One thing I have found about researching Adolf Reinach is that things are never dull; I could be reading an article of his for the 20th time and suddenly notice something I hadn’t before, or I find a rough note or a letter that isn’t translated yet that deserves to be, or some new story about his life surfaces. I’ve learned to be flexible – Dead people can hold a lot of secrets and surprises! Some have mysteries ….
After my recent Passendaele post, I was contacted by a very kind German woman who is associated with the Edith Stein Society (thank you, Mary!). She had read my post and had a very interesting story to share with me. According to Edith Stein and Dietrich von Hildebrand, Reinach’s body was returned to Germany in December 1917 at the request of his widow, Anna. There was a small, quiet funeral service held on 31st December 1917, attended by Stein, von Hildebrand, Anna, and a few others, at the Göttingen City Cemetery. Stein was asked by Husserl to represent him, and von Hildebrand gave the eulogy. The grave stone was designed by Adolf von Hildebrand, Dietrich’s father who was a famous sculptor and author.
I was completely surprised by this detail, as you can imagine. When I went in search of this story, I found confirmation in a footnote in the book Edith Stein Letters to Roman Ingarden, but prior to this I had never heard this story (in the nearly 20 years I have spent studying Reinach). The biographical details I had read by Barry Smith, Karl Schuhmann, and then Eberhard Avé-Lallemant mentioned the date he died on the battlefield but never where his body was buried. This has created a very interesting situation, since Reinach’s body seems to be in two places. Where actually lies Reinach’s body? The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (German War Graves Commission) records show that he is in the Kameraden Grab (Comrades Grave) at the Langemarck German Military Cemetery (as I described in a previous post and with photos) and then there is this personal story of his students that he is buried in the Göttingen City Cemetery. Where will I visit to place my flowers in remembrance? I might go to both places, just so I’m covered.
So, my first step was to email the Volksbund, relay this story to them, and see if they can find any paperwork on the repatriation to Germany (and to in the very least to make them aware of this issue). I am waiting on their response still. I contacted a friend at the military archives in Freiburg, and he told me they have no record of it – to email the Volksbund. When I relayed the contents of my email exchange to my colleague Pieter at the Flanders Fields Museum, he was also surprised. He told me that if the Volksbund could find the paperwork, it would also give us other details, such as where he was killed exactly and possibly where he was first buried. The other source of Pieter’s surprise concerned the repatriation itself: it was not very common that bodies were repatriated, and definitely not common during the war (Reinach’s body would have been moved while the war was still ongoing). He told me that the Commonwealth Graves Commission commemorates as close as possible to the spot of death, and the French had a law voted in 1920, to give families the choice to repatriate the bodies of their beloved to their place of origin, but for the Germans (as far as he knows) there was not such a regulation. If Reinach’s body was repatriated, the only reason we both can think of is the influence and network of Edmund Husserl. For example, when his son, Wolfgang, was injured in battle in 1915, Husserl was able to go visit him in the hospital at the Western Front. This was not a common thing, but a privilege awarded to few. It stands to reason that Husserl would have used his influence to have Reinach returned home, since he was a brilliant student, close friend, and a phenomenological colleague. Even with their theoretical differences, Husserl treated Reinach and his wife like family.
With my commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Reinach coming up this November at the Flanders Fields Museum, I can only hope we find the answer to this mystery. I am hopeful, but with so much regimental and military records lost during WWII I may never have the absolute confirmation I want.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
~ Composed by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium
Remembrance Day 2016 I landed in Brussels very early on a rainy, dark morning. I made this journey to Belgium expressly to see the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, and finally meet up with my colleague who works there, Pieter Trogh, and to finally visit Adolf Reinach’s grave. Since the summer of 2015 I had been helping Pieter with information and materials on Reinach (and other early phenomenologists when possible) for an exhibition they would hold in 2016 titled ‘The War in Writing‘. This exhibition would highlight the ways people dealt with the experience of war through writing: letters, diaries, poetry, literature, but also afterwards, through official histories, regimental histories, critical reflections or pamphlets, and so on. This included the works of writers, poets, artists, philosophers, and journalists of different nationalities. In my case, Pieter was looking for written accounts by Reinach and other phenomenologists of war experience, reflections, and any philosophizing that happened on the battlefield in Belgium. It was a real pleasure to work with Pieter on this project, and it was wonderful to have the chance to meet him and tour the Ypres Salient with him as a guide.
The permanent WWI exhibition is breathtaking in its detail, scope and artifacts. It’s also highly interactive for the visitor (the poppy bracelet with microchip that enables the visitor to discover 4 personal stories throughout the permanent exhibition is so awesome), and the audio/video components are well done and often griping (for example, the film depicting the accounts of two field nurses and a doctor is as much touching as it is unsettling). I’ve never seen an exhibition like it and it took me over 3 hours to see it all (including an excursion to the rooftop where the view of Ypres is sensational). Best of all, this exhibition is available in 4 languages: English, Dutch, German, and French.After the permanent part of the exhibition, with its uniforms and weapons and photos galore, you move onto the reading room where you can sit on a comfy chair or couch to peruse the written works of WWI notables such as Sassoon, Blunden, McCrae, and many more. For Reinach, there was a display holding a first edition copy of his Gesammelte Schriften (1921).I will add that after we went out and did a bit of touring of the Salient (to St. Julien Canadian Memorial, to see the Remembrance Trees that mark the frontline on Bellewaerde Ridge, etc.) and experienced the pea soup mist and mud, it really brought to life the photos and videos of tanks and soldiers getting stuck (and killed) in the mud on display at the museum. This stuff is epic!This journey with Pieter has introduced me to a whole new world of research. I’ve learned so much about WWI history and German military history as well. Reinach’s military record has been very challenging to uncover in detail. He enlisted in the summer 1914 in his hometown of Mainz, he was placed in the Reserve Battery of the 21st Field Artillery Regiment of the 21st Reserve Division. He was then transferred to Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment 12 on 16th April 1916, and later on transferred to the 185th, in October 1916. With this final regiment he ended up in Flanders, taking part in the Third Battle of Ypres (which came to an ‘end’ at Passchendaele, 12th November 1917). Unfortunately the regimental history of the 185th Feldartillerie-Regiment has yet to be written. Further complications are encountered when you are informed by the Bundesarchiv in Freiburg, Germany, that since Reinach’s records were Hessen they were incorporated with the Prussian Army, and these were all lost when the Heeresarchiv in Potsdam burnt down during an air attack in 1945. As Pieter noted to me in an email, it’s astonishing how many military records from WWI were destroyed, not just in Germany but also in England during WWII bombing raids – somewhere around 60% of what was preserved in the National Archives in Kew were lost in the Battle of England in 1940. This poses a monumental challenge to anyone working in or researching WWI soldiers and regimental histories.
So, what I know up to this point for Reinach are the regiments he was in, thanks to German military historians and private collectors (and his postmarked letters), and then records kept of German regiments and their movements by the British and other Allied Forces. I know now he was killed in Klerken, a hamlet on the outskirts of the Houthulst Forest, outside Diksmuide. This makes sense as he was in the artillery, and they were positioned about a mile or so behind the forest, since it was one of the objectives for the Allied Forces. He was killed four days after Passchendaele, most likely by an allied soldier sweeping out the last remaining Germans from hiding. The record of his death is dated 12 January 1918, found in the German list of dead and missing soldiers. His body was moved to Langemarck German Military Cemetery, placed in the Kameradengraf (mass comrade grave) with approximately 25,000 other soldiers. This large space is surrounded by 68 bronze panels bearing the names of over 17,000 non-identified soldiers. His name can be found on a newer panel titled NACHTRAG.
Pieter and I struggled to find his name on the giant slabs when we visited: it was raining, cold, and the panels are not easy to read. However, the lovely folks at the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge who take care of things made sure he is there. (The final photo in this set is cropped so you can see the line where his name is.)
I still hold out hope we can complete Reinach’s military record, gaining a full picture of his activities and journey during the war. This would certainly add some additional and much needed context to his letters. This task will no doubt take a lot of time and energy given the obstacles, but it’s worth it. This coming November I have been invited to do a commemoration event at the Flanders Fields Museum for the 100th anniversary of Reinach’s death. More on this as later as details are cemented. Pieter has also promised me a grander tour of the Salient, more battlefield hopping and education with some Belgian spirits to help warm the bones – I’ll pack my wellies and woolies for sure this time!
I must extend immense thanks to Pieter Trogh for his efforts with this exhibition, for asking me to be part of it, for being a fantastic tour guide of the Ypres Salient, and for his friendship.
Most of these photos were taken by my good friend, colleague, and fellow WWI history research junkie Edouard Jolly (thank you so much! You took so many brilliant photos it was hard to pick just a few!), with the exception of the NACHTRAG slab which was taken by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, and the photo of the reading room (complete with Husserl quote) were taken by Pieter Trogh, and the old colourized photo of the soliders in Ypres was downloaded from the internet.
On 14 September 1912, Dr. Adolf Reinach wed Dr. Anna Stettenheimer in Mainz, Germany.
Anna was a brilliant, well-educated, kind woman. In 1899, she was one of three female students of the newly founded Stuttgart Mädchengymnasium, graduating with a high school diploma in 1904. In that same year, by royal decree, women were granted the right to regular enrolment at University of Tübingen, and Anna seized the opportunity choosing the field of medicine. Shortly after she changed fields to physics, and earned her doctorate in 1907 with a thesis on the spectral lines in magnetic fields in atomic physics, titled “Eine absolute Messung des Zeemannphänomens”. It is interesting to note that her work in physics wasn’t without influence on her future husband’s thinking and research. In 1911 and 1912, she taught at the Stuttgart Mädchengymnasium, as head teacher for the natural sciences (Oberlehrin für Naturwissenschaften) until she married Adolf. After their nuptials, Anna resigned from teaching and while she did take on traditional housewife duties she regularly attended her husband’s lectures and actively engaged with the students.
In Edith Stein’s unfinished autobiography, she describes Anna as tall and slender, with graceful movements like a doe, and a charming Suabian dialect. She and Anna became very dear friends over time, and especially in the wake of Reinach’s death in 1917. Stein speaks of many warm and happy memories in their home, and at one point tells of a sweet and funny story (dating around 1913) where she was walking up to the Reinach’s home for a visit, Anna just a few steps ahead of her:
Only years later did she tell me something I had not even noticed at the time: Reinach had been standing at the window on the floor above, watching her approach. She had called up to him softly: ‘Adole, Büble, Herzle!’ He made frantic motions to her to desist as he saw me coming behind her; then, when she came upstairs, he had reproached her, asking how she could humiliate him so in the presence of one of his students. (p. 280)
While Anna and Adolf were no doubt always proper and professional in front of students and colleagues, the impression you get from the stories of Stein is that these two were very deeply in love and a good match in intellect, wit and humour.
For more on Anna Reinach, see:
“Adolf und Anne Reinach, Edith Steins Mentoren im Studium und auf dem Glaubensweg” by Beate Beckmann-Zöller in Phenomenology 2005. Volume 4: Selected essays from Northern Europe, Part 1., Hans Rainer Sepp & Ion Copoeru, eds., Zeta Books: 2007.
101 years ago today, Reinach took his Fronturlaub, his much deserved vacation from the Western Front of WWI. According to the Reinach-Chronik Schuhmann prepared, his vacation lasted from the 4th to the 20th of June 1915. Reinach tells Hedwig Conrad-Martius in a letter of his vacation dates and his plans to spend some of it in Göttingen.
To Hedwig Conrad-Martius in Bad Wörishofen
Dear Doctor! I will get a vacation! On the 3rd, or 4th, or 5th of June! Please send your entire manuscript to Göttingen, Steinsgraben 28. Do you believe that I am glad/joyous? It is now again peaceful for us – but the situation is always changing. I am so glad that you are still in Wörishofen. I always think that the war will be over soon – don’t you? The area here is gorgeous in the spring.
Lots and lots of warm wishes, Your Reinach
The point of telling HCM was not only to share this joyous news and to begin to make plans to see her, Theodor Conrad (her husband and Reinach’s best friend), and other friends, but also to request that she send by post to his home her Jahrbuch manuscript (Zur Ontologie und Erscheinungslehre der realen Aussenwelt, 1916), so that he could read it over, comment on it, and advise her properly. One could say that during this vacation, Reinach exchanged one battlefield for another – a war of words between phenomenologists. There may have been no bloodshed, but plenty of feelings were hurt and emotions ran hot. Some vacation!
In a later letter to the Conrads dated October 9th, 1915 (the first letter written after his vacation), Reinach recounts his feelings and resolution attempts in this ‘battle’ between Husserl and Conrad-Martius:
10. 09. 1915
To Theodor and Hedwig Conrad-Martius
That you are surprised by my silence regarding a certain point, I understand well. And also you will understand my hesitation from this letter. I was afraid that what I wanted to say would make you sad, and so I put it off again and again. But the truth of the matter is it may not actually make you sad – let alone trouble our relationship -, if we looked at this a little more closely it’s just a trivial point of differing opinions. I think your behaviour in the Jahrbuch matter was not right. I have on hand both yours and Husserl’s letters, and I have carefully read them while in Göttingen. I’ve done so with the warmest prejudice for you, I need not say more. …We all know what Husserl is like. We know his hypersensitivity, as we also know his kindheartedness, his benevolence, and his devotion to his family. We also know that his kindness and benevolence have a razor-sharp edge at the point where he gets personally hurt or with his hypersensitivity he believes himself to be hurt. We have suffered through them all, but we have known that Husserl himself suffers most and regrets it from the heart. And when there are clashes with his character, we have to willingly concede. Only in this case, it seems to me that you failed to be compliant in ways we always agreed to. Concerning the matter, he is not entirely wrong. Your manuscript was pretty difficult to read, and arguably for Husserl’s eyes it was unreadable. The length of your work was further expanded beyond the intended and arranged size. Both are certainly not bad. But Husserl – then well into an irritable mood – had taken it personally and it ever increased his testiness. Here – it seems to me, – given the gratitude and respect that we all feel for him – you should have given in; You know how easy it is to win him over with a few kind words of apology. When he sent the manuscript off to Pfänder, he meant well. He knew Pfänder knew your work and that he assessed it extremely favourably. Now Pfänder has behaved with unfriendliness and impoliteness, which is not new to me about him. This harsh manner is difficult to handle: in short, unfriendliness and condescension and impoliteness. Anyhow, it added fuel to Husserl’s sensitivity that you contacted the co-editors. He saw it as a kind of appeal to a higher authority, and he attaches the greatest importance on being the editor. So, I found him then in Göttingen very bitter and hurt. We had long discussions and I need only to assure you that I represented you in all things and I sought to settle antagonism whenever possible. The personal differences I take to be not so tragic. Husserl has had these differences with all of us – it all gets worse with this selfsame immoderateness – but nevertheless the actual consequences of this behaviour for our work concern me deeply.
By November of that same year, Reinach had successfully settled their dispute: Conrad-Martius’ manuscript was accepted for publication in Jahrbuch on the condition that Reinach would write a letter to her, the wording of which would allow Husserl to save face (beard and all). He was reluctant to write the letter – calling it an unfortunate letter – but Reinach knew it would bring peace and prosperity.
(Translation of these Reinach letters was carried out by myself and Dr. Thomas Vongehr in 2015)
According to Edith Stein, in her unfinished autobiography Life In A Jewish Family: 1891-1916, Reinach came home to Göttingen on furlough for Christmas of 1915 and arrived in time to celebrate his 32nd birthday. Pauline Reinach, Adolf’s sister, wrote Stein a letter inviting her to visit and celebrate the two occasions. Stein of course happily accepted, exclaiming to herself: “Furlough! That possibility had never even occurred to me. So far ‘seeing Reinach again’ had been synonymous, always with ‘peace at war’s end.’ It was almost too good to be true.” (pgs. 377-378) She arrived in Göttingen on the 22nd of December with a birthday gift in hand – a good timely book – and made her way to the Reinachs’ home. After seeing Adolf Reinach for the first time in over a year, Stein writes: “Reinach had grown broad and strong; military service agreed with him. It was on this occasion that I truly got to know Frau Reinach. Formerly my visits to their home had been mostly on a student-to-teacher basis. But now I belonged to the most intimate circle, to the ‘mourners of the first rank’ as Reinach once facetiously put it when he imagined how things might go should he be killed.” (pg. 379) This circle consisted of his wife Anna, his sister Pauline, and then Stein and Erika Gothe. This comment of Reinach’s, while made in jest, turned out to be rather prophetic since he was killed on the battlefield in 1917 and this circle of friends came together to mourn. Stein and Anna Reinach became very close friends, and it was Stein who helped put Adolf’s philosophical writings in order after his death.
It’s rather interesting to think that 100 years ago today Reinach was alive and at home celebrating his birthday with his friends and family. Stein’s notes on the joyous occasion are brief but her deep fondness for the Reinachs’ is alive in her descriptions.
So rather than focus on Reinach’s death, let us think of his life and legacy. Today a major figure of both the Munich and Göttingen phenomenology circles was born; a philosopher and realist phenomenologist who inspired the great minds of Roman Ingarden, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Hedwig Conrad-Martius, Winthrop Bell, Edith Stein, and many others.
Happy 132nd Birthday, Adolf Reinach!
Today in 1917 Reinach died on the battlefield just outside Diksmuide in Flanders, Belgium.
In a conversation with Edith Stein and Fritz Kaufmann about his enlistment in the army, Adolf Reinach said: “it is not that I must go; rather I’m permitted to go.” After Germany’s declaration of war on France in the summer of 1914, Reinach, like many German intellectuals, immediately volunteered for the army with great enthusiasm, even attempting to exercise pressure to be admitted as quickly as possible. He was recruited in his hometown of Mainz in mid-August, and after two weeks of training he was assigned to the Reserve Battery, specifically the 21st Field Artillery Regiment of the 21st Reserve Division under the command of his younger brother, Heinrich. This platoon consisted of two field guns. By February of 1915, he was fighting in the trenches against France, and later he received the Iron Cross for his efforts during this time. In a letter to Theodor Conrad and Hedwig Conrad-Martius postmarked 5. 11. 1915, he recounts the event:
“Before, my brother and I were with 2 heavy field guns on Hill 191. We lost both the hill and the artillery. But we left the guns only when our infantry was already behind us and we were in danger of being shot at by our own artillery. When we went back to the battery we came across another German battery that was already abandoned by the gunners and we mounted the field guns and shot at the advancing Frenchmen until night fell. There were often terrible hours, in which one settled one’s accounts with life. But this was nevertheless the proudest time in my life. And that’s the reason why my Iron Cross, which I received exactly for days like these, means so much to me.”
After this courageous event, he was promoted to Assistant to the Sergeant Major of the 9th Battery of the 185th Field Artillery, a position more to his liking: “How much nicer it is to be the unit leader in an active regiment, instead of the section leader in a platoon of the Reserve Regiment.” In a letter to Husserl dated 1. 12. 1915, he mentions he took part in “The Big Offensive” (also known as the Second Battle of Champagne) from 22 September – 6 November 1915.
By December of 1915, Reinach is stationed in Belgium. In a letter to the Conrads dated 5. 12. 1915 he describes the beauty he is surrounded by. He really seems to enjoy his 4 weeks in Beverloo, and his Sunday travels to Brussels, Antwerp or Leuven. Even the fighting seems almost enjoyable! Later, in a letter to Conrad-Martius dated 24. 10. 1916, he writes:
“Because all the components of the new-formation come from the Battle of the Somme, partly from the Battle of Verdun, and so at the moment we have calm, a large, nice, quiet town on a wooded hill with a wonderful view at our feet. I have very pleasant comrades, tolerable superiors and capable subordinates, and feel very comfortable. With the French we have tacit but strictly followed agreements. To shoot in the mornings is considered impolite. Shooting time for respectable people is from 3 – 6. During nighttime you have to be quiet. Calibers larger than 9 or at most 12cm are frowned upon – it is delightful! Also the trenches are so peaceful that you believe that you have been relocated to the base.”
The last letter the Conrads receive from Reinach was dated 12. 11. 1917. It was a very brief letter, the shortest he ever wrote to them and it contained a photograph. It said,
“I am the man with the belly.”
4 days after this letter was posted Reinach died.
(Sincerest thanks to Dr. Thomas Vongehr for this picture and his assistance with translating the WWI letters between Reinach and the Conrads.)