Papers of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and Franz Rosenzweig Donated To Dartmouth College

The Library of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, has received as a donation the papers of Eugen and Margrit Rosenstock-Huessy, including over 1,000 letters from Franz Rosenzweig to Margrit, written between 1917 and 1922 and sometimes referred to as the “Gritli Letters.” These papers had been stored in the Rosenstock-Huessy’s Norwich, Vermont, home and are the gift of Mrs. Mariot Huessy, whose late husband, Hans R. Huessy, M. D., was the son and heir of Margrit and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888-1973), although not a well-known figure, was an extraordinarily wide-ranging and original thinker who is esteemed by many scholars as one of the leading social and religious philosophers of the twentieth century. Born in Berlin in 1888, he began a distinguished academic career in Germany teaching the history of medieval law. When Hitler rose to power in 1933, Prof. Rosenstock-Huessy immediately resigned his position at the University of Breslau, and shortly thereafter immigrated to the United States. He taught for two years at Harvard and then moved to Dartmouth in 1935 where he was a professor in the Philosophy Dept. until his retirement from teaching in 1957.

Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), sometimes viewed as the preeminent Jewish thinker of the twentieth century, was a leading interpreter of Hegel and the author of The Star of Redemption (1921). He and Rosenstock-Huessy became close friends, and influenced each other profoundly. Among other things, the two men had in common the transforming experience of World War I, a catastrophic collapse of European civilization to which, as soldiers in the German army, they were stunned witnesses. Although Rosenstock was born into a nominally Jewish family, he became a convinced Christian in his teens, whereas Rosenzweig, from a similar background, after ca. 1913 became a devout Jew. The two men addressed their differences with remarkable directness and candor.

Many years later, Rosenstock-Huessy edited and published in English a portion of the 1916 correspondence between himself and Franz Rosenzweig under the title Judaism Despite Christianity (University of Alabama Press, 1969). The “Gritli Letters” from 1917 to 1922 document Rosenzweig’s entrancement with Rosenstock’s wife all during the time he was writing his masterwork, The Star, for which she served as a kind of muse.

Rosenzweig died in 1929 of ALS, only 43 years old. But in the 1920s, despite his deteriorating condition, he and Rosenstock-Huessy, along with a group of distinguished Continental intellectuals, including Martin Buber and Nicolas Berdyaev, were closely involved with the radical, inter-denominational journal Die Kreatur, published between 1926 and 1930 in Berlin.

The papers donated to Dartmouth, spanning the years roughly between 1904 and 1970, include letters between the Rosenstock-Huessys and more than 500 correspondents. Although not yet fully catalogued, the collection includes letters to Prof. Rosenstock-Huessy from Emil Brunner, Felix Frankfurter, Rolf Gardiner, Karl Löwith, Lewis Mumford, May Sarton, Page Smith, Dorothy Thompson, Paul Tillich, J. H. van den Berg, Alfred North Whitehead, and Carl Zuckmayer. Photocopies of letters from Rosenstock-Huessy to Karl Barth, Martin Buber, and others are also part of the collection but will be stored separately by the Rosenstock-Huessy family.

Some 8,000 pages of letters from Rosenstock-Huessy to his wife, Margrit, have been transferred to Dartmouth, and in addition to Franz Rosenzweig’s letters to Margrit, there are letters from Rosenzweig to his cousins Hans and Rudolph Ehrenberg, and to his brother-in-law Max Born. There are also 175 letters between Rosenzweig’s mother, Adele, and Eugen and Margrit.

A large group of letters are to and from Rosalind and Henry Copley Greene, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who sponsored Rosenstock-Huessy’s first major publication in the United States, Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man (New York: William Morrow, 1938), an 800-page volume covering a millennium of European history and based entirely on original research. The jacket copy to the book noted, “Professor Rosenstock-Huessy has devoted his life to an effort to realign and integrate the various social sciences. There is not one of them: Psychology, History, Economics, Theology, Law, Philology, Linguistics, Political Science, Education, Biography, to which he has not made original contributions.”

The Rosenstock-Huessy Papers include substantial material relating to Camp William James (1939-1941), the volunteer work camp in Vermont organized by Rosenstock-Huessy and a group of Dartmouth and Harvard students. The camp was intended to elevate the Civilian Conservation Corps, introduced by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as an economic and social relief program, into a model for a true national service corps, open to all, that would help to integrate the social and economic classes in the United States. The story of Camp William James was recounted in a book by that name written by Jack Preiss and published in 1978.

Throughout his life, advocacy of voluntary work service was an ongoing theme for Rosenstock-Huessy, which he summarized in a 1965 publication, long before the subject became fashionable, Dienst auf dem Planeten––Kurzweil und Langeweile im dritten Jahrtausend (Stuttgart). The book was translated into English in 1978, somewhat abridged, as Planetary Service: A Way into the Third Millennium (Essex, Vermont).

Also in the collection of papers that will be housed in the Rosenstock-Huessy Archive at Dartmouth are poetry and sermons by Rosenstock-Huessy, manuscripts of published and privately circulated works, and family history.

According to Prof. Susannah Heschel, the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth, “The acquisition of papers of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and Franz Rosenzweig marks a significant achievement for the archival collections of Dartmouth College and for the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth. The relationship between the two men, and also their relationships with Margrit Rosenstock-Huessy, documents one of the most significant relationships in modern history between a Jew and two Christians. The impact of Eugen and Margrit Rosenstock-Huessy on the philosophical work of Rosenzweig, particularly his influential theological writings on Judaism, was profound and of enormous interest to scholars. With this gift, Dartmouth College Library becomes a central archive for research on a crucial moment in German-Jewish thought, Christian self-understanding, and Jewish-Christian relations.”

A Chronological Guide to the Works of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy compiled by the Dutch scholar Lise van der Molen (Essex, Vermont: Argo Books, 1997) lists over 600 titles, totaling at least 35,000 pages. Other works in English from Prof. Rosenstock-Huessy’s lifetime of writing are The Christian Future, or the Modern Mind Outrun (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1946), reissued as a Harper Torchbook in 1966, and the Origin of Speech (Essex, Vermont: Argo Books, 1981). Over 400 hours of his stirring classroom lectures at Dartmouth in the 1950s have also been preserved on cassette tapes and in verbatim transcriptions. The tapes are now in the process of being converted to a digital format.

With this acquisition, Dartmouth College becomes the principal archive in the United States for the study of the life and work of Rosenstock-Huessy and a central destination, as well, for students of Franz Rosenzweig. There is also a Rosenstock-Huessy archive at Bethel in Bielefeld, Germany.