Rosenstock-Huessy, Eugen

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ROSENSTOCK-HUESSY, EUGEN (1888–1973), German philosopher and theologian. Rosenstock was the son of a banker in Berlin, and grandson of Moritz Rosenstock, the principal of the Jewish school in Wolfenbuettel. At the age of 16 he converted to Christianity. In 1909 he finished his doctoral thesis and was one of the youngest teachers at a German university. In 1912–14 he was lecturer in medieval constitution at the University of Leipzig. In 1914 he married Margrit ("Gritli") Huessy (1893–1959) and added her name to his own. In World War i he served on the French front. After the war was over Rosenstock was asked to draft a constitution for the Republic but decided to devote his life to various projects on labor relations. In 1923 he accepted an appointment at the University of Breslau and in 1933 emigrated to the U.S. because of the Nazis. After a period at Harvard, he became professor at Dartmouth College.

He was a person of rare religious force and believed that the importance of language is in its relationship to authentic human experience and religious life. His importance to Jewish philosophy is his extraordinary influence on Franz *Rosenzweig, who came to him in Leipzig in 1913 when he was also considering conversion. After a memorable discussion in which Rosenzweig took the stand of a relativist and Rosenstock that of a religious thinker, Rosenzweig left Leipzig in July 1913 and promised to convert. However, instead of undergoing baptism he found his way back to Judaism.

In World War i both served in the German army, on different fronts, and an important correspondence developed between them. In these highly interesting letters of 1916 on Christianity and Judaism (Judaism Despite Christianity, 1969), Rosenstock attacked Judaism violently and Rosenzweig defended it. They also touched on many current problems. Studies of the correspondence were made by D. Emmet and A. Altmann (included in Judaism Despite Christianity).

Rosenzweig's major philosophical work, Stern der Erloesung ("The Star of Redemption," 1921), was written while he was still under the influence of Rosenstock. The relation between the two thinkers was existential. Rosenzweig accepted from Rosenstock: (a) the uncompromising necessity to take a religious stand on current questions, while abandoning the attitude of productivity for its own sake; (b) the idea of revelation as "orientation" in life; (c) the importance of language and time in terms of religious philosophy; and (d) the concept of cyclical time in terms of yearly religious events.

As an outcome of their relationship, Rosenzweig attempted to construct a philosophy of history that recognizes two true religions, Judaism and Christianity, which have their unity in Adam and separate historical configuration. After World War i Rosenstock, in the journal Die Kreatur, attempted to bring Catholics, Protestants, and Jews together for an exchange of views. On the other hand, he accepted from Rosenzweig the positive evaluation of the French Revolution as the Johanine Age. In his early writings he had a negative attitude to the age of emancipation (Judaism Despite Christianity, pp. 143–158).

The philosophy of language that Rosenstock developed in 1916 in a pamphlet for Rosenzweig later called Angewandte Seelenkunde (Darmstadt, 1924) was written to explain his theological language theory. In it he took his point of departure in the saying, "God called me therefore I am." Rosenstock's dialogue theory precedes that of Martin *Buber, and in contrast to the I-Thou of Buber, he emphasized the dynamism of the situation which changes from instant to instant. They agree on the fact that the Thou always precedes the I.

In his book Out of Revolution (1938) Rosenstock explained European history in accordance with a cyclical calendrical outlook, in which he considered the repetition of events as an important factor. This theory developed in the war letter of 1916 and was accepted by Rosenzweig not in terms of history but in terms of the yearly repetition of the holidays. Both thinkers gave up university careers after World War i in their attempt to reach the common people. Rosenstock became interested in labor camps and adult education, first in Germany and then in the U.S. President Roosevelt invited him to train leaders for the civilian Conservation Corps. Some of his disciples in Germany attempted a resistance movement against Hitler during the war, and died in concentration camps. The interest in his philosophy in Germany has grown considerably since 1945. Rosenstock's other works include: The Multiformity of Man (1949); The Driving Power of Western Civilization (1950); and the Christian Future or the Modern Mind (1966). Rosenstock tried time and again to convince Rosenzweig of the truth of Christianity. In 1913 he almost succeeded in bringing his friend to it but Rosenzweig decided to remain a Jew and with time slowly but enthusiastically discovered the deeper layers of his Jewish existence. In the intensive correspondence of 1916 Rosenzweig explained the relevance of his Jewish existence. Yet, also after this exchange of letters, in which Rosenzweig clearly elucidated his new viewpoint, Rosenstock did not stop his attempts to convert Rosenzweig. Of great importance in this context are Rosenzweig's numerous letters to Gritli Rosenstock-Huessy, whom he met in June of 1917. These "Gritli" letters are an example of the rare possibility of cross-cultural and transcultural understanding. Unfortunately, scholars do not have Gritli's letters to Rosenzweig. However, judging from Rosenzweig's letters to Gritli, with whom he developed a close relationship, Gritli was attentive to Franz's expressions of his Judaism. She accepted his otherness, making it possible for him to express himself freely. In contrast to Eugen, she did not wish to convert him, but was able to support him in his spiritual odyssey that led him to the discovery of important aspects of Jewish life and finally to the acceptance of the Law rooted in the experience of love.


K. Ballerstedt, E. Rosenstock-Huessy, Bibliography and Biography (1959); P. Smith, Historian and History (1964); L. Sabine, in: Universitas, 8 (1965/66), pt. 3. add. bibliography: H. Stahmer, "Speak that I May See Thee!" The Religious Significance of Language (1968.); E. Rosenstock-Huessy (ed.), Judaism Despite Christianity (1969); L. van der Molen, A Complete Bibliography of the Writings of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1989); W. Schmied-Kowarzik, Franz Rosenzweig. Existentielles Denken und gelebte Bewährung (1991), 121–73 (= Franz Rosenzweig und Eugen Rosenstock. Ein juedisch-christlicher Dialog–und die Folgen von Auschwitz); F. Rosenzweig. Die "Gritli"-Briefe. Briefe an Margrit Rosenstock-Huessy, R. Inken and R. Mayer (eds.) with a preface by R. Rosenzweig (2002); M. Brasser, "Rosenstock und Rosenzweig ueber Sprache. Die Angewandte Seelenkunde im Stern der Erlösung," in: idem (ed.), Rosenweig als Leser. Kontextuelle Kommentare zum Stern der Erlösung (2004), 173–207; E. Meir, Letters of Love: Franz Rosenzweig's Spiritual Biography and Oeuvre in Light of the Gritli Letters (2006).

[Richard Hirsch /

Ephraim Meir (2nd ed.)]

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Rosenstock-Huessy, Eugen

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