Braun-Vogelstein, Julie (1883–1971)

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Braun-Vogelstein, Julie (1883–1971)

German-Jewish art historian and author. Name variations: Julie Vogelstein Braun. Born Julie Vogelstein in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland), on January 26, 1883; died in New York City on February 6, 1971; daughter of Heinemann Vogelstein andRosa (Kobrak) Vogelstein ; sister of Hermann Vogelstein (1870–1942), Theodore Max Vogelstein (1880–1957), and Ludwig Vogelstein (1871–1934); studied art history and Egyptology in Munich and Berlin; received Ph.D., University of Heidelberg, 1919; married Heinrich Braun (a Social Democratic leader); came to U.S. (1936); active in German exile circles.

Julie Braun-Vogelstein was born in Stettin (now Szczecin, Poland) on January 26, 1883, into a wealthy German-Jewish family that embraced the arts. Her father Heinemann Vogelstein was a rabbi and had earned a doctorate in oriental studies. Her three brothers all went on to successful careers in various fields: Hermann became a respected rabbi while Theodore Max and Ludwig both went into business, substantially increasing the family fortune. Julie early exhibited a strong academic orientation and studied archaeology, art history, history, and philosophy at the universities of Berlin, Munich, Vienna, London, and Paris. Egyptology was among her many interests during this period. Her family's affluence and her own enthusiasm for new experiences made her an indefatigable traveler. After a leisurely period of study, she was finally awarded a doctorate in art history from the University of Heidelberg in 1919.

A turning point occurred in Julie Vogelstein's life when she met and fell in love with the Social Democratic journalist and Marxist propagandist Heinrich Braun (1854–1927). A brilliant but often difficult man, Braun met Julie at a time when his marriage with the feminist writer Lily Braun was in shambles. Despite the great difference in age between the two, an intellectual and physical attraction quickly developed between the radical politician and the aspiring scholar. After Lily Braun's death in 1916, Vogelstein and Braun lived together, finally marrying in 1920.

The great tragedy of Heinrich Braun's life was the battlefield death in 1918 of his son Otto. Born in 1897, Otto Braun was an extraordinary young man who had impressed virtually all who met him with his leadership abilities as well as his decency and compassion. Determined that Otto Braun receive the honor that was his due, Julie Braun-Vogelstein carefully edited his posthumous writings, including his diary, publishing them in 1920. Though anti-Semitic sentiments were strong in postwar Germany, the half-Jewish Otto Braun spoke eloquently from his soldier's grave, and the book became a bestseller and a literary sensation. Throughout the 1920s, the Braun-Vogelstein home in Berlin was a center of the city's cultural and political life. The often bitter conflicts that convulsed the Social Democratic Party during the Weimar Republic were often discussed in Julie and Heinrich's drawing room. After Heinrich Braun died in 1927, Julie maintained her links with artists and politicians, remaining alert for new talents that she might choose to support.

When the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, Julie Braun-Vogelstein had options many of her fellow Jews did not have. Because of her family's wealth and international business connections, she could leave Germany at any time without fearing a life of penury abroad. However, regarding herself as a good German, she decided to remain with hopes that the evil of National Socialism would soon be swept aside. When this did not take place, she emigrated from Germany in 1935, first settling in France. In 1936, she moved to the United States where, more fortunate than most of the other exiles from Germany, she soon settled in and was able to lighten the burdens of a number of refugees, enabling them to start new careers or function more effectively as anti-Nazi activists. Among the individuals that Braun-Vogelstein supported and encouraged during their American exile years was the Social Democratic leader Friedrich Stampfer (1874–1957). Likely the most interesting and tragic individual she encountered and encouraged was Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909–1944), a leading anti-Nazi conspirator. A brilliant intellectual who had been a Rhodes Scholar, von Trott despised the Nazis and was able to take effective action to diminish Nazi harassment against Braun-Vogelstein before she left Germany. She strongly admired him, and he stayed at her house in Carmel, California, during his two visits to the U.S. in 1937 and 1939–40 when he unsuccessfully attempted to gain the support of the State Department for his group of anti-Nazi conspirators.

Julie Braun-Vogelstein remained active as a writer and patron of the arts to the end of her long life. Her sweeping interpretation of the artistic heritage of Western civilization, Art, the Image of the West, was published to positive reviews in 1952. In her final years, she published her autobiography and was pleased to see new editions of her books on Otto Braun and Heinrich Braun appear in print in a Germany that had survived the terror of Nazism. Julie Braun-Vogelstein died in New York City on February 6, 1971.


Braun, Otto. The Diary of Otto Braun, with Selections from his Letters and Poems. Edited by Julie Vogelstein. Translated by Ella Winter. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1924.

——. Fragment der Zukunft: Aufzeichnungen eines Frühhvollendeten. Edited by Julie Braun-Vogelstein. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1969.

Braun-Vogelstein, Julie. Art, the Image of the West. NY: Pantheon Books, 1952.

——. Heinrich Braun: Ein Leben für den Sozialismus. Second, revised ed., Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1967.

——. Die ionische Säule. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1921.

——. Lily Braun: Ein Lebensbild. Berlin-Grunewald: H. Klemm A.G., 1922.

——. Was niemals stirbt: Gestalten und Erinnerungen. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1966.

"Dr. Julie Braun-Vogelstein Dies; German Party Leader's Widow," in The New York Times. February 9, 1971, p. 42.

Klemperer, Klemens von, ed. A Noble Combat: The Letters of Shiela Grant Duff and Adam von Trott zu Solz 1932–1939. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.

Meyer, Alfred G. The Feminism and Socialism of Lily Braun. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

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

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Braun-Vogelstein, Julie (1883–1971)

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