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.