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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: April 2018

1 - My Father's House

from Contents of Volume One


I was born on May 15, 1799 in Halle on the Saale, the son of a doctor, and certainly in the bosom of the Jewish community. Oddly enough the latter led to uncertainty regarding the date. The notations of the synagogue official contradict those of my father in a family bible. It might well be that my birthday is not May 15, but rather November 28, and the year of my birth 1795. Family information speaks in favor of the former date. But it makes no difference. My father remained connected to the Jewish community until the end of his life, firm and unshakable, without having the least inclination to the old church. Basically he was neither Jew nor Christian, but a genuine follower of Voltaire. Naturally, from his point of view he had nothing to conceal from me – and he could not have, for he often invited me to accompany him to the synagogue, strangely enough for his point of view. My relation to the old church was so easy hereafter, and religiosity was kept so far from the child, but one would be in error, if one were to assume that, the latter was entirely lacking; oriental fantasy was too hard at work for that in me and my dark-haired playfellows. Even the unintelligible language in which God himself, as we were taught, had put together the Holy Scriptures, inspired our imaginations with the power of a continuing miracle. For to doubt the fact, taken for granted, was something that occurred to none of us; rather, we were ready to regard the extremely ancient rolls of the Torah, which were carried in procession about the synagogue in their gold-brocade decorated cover, as being the true and original writing by God's hand.