Carl Sternheim

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Carl Sternheim, portrait by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , lithograph , 1918
Carl Sternheim (around 1921). Photo by Franz Grainer

William Adolf Carl Sternheim (short also Karl or Carl Sternheim ; born April 1, 1878 in Leipzig ; † November 3, 1942 in Brussels ) was a German playwright and author of short stories and poems. In his works he particularly attacked the moral ideas of the bourgeoisie of the Wilhelmine era .


Origin and studies

Wilhelm Adolf Carl Sternheim was the son of the Jewish banker, stockbroker and newspaper publisher Carl Jakob Sternheim (1852–1918) and his wife Rosa Maria Flora Sternheim born. Francke (1856-1908). His brothers were the film producer Julius Sternheim and Felix Sternheim (1882-1946), he also had three sisters, Maria (1879-1922), Gertrude Jeanette (1880-1958, married Jeaffreson), and Edith Lea (1883-1957, married Bing). His uncle was the journalist, writer and later director of the Berlin Belle Alliance Theater, Hermann Sternheim (1849-1916).

Carl Sternheim grew up in Hanover and Berlin . 1897–1902 he studied philosophy , psychology and law at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich as well as in Göttingen and Leipzig without a degree.

Life as a writer

From 1900 Sternheim lived and worked as a freelance writer , initially in Weimar. There he married Eugenie Hauth, the daughter of a winery owner, in 1900. In 1901 the son Carlhans was born. In 1906 the marriage ended in divorce.

In his second marriage from 1907 he was born with Thea Sternheim . Farmer married. With her he had the daughter Dorothea Elisabeth (1905-1954) and the son Klaus Franz Nikolaus (1908-1946). Thea, daughter of a wealthy factory owner, made it possible for her husband Carl to build the Villa Bellemaison in Höllriegelskreuth near Munich with his own theater in 1908 , where his plays could be performed. Sternheim used to hang out with artists such as Mechtilde Lichnowsky , Max Reinhardt and Frank Wedekind , whose daughter he later married, and built up an art collection. From 1908 he published the first year of the Hyperion magazine together with Franz Blei . His circle of friends included Gottfried Benn , Carl Einstein , Franz Pfemfert , Walther Rathenau , Ernst Stadler , Hugo von Tschudi , Fritz von Unruh , Ivo Puhonny and Otto Vrieslander .

In 1912, Sternheim moved to Belgium and received medical treatment from Oskar Kohnstamm during the war years .

In 1918 Sternheim was in St. Moritz and Uttwil where he lived in the "Villa Sternheim". This formerly belonged to Henry van de Velde and, according to Sternheim, to Emanuel Stickelberger . Walter Kern later moved into the villa.

In 1927 the marriage with Thea was divorced. At times, Sternheim was close to the circle around the expressionist magazine Die Aktion . His works were banned during the Nazi era . From 1930 to 1934 he was married to Pamela Wedekind . From 1935 he lived in exile with Henriette Carbonara in Belgium. In 1936 he published his memoirs under the title Pre-war Europe in the parable of my life (place of publication Amsterdam).


Gravesite of Carl Sternheim and Marcel Hastir in Ixelles

After years of nervous and psychological suffering, Carl Sternheim died lonely and forgotten on November 3, 1942 in the occupied Brussels in Ixelles / Elsene from the consequences of pneumonia.

His grave is in the Ixelles / Elsene cemetery, south of Brussels. The last time the grave was relocated within the cemetery was in 1983. In 2011, his friend Marcel Hastir (1906–2011) was buried in the same grave.


From the first marriage (1900–1906) with Eugenie geb. A son was born:

  • Carlhans Sternheim (1901-1944). He was executed in the Brandenburg prison.

From the connection with Thea Sternheim geb. Bauer (second marriage from 1907, divorce 1927) had two children:

  • The daughter Dorothea Elisabeth , called Mopsa, was born in 1905 and initially got the last name Löwenstein from her stepfather Arthur Löwenstein, with whom she grew up until 1912. It was not until the age of eleven that she found out that Sternheim was her father and moved to live with his family in Belgium. Later she occasionally worked as a set and costume designer for her father and as a set designer for plays by Klaus Mann , with whom she was friends until his death in 1949. She led an unsteady artistic life, which was marked by numerous changes of location and addiction to morphine . In 1929 she married Rudolph Ripper . During the Second World War she was active as a resistance fighter in France and after her arrest in 1944 she was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp . She died in Paris in 1954.
  • The son Klaus Franz Nikolaus Sternheim (1908–1946) died in Mexico.

The third marriage (1930-1934) with Pamela Wedekind and the subsequent connection with Henriette Carbonara remained childless.


Sternheim was a very prolific writer. In addition to a large number of dramas, there are short stories, pamphlets and the two-volume novel Europa .


Sternheim's plays are a biting satire on the bourgeoisie of the Wilhelmine era. At second glance, the disgusting, selfish, class-conscious citizens appear as real heroes; at third glance, these nasty subjects are doomed. According to Sternheim's belief, every person has their own, unmistakable nature that distinguishes them from everyone else. The determination of the individual, however, is to live this peculiarity - general norms have no validity. Sternheim writes against the subjugation and uniformity of the individual in social constraints by making them aware of the particularity of the individual.

A special feature of Sternheim's pieces is their telegram-style language, which Valerie Hennecke analyzed in 1985 and compared with that of other expressionists.

Works (selection)

Page from Sternheim's manuscript for the drama The suffering woman


Sternberg's person and his work were controversial from the start. In 1911, Sternheim's bourgeois comedy Die Hose was premiered in Berlin . It was enthusiastically received by the audience, but banned by the police chief because of the immorality of a citizen losing her underpants on the street. In 1912, when Die Kassette premiered in Munich, there were palpable pros and cons among the audience. The actors got involved in the scuffle on stage and thrown hard objects at them, the iron curtain had to fall and Munich had a theater scandal. In April 1912 Carl Sternheim finished a comedy under the title O Täler weit, O Höhn which then became one of the poet's greatest successes in Bürger Schippel (1913). Often played during the Weimar Republic and ostracized in the Third Reich, his pieces experienced a rebirth on German theaters in the 1970s.


In 1915 Sternheim received the Theodor Fontane Prize for the three novellas Busekow, Napoleon and Schuhlin . He passed on the amount of money associated with the award to Franz Kafka, who was still largely unknown at the time .


  • Gottfried Benn , Thea Sternheim : Correspondence and records. With letters and excerpts from Mopsa Sternheim's diary . Edited by Thomas Ehrsam. Wallstein, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-89244-714-4 .
  • Thea Sternheim: Diaries 1903–1971. 5 volumes. Edited by Thomas Ehrsam and Regula Wyss. Wallstein, Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-8353-0748-3 .
  • Kurt Wolff : authors, books, adventures. A publisher's reflections and memories. Wagenbach, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-8031-2488-3 ( Wagenbach's pocket library 488).
  • Wilhelm Emrich , Manfred Linke (ed.): Carl Sternheim - Complete Works - Volume 10/2 - Supplements, Notes on Volumes 1 to 9 - Life Chronicle. Neuwied and Darmstadt 1976.


Web links

Commons : Carl Sternheim  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Carl Sternheim  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. a b Henning Rischbieter: Sternheim's parents 1885 - high time of the bourgeoisie , in ders .: Hannoversches Lesebuch, or: What was written, printed and read in and about Hanover , Vol. II (1st edition): 1850–1950 . Velber: Friedrich Verlag, p. 106ff.
  2. ^ Hugo Thielen: Sternheim, (2) William Adolf C (K) arl. In: Hannoversches Biographisches Lexikon , p. 349f.
  3. Maria Sternheim married the architect Gustav von Cube , they had two children.
  4. Urs Oskar Keller: A man of the world in the province. St. Galler Tagblatt, October 14, 2013, accessed on March 21, 2020 .
  5. ^ Carl Sternheim - Munzinger biography. Accessed January 1, 2020 .
  6. Files of the cemetery administration Ixelles, vol. 1942 - the last place of residence is Rue Emmanuel Van Driessche 52, Ixelles.
  7. Files of the cemetery administration Ixelles, vol. 1942.
  8. Mopsa Sternheim
  9. ^ Valerie Hennecke: The language in the comedies Carl Sternheims . Dissertation. University of Cologne, 1985.
  10. Excerpt: A Hanoverian family home in Wilhelmine times (with comments from the Hanover Literature House). Source: Complete Works. Edited by Wilhelm Emrich (from vol. 8 with the collaboration of Manfred Linke). Luchterhand, Neuwied-Berlin 1963 ff .; Vol. 10 / I, pp. 172-180.
  11. Carl Sternheim: works
  12. Manfred Linke: Sternheim . Reinbek 1979, p. 118.
  13. secondary literature on Sternheim