomodation with the present. It seemed that a focus for change was at hand: in 1845 Dr. Sigmund Stern, well-educated, versed in Hegelian philosophy, an excellent speaker, announced a series of lectures on "the Tasks of Judaism and Jews". This type of lecture was fashionable at the time, so he got a large audience, including ladies. The first lecture consisted of a history of the Jews. In the second he already touched on more tricky topics: he developed, using Hegelian methods, the spiritual and historical relationship between Christianity and Judaism in a highly elegant manner. This caused thunderclouds to gather: in the first place, some of his audience, unable to follow his philosophical reasoning, misunderstood his points, then he began to be attacked from several sides. The leading Berlin newspaper commentators like Willibald Alexis and Rellstab involved themselves, and these lectures were soon the center of general interest in a practical Reform of Judaism. In further lectures Stern critically analysed contemporary Judaism, and proposed a "German-Jewish Church" consisting of "Landskirche" (a regional hierarchy) and "Gemeinden", and whose fundamental Law was to be interpreted by the contemporary philosophy. This was a program that met the needs of the time, David points out, and draws an analogy with the contemporary "Christkatholische" movement in Germany. (This was a charismatic reform of catholicism which attempted, within the Catholic Church, to rid it of many of the medieval trappings still clinging to it 300 years after the Reformation. A scandal ensued in Germany when the Catholic Church put the 'Robe of Christ' (Something like the Shroud of Turin?) on tour in Germany and many poor superstitious Catholics spent nearly their last pennies to journey to see it. Educated, middle class Germans were appalled at such a level of superstition, and it was denounced in many newspapers. One particularly critical Catholic priest was excommunicated for his views...) David says that he has fond memories of this period as much for the interesting persons he was brought in contact with as for the events themselves.
The tide turned, not just for Freund's journal, and several of them went out of business in Berlin, so that David was given notice, and had to find another source of income. (In other words, he was working his way through college! This was not commonly done in those days). Luckily for him, friends helped him out in an interim period while he was looking for a job. In the spring of 1845, he thought of trying his hand at a village story (Dorfgeschichte) a la Auerbach, which style he'd brought into fashion, wrote two or three chapters of "Jadwiga" and sent them to J. J. Weber in Leipzig, who had turned an "illustrated" into a "Novellen" "newspaper", and asked if he would buy it. In a few days, he received a flattering offer from Weber, so he got to work on plotting the rest of the story, which was supposed to start coming out on 1 July. One problem in the plotting was the Austrian censor! Weber paid him well, and commissioned another, short, work for his illustrated calendar, for which he commissioned original woodcuts as well. David was also able to publish a legal work, in which he compared Mosaic-Talmudic and Roman marriage law, in a publication of the Jewish Cultural Association (israelitischer Kulturverein), which paid for such works. By these means he financed his third year of study, which he planned to undertake in Heidelberg.
This idea, which was rather bold, considering his circumstances, originated with Immanuel Auerbacher, a close friend, who helped him acquire the means to carry it out. Immanuel was a cousin of the poet Berthold Auerbach , and who introduced him to the artist as well. Immanuel was from Karlsruhe im Breisgau, had already studied in Freiburg and Heidelberg, and David met him quite by accident. He didn't recall the exact circumstances, but thinks they were introduced by someone he knew from sitting in the next seat in lectures. The first thing they had in common was being the only two Jewish students at the Law Department in Berlin, but it didn't take long for them to become friends. Immanuel wanted to be a practicing attorney, as in his home state of Baden Jews were already admitted to the bar, an advantage which David envied. He described life in South Germany, the active political discussions, totally unknown in repressive Prussia, the scenic beauty, in such glowing terms, that David promised to visit him there, if not to move there with him. Auerbach returned to south Germany at Easter, 1845. (Easter marks the end of the German academic year).
Leopold Auerbach had himself visited Berlin for the first time in the winter of 1844-5, and caused great interest, as his "Dorfgeschichten" had been very popular there. He was lionized whereever he stayed in north Germany; David witnessed his triumphs in Berlin and Breslau, which he says were not contrived by Auerbach's publishers. As mentioned before, Immanuel introduced David to his famous cousin, who made David part of his circle, somewhat dazzling the young would-be author. In 1847, Leopold Auerbach made an extended stay in Breslau . Auerbach was apparently the subject of literary and personal criticism later, and David comes to his defense, saying that from his acquaintance with the man, the only defects he could see were a certain egotism and smugness, which are understandable in light of the adulation Auerbach's work received.
Easter 1845 Immanuel Auerbach went back home, and David accompanied him as far as Leipzig, where the railroad ended. Berthold Auerbach had given them a recommendation to Frau Harkort, whose fosterdaughter or niece was married to the author Gustav Kuehne . Frau Kuehne was enchanting and cultured, and quite dazzled the two young men. They also had introductions from Berthold Auerbach to a circle of young Austrian writers, refugees from Metternich's absolutism, who were working for a democratic awakening back home. One of them was Ignaz Kuranda , in the 1870's a prominent member of Vienna's legal community, but in 1845 founder and editor of "Grenzboten", with the help of Jacob Kaufmann, who later moved to England. Another was the poet Moritz Hartmann , who'd just published "Kelch und Schwert" to much acclaim. These three were fighting against the Austrian monarchy and had a large following. They lived together in the Hotel de Silogne in Leipzig and entertained the young Honigmann and Auerbach royally one evening. (David makes a big point of their relative youth, but Hartmann was born the same year as David!) Kuranda, serious, wearing a green satin dressing gown, and his oriental-looking head surmounted by a genuine Turkish fez, presided. Kaufmann, cheerful and mischievous, bubbled over with enthusiasm and humor, as he explained a descendancy -either his or Kuranda's, David no longer recalled -- from the famous Rabbi Lippmann Heller, reknowned as author of the Mishna commentary "Tossaphot Jom tow". David only saw Hartmann twice more: once briefly in Berlin, and finally in Breslau in 1848, as companion of Robert Blum and Julius Froebel on their ill-fated visit to Vienna . David and Hartmann were able to exchange a few private words at the "blauer Hirsch" on Ohlauerstrasse, while an enthusiastic crowd demonstrated outside. Hartmann later served in the Crimea, where he picked up some ghastly diseases that current medicine had great difficulty treating.
As 1845 drew to a close, David wound up his affairs in Berlin (where his main interest had been the Jewish Reform movement) and took stock of his educational situation, realizing that although he'd worked steadily, he still had a lot of Law to get through in his remaining two semesters. As he left for Heidelberg, he was more concerned with seriously contemplating a fundamental solution to the problem of earning a living than with anticipation of new surroundings. But youthful optimism soon got the upper hand. In the fall of 1845 he packed up, stayed a short time in Leipzig, during the fall Fair (Herbstmesse), and visited Weber. Weber's chief editor, Dr. Schellwitz, a dry businessman, welcomed him, and propounded his (to David) curious plan to immortalize all the contributors to the Novellenzeitung in wood cuts, to be published in the magazine. David felt he was too inexperienced to be so honored, and declined to allow his picture to be published(!). He says his literary career was nearly at an end, so that he had little further dealings with Weber. (To which Brann felt compelled to add in a footnote that "Aus einem frommen Hause" appeared in Liebermann's Jahrbuch in 1857, "Das Grab in Sabionetta" in Leipzig in 1872--this was reprinted many times, according to the centennary memorial article, and Berel Grenadier in 1874) . En route to Heidelberg, from Leipzig (there was no train connection yet, so he had to take a horse-drawn bus), he stopped at Eisenach, and stayed with Dr. Hess, the editor of "Israeliten". When he arrived, Dr. Hess was away, but his wife took David in, and gave him his supper right then and there, so that he could use the remaining daylight to visit the Wartburg, which had not yet been restored . He'd never seen mountainous country before, and was quite enchanted with the area around Eisenach.
He also spent several days in Frankfurt/Main, having many recommendations to people there. He not only toured the sights of this capitol of the Holy Roman Empire, the "Roemer", and the historic Ghetto, but he made several interesting acquaintances. Dr. Goldschmidt, a mathematician, Dr. Stern from Goettingen, who just happened to be visiting Frankfurt as well, Dr. Michael Hess, brother of the Mendel Hess who's been mentioned before, and Dr. jur. Heinrich Bernhard Oppenheim.
His first view of the Rhine, at Mainz, made a lasting impression on him. He took a steamer to Mannheim, spend a day there, and arrived by train in Heidelberg on October 25, 1845, "dieses irdische Naturparadies", where Immanuel Auerbach met him.
He promises to continue with the story of his stay in Heidelberg, using letters he wrote to the Josephson's in Berlin from 1845-54, that they've placed at his disposal. Unfortunately, I don't know where, if ever, this later chapter appeared-- perhaps in the memoirs published shortly before his death alluded to in the centennary memorial article. If they are to be found anywhere, it's probably in an archive in Breslau. There's no copy in the material handed down in the family.
His studies at Heidelberg completed (Peter Honigmann has seen a copy of his thesis at the University Archive there. As was customary at the time, he wrote it in Latin) he returned to Breslau, and got a job as assistant in the "Magistrat" (city government). His performance at this job led to his appointment as General-Secretary of the upper Silesian Railroad, and he became known as an expert at railroad administration. Later he was named Chairman of the Board of the Posen-Kreuzburg Railroad . It eventually ceased operation, and he devoted himself to writing and his civic activities.
The memorial article states that he was important in helping Abraham Geiger make a Reform Jewish community practical, in that he expressed its legal foundation, wrote its statutes, fought for its acceptance by the German government, and then worked, until his death, to maintain its structure by serving as "Syndikus" (dayan).
He was one of the first Jews to be elected to the city council, and served nearly 25 years. He was sufficiently regarded to be selected as representative from Breslau to the provincial Landtag.
In 1869 he had moved to Leipzig, and participated in the founding of the "Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeindebundes" (a union of Jewish communities). I don't know when he returned to Breslau. He was also founder of the "Verein israelitische Lehrer in Schlesien und Posen" (Union of Jewish Teachers in Posen & Silesia).
In 1864, he lived on Zwingerstr. 4a in Breslau.
Sometime in the late 1850's, he married Anna Bauer (see below). No record of their wedding date has been preserved in our family, nor do we know how they met (probably through Abraham Geiger). They had five children: Elise, our greatgrandmother, born 3 August 1859, Ludwig Paul (called Paul ever after, but listed as Ludwig in Anna's notebook), born 9 October 1860, Georg, born 2 May 1863, Emil, born 18 May 1868, and Franz, born 27 December 1869.
He died in 1885. His grave was among the early ones restored in
the Wroclaw Jewish Cemetery and is plotted on maps available there now.
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