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Böhlau, Helene (1859–1940)

Böhlau, Helene (1859–1940)

German author. Name variations: Bohlau or Boehlau. Born Helene Böhlau in Weimar, Germany, on November 22, 1859; died in Widdersberg, Germany, on March 28, 1940; daughter of Therese and Hermann Böhlau (a publisher); educated privately; married Friedrich Helwig Arnd, in 1886; children: one son.

Selected works:

Rathsmädelgeschichten (Stories of Councilors' Daughters, 1888); Der Rangierbahnhof (The Railway Junction, 1896); Das Recht der Mutter (The Right of the Mother, 1896); Halbtier! (Half-animal!, 1899).

Born on November 22, 1859, in Weimar, Germany, Helen Böhlau was the daughter of Hermann and Therese Böhlau . Her parents' wealth allowed for frequent travel as well as a private tutor for her because she was too sickly to attend school. Though her father disapproved of women working as writers, his publishing house launched Böhlau's first book, a collection of novellas, in 1882. Known for its humorous look at life in the Weimar region, Böhlau's fiction met with early success, though her popularity would wane with time.

Böhlau met and fell in love with Friedrich Helwig Arnd, a Russian Jew who was already married. When Arnd's wife refused a divorce, Böhlau and Arnd traveled to Turkey in 1886 where Arnd converted to Islam, which permitted divorce without a wife's consent. Taking the name Omar al Raschid Bey, he then married Böhlau, and the couple lived in Turkey with their one son until Arnd's death in 1911. Soon after, Böhlau returned to Germany and lived in Munich, visiting Turkey annually for vacations. During World War I, her son renounced his Turkish citizenship to join the German army; by World War II, he was a doctor in the Nazi Party. Though she was not an open supporter of the Nazi Party, throughout the 1930s, Böhlau actively denied her husband's Judaism. She died, at age 80, in 1940, seven months after Hitler's invasion of Poland.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts

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