MOMBERT, ALFRED (1872–1942), German poet. Descended from a family of Jewish merchants that had settled in Karlsruhe, Mombert studied law in Heidelberg, where he later went into practice as a lawyer. In 1894, he published his first volume of poetry, Tag und Nacht. Despite the clear stylistic influence of naturalist and impressionist poetics, it nonetheless maintained a unique tone. From the start, it is an ostentatious "cosmological" focus that gives Mombert's early poem cycles – Der Gluehende (1896), Die Schoepfung (1897), Die Bluete des Chaos, and Der Sonne-Geist (both 1905) – their characteristic setting, necessitating a new language on which Mombert continued to work throughout his career. Only marginally integrated into contemporary artistic and intellectual circles (Martin Buber, Hans Carossa, and Richard Dehmel were his only partners in spiritual exchange), Mombert adopted a 19th-century aesthetic of monism and neo-romanticism. Impressed by the totalizing view of his poetry and its mythic and religious allusions, contemporaries likened Mombert to William Blake; the German poet Richard Dehmel detected in him the fervor of the ancient Hebrew prophets. Abandoning the practice of law, Mombert turned toward cosmic verse-drama of epic scope. The trilogy Aeon (1907–11) established an imagery and dramatic figures to which Mombert would cling in all his further works, such as in Der Held der Erde (1919) and in Atair (1925).
In 1933, Mombert, with other Jewish members, was expelled from the German Academy of Arts. His last publication during his lifetime, Sfaira der Alte, was printed – at Buber's insistence – by the Schocken Verlag in 1936. Four years later, Mombert, already seriously ill, was arrested by the Gestapo in Heidelberg and deported to the Gurs concentration camp. With the intercession of non-Jewish friends and admirers (among them Hans Carossa and Mombert's biographer, Richard Benz), he was allowed to leave for Switzerland in 1941, where he died in Winterthur only a few months later.
R. Benz, Der Dichter Alfred Mombert (1947); M. Buber, in: G. Krojanker (ed.), Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1922), 113–20. add. bibliography: R. Haehling von Lanzenauer, Alfred Mombert. Dichter und Jurist (2001); S. Himmelheber (ed.), Alfred Mombert (1872–1942) (1993); F.A. Schmitt, Alfred Mombert (1967).
[Sol Liptzin /
Philipp Theisohn (2nd ed.)]