Paul Raabe

As I learned this evening Professor Dr.h.c.mult. Paul RAABE (Ger.) died on the 5th of July in Wolfenbüttel (Ger., Eng.), peacefully, aged 86, surrounded by his children. Sit tibi terra levis.
I noted down his full academic degrees because I think that he is one of the few who earned them all, in his case honoris causa is no joke.

RAABE was for ten years (from 1958 to 1968) the director of the Marbacher Literaturarchiv (Ger.) – he came in this position as a remarkably young man, in his early thirties. He opened up the archive, connected it with other institutions, was not shy to connect with collectors, bought estates, and generally positioned this remarkable institution in the cultural landscape of Western Germany.
But the best was still to come and he came to the right place: In 1968 he became the director of the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel (Ger., Eng.). I may have mentioned this place here before, and I would still give one or two minor body parts to be allowed to work there. It is THE temple for books of the Frühe Neuzeit, Early Modern Age.  And RAABE formed it from a more or less forgotten and rundown book storehouse into the modern, well-connected and respected place for studies in the field of Germanistik (Ger., Eng.), Literaturwissenschaft (Ger., Eng.), Buchwissenschaft (Ger.), and anything connected, what includes all fields of the historical science, the HAB is today.
I remember to have read in a Festschrift maybe to his seventieth or so that it was a bleak place when he came there for the first time, foggy, cold, and wet. It is a big difference: Marbach is located in the gentle and sunny Neckar valley, where wine grows, and the people are mostly friendly Suebians. Wolfenbüttel is in the North, on a marshy plain, where the aboriginies rarely speak, where wine is unknown – and it is (or better was until 1989) near the inner German border which divided this country like a Arschkerbe – an admittedly pretty obscene figure of speech coined by Wolf BIERMANN (still active, Ger., Eng.) (whom I generally do not like very much, but one or two things he got right). The areas near the border were absolutely forgotten; I know, I was born a bit more down South in a pocket formed by the Landesgrenze between Bavaria and Thuringia.
Paul RAABE was a very worthy successor of his predecessors, among them LEIBNITZ (director from 1690 til 1716) and LESSING (director from 1770 to 1781). He administered the office unto his retirement 1992, and then became the head of the Franckesche Stiftung  (Ger., Eng.) until 2000. He formed not only the cultural landscape of the former Western Germany, but also the one of the newly united country.

The Gelehrtenrepublik has lost one of her truly important members.
Vita brevis, ars longa.

8 thoughts on “Paul Raabe

  1. I hope that you can get that dream job some day with all of your body parts intact!

    PS: Almost on-topic. I just finished watching two wonderful German movies tonight. Das Leben der Anderen, a drama about intellectuals living under surveillance of the Stasi and Good Bye Lenin!, a smart and touching comedy about an East Berlin family at the time of Reunification.

  2. Doesn’t need to be a dream job, dear LX – a nondescript run of the mill job would do. Or customers paying.
    Hey, I only heared about these films, I never saw them. I think Das Leben der Anderen is based on real life events.

    Yes, Foam, he had. Some of the old heroes go now, Walter JENS died a month ago. He was not as lucky as RAABE, but suffered from dementia and could barely speak towards the end – a professor of Rhetorik.

  3. Library sounds a fabulous place to explore. Not sure if I could live in a part of the country which has no wine though :)

    I also enjoyed Das Leben der Anderen. It played in our local arthouse a couple of years after it came out (although did Anna— forget— the author of “Stasiland”– criticise it severely, saying there is no evidence of any kind of redemptive sympathy for artists amongst the annals of the Stasi)?

  4. You mean Anna Funder from Australia, Looby. I think the Stasi – as any other service that uses and manipulates humans – had no kind of sympathy for anybody outside itself.
    There were stories of betrayal, dishonesty and plain wretchedness coming out after 1989. Some old bills were settled later. “The annals of the Stasi” is a bid optimistic I guess – I don’t think there is a scientific and unbiased history of the MfS available yet. Interesting biographies are produced by these organisations, like the lives of Wolf or Stiller.

  5. I watched Das Leben der Anderen yesterday with the Director’s commentary. The story is fiction, but the details are authentic. Several of the actors, including the one playing the main Stasi agent, were from the East and all had been under surveillance by Stasi agents and informants. As in the film, they had gone to the Stasi archives and seen their files.

  6. The US service reacted quickly after 1989 securing the Rosenholz-files.
    The work on the archives will go on for a long time. One day I will check what I can find about my father and his colleagues.

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