Brachvogel, Carry (1864–1942)

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Brachvogel, Carry (1864–1942)

German-Jewish novelist and author. Born in Munich, Germany, on June 16, 1864; died in the Theresienstadt-Terezin concentration camp on November 20, 1942; daughter of Heinrich Hellmann and Zerlina (Karl) Hellmann; married Wolfgang Josef Emil Brachvogel (died 1892); children: son, Heinz (b. 1889).

Began in 1895 to publish a series of well-received novels; completely assimilated into German culture, made no attempt to leave Germany during the Nazi years; was deported to the Theresienstadt-Terezin concentration camp (July 1942).

Much of modern German culture was created by Germans of Jewish origin who regarded themselves as the champions and guardians of a great spiritual and artistic heritage. Pre-1914 Germany experienced considerably less anti-Semitism than Russia, Austria-Hungary, or France, and German Jews flourished in an environment that granted them civil rights as well as economic and cultural freedom. Restrictions against Jews (for example, in the military and the higher civil service) were of an "informal" nature and many expected that these would soon disappear.

Carry Brachvogel was a German-Jewish woman who took advantage of these freedoms. An author who has been largely forgotten even in Germany, she enjoyed a solid reputation in the "golden era" of pre-1914 middle-class prosperity and optimism. Born as Carry Hellmann into an assimilated and financially comfortable family in Munich on June 16, 1864, she grew up in the Bavarian capital at a time when it was enjoying a reputation as the artistic heart and soul of Germany. An intense rivalry with "soulless" Berlin convinced Munich's intellectuals that theirs was the superior German city, a warmhearted, vibrant metropolis, tolerant toward personal eccentricity as well as generously supportive of the arts. Intensely proud of being a native of Munich, Carry married the author and editor Wolfgang Brachvogel, a Roman Catholic. Their only child, a son named Heinz, was born in May 1889. Carry's husband died in 1892, and she never married again.

Brachvogel created a series of highly regarded novels, novellas, and essays. Her first novel, Alltagsmenschen ("Everyday People"), was published in 1895 by S. Fischer, a publishing firm that would soon change the face of German literature by becoming Thomas Mann's publisher. Alltagsmenschen was a well-received study of a woman pushed toward adultery because of the boredom of her marriage. It was followed two years later by a collection of novellas written in a realistic manner; among these, Der Erntetag ("Harvest Day") is known as a superb study of Bavarian peasant life. Several other books by Brachvogel would appear in the years before the First World War. By the time she had reached the age of 50, her reputation as a skilled and perceptive writer was assured. She lived through the difficult years of World War I, the inflation that followed, and the Hitler Putsch (uprising) that convulsed Munich in November 1923. As was true of many German Jews, she never conceived of being persecuted or harmed in her own country. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Brachvogel remained in her native city, convinced that the troubles would pass. Instead, the situation worsened with each passing year. By September 1935, the infamous Nuremberg Laws turned her and other German Jews into second-class citizens.

By the late 1930s, Brachvogel's home offered refuge to her brother Siegmund Hellmann, a professor driven from his academic post by the Nazi terror. The start of World War II in September 1939 effectively cut off the escape for aged Jews like the 75-year-old Carry. Now a stranger in her own land, she and her brother lived from day to day, their hopes fading as Nazi armies surged across Europe. On July 22, 1942, Brachvogel and her brother were deported from Munich to the Theresienstadt-Terezin concentration camp in the occupied Czech Republic. Despite the cultivated image of normality at this camp, conditions were dreadful. Carry Brachvogel died on November 20, 1942, after months of psychological demoralization and physical privation.

In the 1980s, Brachvogel's name began to emerge from almost total obscurity in Germany. The revival of her work did more than signify respect for, and guilt over, a writer's murder by the Nazi regime. What scholars began to discover was a writer of distinction who had articulated in the years before World War I a clear vision of modern women fully exercising their civil and personal rights. Brachvogel's writings entertained another generation with their sharplyetched portraits of great women rulers, strong-willed actresses and artists, tough-as-nails Bavarian peasants, and determined daughters of the urban bourgeoisie who, like herself, shaped productive, successful lives for themselves in an imperfect, often unforgiving world.


Heuer, Renate. "Carry Brachvogel (1864–1942), Schriftstellerin," in Manfred Treml, Wolf Weigand and Evamaria Brockhoff, eds., Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Bayern: Lebensläufe. Munich: K.G. Saur, 1988, pp. 211–216.

Walk, Joseph. Kurzbiographien zur Geschichte der Juden 1918–1945: Herausgegeben vom Leo Baeck Institute, Jerusalem. Munich: K. G. Saur, 1988.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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