Walter benjamin

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Walter Benjamin, 1928

Walter Bendix Schoenflies Benjamin (born July 15, 1892 in Charlottenburg , † September 26, 1940 in Portbou ) was a German philosopher , cultural critic and translator of the works of Honoré de Balzac , Charles Baudelaire and Marcel Proust . As a thinker with an undogmatic position, his close friendship with Theodor W. Adorno means that he is part of the Frankfurt School's associated sphere of activity .


Walter Benjamin was born as the son of the antiques and art dealer Emil Benjamin (1856–1926) and his wife Pauline (1869–1930) (née Schoenflies) in Charlottenburg . His family belonged to assimilated Judaism . Walter Benjamin was the eldest of three siblings, Dora (1901–1946) and Georg Benjamin (1895–1942) and thus brother-in-law of Hilde Benjamin , as well as the cousin of Gertrud Kolmar and Günther Anders (→ families Schoenflies and Hirschfeld ). Benjamin's uncle William Stern was a well-known German child psychologist who developed the concept of the intelligence quotient (IQ). Benjamin spent most of his childhood, the memories of which are recorded in his Berlin childhood around nineteen hundred , in Berlin . The family's home at Delbrückstrasse 23 in Berlin-Grunewald is no longer preserved.

Walter Benjamin (right) with his parents Emil and Pauline Benjamin and brother Georg, 1896

From 1905 to 1907 Benjamin attended the Hermann Lietz School in Haubinda , a reform pedagogical boarding school in Thuringia. There he met Martin Luserke, the teacher Gustav Wyneken , who made a deep impression on him and prompted him to become involved in the youth movement . As a result, he worked alongside Siegfried Bernfeld , Georg Gretor (pseudonym Georges Barbizon), Otto Gründler , Erich Krems , the brothers Hans and Peter Kollwitz and Wyneken on the legendary and notorious youth magazine Der Anfang . This was banned in all schools in Bavaria. After graduating from the Kaiser-Friedrich-Gymnasium in Charlottenburg in 1912, Benjamin began studying philosophy, German and art history at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg im Breisgau , where he became friends with the poet Christoph Friedrich Heinle . In the winter semester of 1912/13 Benjamin and Heinle continued their studies in Berlin. The suicide Heinle on 8 August 1914 sparked deep dismay at Benjamin. He dedicated sonnets to his deceased friend and tried in vain to find a publisher for the work he left behind .

Together with Hans Blüher , Ernst Joël , Fritz Klatt , Erich Krems , the brothers Hans and Walter Koch, Hans Kollwitz , Alfred Kurella and Alexander Rustow, he belonged to the so-called Westend Circle , which brought together the left wing of the bourgeois youth movement . Klatt was probably the intellectual and journalistic engine of this union.

Wyneken's increasing enthusiasm for the war led to a break with his teacher in 1915. In the same year Benjamin met the math student Gershom Scholem , who was five years his junior , and with whom he became friends. In 1917 Benjamin married Dora Sophie Kellner , divorced Pollak (1890–1964), a student of philosophy and chemistry from Vienna, daughter of the Englishist Leon Kellner (1859–1928) and his wife, the writer and translator Anna Kellner born. White (1862-1941). The marriage lasted 13 years and gave birth to their son Stefan Rafael (April 11, 1918 to February 6, 1972). (Also to an imminent convocation to escape military) in the year of marriage Benjamin moved to Bern , where he in the next two years his dissertation titled art criticism, the term in German Romanticism at Richard Herbertz wrote. On June 27, 1919, he defended his doctoral thesis and passed it with the top grade summa cum laude .

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee (1920)

Back in Berlin, Benjamin worked as a freelance writer and publicist. In 1923 his translation of Baudelaire poems was published, which he prefixed with his self-confident essay The Translator's Task . His philosophical work on the critique of violence , published in 1921, attracted attention. In the same year he acquired a painting by Paul Klee entitled Angelus Novus . After his attempt to publish a magazine with the same name failed, Benjamin went to Frankfurt am Main in 1923/24 to do his habilitation there . Here he met Theodor W. Adorno and Siegfried Kracauer , with whom he and Alfred Sohn-Rethel spent several weeks on vacation on the Gulf of Naples in September 1925 . However, his post-doctoral thesis Origin of the German Tragedy turned out to be too unorthodox for academic work. In order to save himself an official refusal, Benjamin withdrew his habilitation application in 1925.

In 1926 and 1927 Benjamin stayed in Paris , where he worked, partly together with Franz Hessel , on the translation of the works of Marcel Proust (especially In Search of Lost Time ). His interest in communism , which began in 1924, led Benjamin to Moscow in the winter of 1926/27 , where he visited his girlfriend, the Latvian actress and director Asja Lacis . See: Moscow Diary , and the Moscow essay , in the journal Die Kreatur . Despite his increasing sympathy for the communist movement, Benjamin maintained what he called “left outsiders” throughout his life.

In 1930 his marriage was divorced on his own initiative. His wife had meanwhile become a prominent journalist and editor who worked for the radio and for various Ullstein newspapers. Their earnings had ensured the family's livelihood for years. After a bitter war of divorce, the two soon became friends again and remained in intense correspondence, most of which is unpublished, until the end of his life.

At the beginning of the 1930s Benjamin pursued journalistic plans together with Bertolt Brecht and worked for the radio. In 1932 he began to work on a book about his childhood and youth, which was initially titled Berliner Chronik and then revised to Berlin childhood around nineteen hundred . During Benjamin's lifetime, however, only a few chapters appeared in the Frankfurter Zeitung .

Sa Punta des Moli , house where Walter Benjamin lived during his stays in Ibiza

In 1932 and 1933 Benjamin spent the summer on the Balearic island of Ibiza . During his first stay, he met Jean Selz , with whom he exchanged drug experiences and who later published about their time together. During the summer of 1933 he fell in love with the Dutch painter Anna Maria Blaupot ten Cate on Ibiza, for whom he wrote Agesilaus Santander . He also wrote travel stories on Ibiza such as The ride of the Mascotte , The Handkerchief , The Travel Evening or The Cactus Hedge . Spain 1932 , In der Sonne , Ibizan series emerged from Benjamin's reflections on the art of storytelling.

Benjamin's Paris apartment at 10 rue Dombasle (1938–1940)
Walter Benjamin's reader card for the Bibliothèque nationale de France , Paris 1940

The takeover of power by the National Socialists forced Benjamin to go into exile in Paris in September 1933 . Here he also met Hannah Arendt , who supported the almost destitute Benjamin. A lively correspondence has been passed down from both of them. Benjamin was able to finance himself almost exclusively through donations from his ex-wife and sister, the social researcher Dora Benjamin , as well as a small employee salary that the Institute for Social Research , headed by Max Horkheimer , transferred to him. During the years of exile in Paris, Benjamin mainly worked on his fragmentary work of passages . He also wrote the essay The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility , published in 1936 in the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung , and studies on Baudelaire.

He spent the years up to 1939 traveling, in Paris, in the “Villa Verde” guesthouse run by his ex-wife in Sanremo or with Bertolt Brecht .

From 1937 to 1939 Benjamin was a member of the Collège de Sociologie, founded by Georges Bataille , Michel Leiris and Roger Caillois , as well as Bataille's secret society Acéphale , although he was critical of the efforts of the Collège to fight fascism with its own means. Benjamin's planned lecture on fashion could no longer take place because of the outbreak of war. Benjamin was interned for three months with other German refugees in the Château de Vernuche camp in Varennes-Vauzelles .

After returning from this imprisonment in November 1939, Benjamin wrote his last text, the Theses On the Concept of History . Benjamin fled to Lourdes , from where he first traveled on to Marseille , before attempting to get to Spain in September 1940 with the help of Lisa Fittko and from there via Portugal on his USA visa. In the Spanish border town of Portbou , where he still feared extradition to the Germans despite successfully crossing the border, he committed suicide on the night of September 26-27, 1940. The most important source for his suicide is the oral transmission of the farewell letter to Theodor W. Adorno, which he dictated to his fellow refugee Henny Gurland . The companions were allowed to flee further on his death. Hannah Arendt reported to Gershom Scholem in a letter dated October 17, 1941 about Benjamin's final months as well as his death and mentioned that Benjamin had repeatedly expressed suicidal intentions to her.

The 2005 documentary Who Killed Walter Benjamin… by David Mauas casts doubt on the suicide theory. The film examines the circumstances of Walter Benjamin's death and, in its narrative style based on the Benjamin model, takes up the problems of historical discourse and its construction. At the same time, the film throws light on the borderline situation of that time by giving the floor to the “anonymous” of history.


Benjamin's philosophical apprenticeship years included studying Kant and Neo-Kantianism as well as intensive occupation with the literature of German Romanticism , the results of which are available in his dissertation The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism , above all the examination of Jewish religiosity , which he was friends with Scholem came close. Through the emphatic relationship of philosophy to language, Benjamin tried to transform the prevailing scientifically oriented concept of knowledge in such a way that it would again be able to use theological experiences.

In the twenties the subject of Benjamin's texts shifted more and more from subjects of linguistic philosophy to subjects of aesthetics , for example with the treatises of Goethe's Elective Affinities and the Origin of German Tragedy . After the last-mentioned text had been rejected as a habilitation thesis by the Frankfurt University, he devoted himself primarily to literary critical work. This expression expresses the anti-idealistic character of his thinking, directed against philosophical systematics in general, whose concrete intent is related to the works of Ernst Bloch , Franz Rosenzweig and Florens Christian Rang .

Initially hesitant, ever more decisively since the early thirties, Benjamin held the positions of dialectical materialism . In this last phase his friendships with Adorno and Brecht found a productive effect. His Marxist writings contain theological motifs, especially those of Jewish messianism , this also applies to his conception of a “dialectic in standstill”. With this conception, which never bowed to the official versions of the dialectic as universal mediation, Benjamin describes his view of history in flux: The physiognomy of truth can be deciphered from the isolated details.

The insistence on the individual person, the individual being, is what makes Benjamin's philosophy specific. The author designed this in various literary forms: In the one-way street (1928) Benjamin used the aphorism , in German people. A sequence of letters (1936) of the commentary on traditional texts in Berlin Childhood around nineteen hundred (1934) of the autobiographical sketch. For a while, he intended the form of a surrealist montage of quotations for the unfinished study of the Pariser Passagen , a philosophy of history of the 19th century that Benjamin had been working on since 1927 and which had been planned as a major work.

Despite all the changes in method and object that are documented in Benjamin's oeuvre, it still retains its continuity. It tries at all levels to break away from the hegemony of the general concept and to resist the idolatry of the being against the inessential, of the permanent against the ephemeral and null.

In a positive way, Benjamin would like to do justice to what has always been forgotten by philosophy, to the unrepeatable, unintentional concrete, "to save" it where possible. Important insights into Benjamin's thinking are due to the criticism of the present theorems. In contrast to the positivist model of philosophy, which is based on the individual sciences, Benjamin's philosophy opposes the ubiquitous reification of language into a mere system of signs; their epistemology, which is essentially the philosophy of language, nevertheless wants to catch up with what is not fixed in terms, and what is not at all conceptually fixable.

In contrast to the more recent ontologies , which claim to be able to think out being for themselves independently of the scientific commitment to verifiable truth , Benjamin's philosophy is essential to the awareness that there are no eternal truths. “A decisive departure from the concept of 'timeless truth' is appropriate. But truth is not - as Marxism claims it - just a temporal function of knowing, but is tied to a time core that is both in what is known and in what is known. It is so true that the eternal is more like a ruffle on the dress than an idea ”. The particular, the non-conceptual, proves to be substantial only when it is sought in constellations with the general, as something socially mediated.

According to Benjamin, “expression” is the medium in which language goes beyond mere signification ; Language as an expression is - in Benjamin's theological terminology - the attempt to use the "name"; an attempt that is most likely to have succeeded every now and then in art . In works of art, the truth content and the factual content are inextricably linked to one another; Truth emerges through them, therein lies the provocation of art for philosophy, which Benjamin repeatedly faced with aesthetic and art-sociological works.

An important contribution to the theory of photography is the essay Small History of Photography by Benjamin , published in 1931 . In it he takes up the long discussion about whether photography is art at all. According to Benjamin, photography cannot be analyzed with an “anti-technical concept of art”. He wants to understand photography as art, especially against the background of technology and its development. The reason for the article was a number of publications on historical and contemporary photography. He also highlights the peculiarities of the new technology in the earliest photographs. These have a magical value that a painted picture cannot necessarily achieve. The essay also explains the concept of aura, which later plays an exposed role in Benjamin's essay on art. Here, as there, aura primarily refers to the uniqueness of time and space experiences. For photography, Benjamin sees the aura as ambivalent. On the one hand, the early photographs have a magical, auratic added value that is transcendent. On the other hand, Benjamin also expressly praises photographs that have freed their object from the aura. Photographs without such auratic moments can therefore depict the relationship between humans and the environment in a more differentiated manner and thus serve an ideology-free political discourse. Not least because of this article, Benjamin is nowadays referred to as the most important photography theorist of the Weimar Republic.

His preoccupation with the work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility is particularly important . The title of this 1935 work has become something of a household word. According to Benjamin, the unlimited reproduction of music, painting and indeed all the fine arts leads to the loss of their aura . This also means the changed context of reception: While art lovers used to have to go to a concert or gallery to pursue their passion, technical reproductions, be it records, radio recordings or art prints, resulted in a “devaluation of the original ". If Benjamin sees this development primarily as positive, Adorno sees it critically and, in a dialectical turn, focuses in particular on the regression of hearing and the fetish character in mass art.

Based in traditional art the utopian contents on the beautiful appearance, the "aura" of ritual values, so Benjamin analyzed in modern art since Baudelaire (see. . Charles Baudelaire A poet in the era of high capitalism [1969]) a progressive deterioration of the auratic , with which art - above all Surrealism and Brecht's epic theater (cf. Experiments on Brecht [1966]), in a different way film (cf. The Artwork in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility ) - enters the service of a materialistic demythologization and directly assumes a function in society's struggle for emancipation. With his positive orientation towards the masses, Benjamin goes beyond the critical theory of Adorno and Horkheimer because he neither shares their reservations nor their complaint that “the masses seek diversion, but art demands collection from the viewer”. According to Benjamin, photography and film heralded the end of traditional art, a process in which he saw the forces of history at work.

About the concept of history

Benjamin's contributions to the philosophy of history also apply to this topic . His last work, the Theses On the Concept of History , is a testimony to his "awakening from the shock of the Hitler-Stalin Pact " (Scholem) . The first thesis has become particularly well known: Today theology is small and ugly and therefore has to hide itself under the protective cloak of historical materialism . If historical materialism took theology at its service, it could easily take on anyone. In contrast to the historical philosophy of idealism with its fetishization of the concept of progress shared by Marxism , according to which the immanent course of history should be an already progressive one, flow automatically and inexorably out of the horror of "prehistory" into human relationships, Benjamin calls for a Copernican turn , that of the Jewish Doctrine of " remembrance " would help to achieve their right.

Philosophy has to direct one's gaze to the “ruins of history” and the historical catastrophes, to everything “that has been betrayed, suppressed and forgotten”. While the traditional philosophy of history, especially in the Hegelian form, has its movens, that is, its driving force, in the transfiguration of doom, celebrates the infinite and absolute in the death of the finite, Benjamin's subject is precisely the “untimely, painful, missed” with the Insist that history still persists in mere natural history. Far from any apologetics , Benjamin's thinking is grounded by the allegory's grief . "As long as there is still a beggar, there is still myth," it says in a fragment of the Passagen work .

Benjamin approached the "new media" in the period before the Second World War not only theoretically, but also left his mark on numerous radio programs. Full of experimentation, he designed programs for children's radio , the book lesson, as well as stories and radio plays.

The fact that 'translate' has become a key term in intercultural theory building worldwide is due not least to Walter Benjamin's groundbreaking essay “The Translator's Task”.

Reception and appreciation

After Adorno and Scholem had re-edited Benjamin's writings after the Second World War, mostly for the first time, especially from 1970 to 1989 an extensive, practically complete edition of his Gesammelte Schriften had appeared, Benjamin's effect turned into the opposite of the unsuccessfulness of his work had learned during his lifetime. His dissertation in 1920 was barely noticed by the specialist public, and his habilitation thesis was even rejected by Frankfurt University. After his death, Benjamin stimulated various humanities and social science subjects, which took up his socially critical impetus again. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht thinks that Benjamin's “unbroken popularity in the humanities” is a result of his belief in the instrumental relationship between the subject and various technologies, “which [could] be one of the reasons why most of his prophecies have proven to be wrong. "

According to Jürgen Habermas , Benjamin is “one of those confusing authors whose work is based on a disparate history of impact” and to whom one should not make “unreasonable consistency requirements”. In his “group biography” of the Frankfurt School , Stuart Jeffries describes Benjamin as “probably the most original thinker associated with the Frankfurt School”.

In the United States, Benjamin was introduced to the academic public in early 1969 through the anthology published, edited and provided with a foreword by Hannah Arendt under the title Illuminations. Walter Benjamin: Essays and Reflections, known.

The Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBK) has existed at the University of Bern since 2015 , in which doctoral students, junior fellows and other young researchers devote themselves to interdisciplinary projects on “basic questions in the humanities, cultural and social sciences”. The college is based on Benjamin's concept of "creatively combining a wide variety of disciplinary approaches in the humanities".

A sentence from the work of Benjamin, entrance to the German Tank Museum Munster

In May 2016, the German Tank Museum in Munster had Benjamin's sentence - “But if you want peace, talk about war” - affixed to the outside wall of the facility. Through its municipal and military sponsors, it is an institution of the Federal Republic of Germany and thus actively represents the values ​​of this state, which also include the rejection of war as an instrument, as far as this is at all possible. To this end, the museum wants to encourage visitors to take a well-founded, critical and independent look at the war. The institution wanted - according to its own statement, with the quote - to answer the two most frequent criticisms of the museum: "Nobody needs a tank museum" and "Something like that only glorifies war". Benjamin's quote "tackles both objections at their roots: We talk about war because we want peace".

Benjamin attacked primarily with this sentence from the essay Friedensware ( means "prewar goods" ), from his review of the book wing of Nike - book of a journey (1926) by Fritz von Unruh , this literary. Unruh was a former war volunteer, battalion chief and company commander in the First World War. Benjamin questioned the later alleged struggle of Unruhs against war and violence, which was to represent the starting point of Unruhs artistic creation. Unruh was a co-founder of the Republican Party in 1924, which was unsuccessful also because of its ambivalence . He described it as hypocritical, because he spoke in connection with the subject of war, not of "threatening instigators, its enormous causes, its most appalling means". “And in front of Versailles the festival poet of the republic couldn't express himself more accurately : 'When I stand between the crowned golden bars - I want to tear them apart, this whole boxwood complex of tyranny!' Benjamin quoted him.


Walter Benjamin died in this house in Portbou
Tomb for Walter Benjamin in Portbou , Spain
View from the inside of the accessible Walter Benjamin Memorial “Passagen” by the artist Dani Karavan at the cemetery in Portbou

There is a memorial plaque on Benjamin's house in Berlin from 1930 to 1933 (Prinzregentenstrasse 66, Berlin-Wilmersdorf ). The Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf has on 12 May 2001. one of Hans Kollhoff newly created town square ( Leibniz colonnades ) near the Kurfürstendamm given the name "Walter-Benjamin-Platz". In January 2001, a memorial was erected for Hans and Lisa Fittko in Banyuls-sur-Mer to remind people that, although their lives were in danger, they made it possible for many people persecuted by the Nazis to flee to Spain. At the foot of this memorial, a hiking trail begins, on which you can follow the old escape route in about five hours, the " F route " formerly named after the Fittkos from Banyuls via Cerbère to Portbou, Spain. Since June 24, 2007, this path has been officially named "Chemin Walter Benjamin" and marked as a historical hiking trail.

Walter Benjamin took this path under dramatic circumstances while fleeing the National Socialists on September 25 and 26, 1940. The Spanish authorities did not allow the fugitive to enter because of a new decree, but wanted to send him back to France, whereupon Benjamin spent the night took his life on September 26-27, 1940 in the Hotel Francia de Portbou to avoid extradition. The walk-in landscape sculpture Passagen by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan is reminiscent of this . There is also a memorial stone in memory of Walter Benjamin in the Portbou cemetery.

In the center of Strasbourg there is a small street called Passage Walter Benjamin . In Freiburg, where Benjamin had studied, located in the district Rieselfeld , the Walter-Benjamin-Straße and in the Wiehre there is a plaque on his house in Church Street 49th

In Barcelona , the Jardins de Walter Benjamin was named after him.


In the opera Shadowtime , Benjamin's death was treated musically and scenically by Charles Bernstein (libretto) and Brian Ferneyhough (composition). In October 2014 in Brooklyn and in April 2015 in Berlin, the opera Port Bou by Elliott Sharp premiered about the last moments in the life of Walter Benjamin. Helmut Oehring composed the cycle Angelus Novus on life and the writings of Walter Benjamin in relation to Paul Klee's drawing Angelus Novus :

  • Angelus Novus I, ensemble study for 11 instrumental soloists (WP January 2015 Collegium Novum , Tonhalle Zurich )
  • Angelus Novus II, collage instrumental-vocal mis-en-scène for vocal and instrumental soloists, jazz quartet, ensemble, live electronics and live video based on a libretto by Stefanie Wördemann (WP February 2015 Bern University of the Arts / Dampfzentrale Bern )
  • Angelus Novus III for ensemble and orchestra

Benjamin , music theater in seven stations by Peter Ruzicka , libretto by Yona Kim. World premiere in June 2018 in Hamburg.


Book editions during his lifetime

  • Concept of art criticism in German romanticism. A. Francke Publishing House, Bern 1920.
  • Charles Baudelaire, Tableaux Parisiens. German translation with a foreword about the task of the translator , French and German, Verlag von Richard Weißbach, Heidelberg 1923.
  • One way street . Rowohlt, Berlin 1928.
  • Origin of the German tragedy. Rowohlt, Berlin 1928.
  • German people. A series of letters . Selection and introductions by Detlef Holz [pseudonym]. Vita Nova Verlag, Lucerne 1936.

Work editions

  • Fonts . Edited by Theodor W. Adorno and Gretel Adorno with the assistance of Friedrich Podszus. 2 volumes. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1955.
  • Letters . Edited and annotated by Gershom Scholem and Theodor W. Adorno. 2 volumes. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1966.
  • Illuminations. Walter Benjamin: Essays and Reflections. Foreword, adaptation and edited by Hannah Arendt. Schocken Verlag, New York 1969, ISBN 0-8052-0241-2 .
  • About hashish: novellas, reports, materials. 1st edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1972.
  • Collected Writings. With the participation of Theodor W. Adorno and Gershom Scholem ed. by Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser . Volumes I – VII, Suppl. I – III (bound in 17 volumes). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1972–1999. Revised paperback edition: Volumes I – VII (bound in 14 volumes), Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1991.
    • Volume I / 1: Treatises. Pp. 1-430.
      The concept of art criticism in German romanticism ; Goethe's elective affinities ; Origin of the German tragedy ; The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility , first and third version
    • Volume I / 2: Treatises, pp. 435-796.
      Charles Baudelaire. A poet in the age of high capitalism , 3 parts: The Paris of the Second Empire near Baudelaire , About some motifs from Baudelaire , Central Park ; About the concept of history ; Voluntary disclosure of the dissertation; L'œuvre d'art à l'époque de sa reproduction mécanisée ; Notes on the Tableaux Parisiens de Baudelaire .
    • Volume I / 3: Treatises, pp. 797-1272. Editor's Notes
    • Volume II / 1: Articles, essays, lectures, pp. 1–406.
    • Volume II / 2: Articles, essays, lectures, pp. 407–813.
    • Volume II / 3: Articles, essays, lectures, pp. 815–1526.
    • Volume III: Criticisms and Reviews.
      Criticisms and reviews 1912–1939 / 1940; Appendix: Draft Reviews; Suggestions for the review section of the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung
    • Volume IV / 1: Small Prose / Baudelaire Transmissions, pp. 1–605.
    • Volume IV / 2: Small Prose / Baudelaire Transmissions, pp. 607–1108.
      Illustrated articles ; Hearing models ; Stories and novellas ; Miscarriage
    • Volume V / 1: Das Passagen-Werk, pp. 1–654.
    • Volume V / 2: Das Passagen-Werk, pp. 655–1350.
    • Volume VI: Fragments, Autobiographical Writings
      on Philosophy of Language and Criticism of Knowledge ; On the philosophy of history and the critique of knowledge ; Resumes; Records 1906-1932; Berlin Chronicle around nineteen hundred
    • Volume VII / 1: Supplements, pp. 1-519.
    • Volume VII / 2: Supplements, pp. 525-1024.
    • Soup I: Minor translations: Tristan Tzara , D'Annunzio , Louis Aragon , Proust , Léon Bloy , Adrienne Monnier , Saint-John Perse , Honoré de Balzac , Jouhandeau
    • Soup II: Proust, In the shadow of the young girls
    • Soup III: Translation (with Franz Hessel): Proust, Guermantes
  • Écrits français . Présentés et introduits by Jean-Maurice Monnoyer. Gallimard, Paris 1991.
  • Collected letters . Edited by the Theodor W. Adorno Archive. 6 volumes, ed. by Christoph Gödde and Henri Lonitz. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1995–2000.
  • Arendt and Benjamin: texts, letters, documents , ed. by Detlev Schöttker and Erdmut Wizisla . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-518-29395-8 .
  • Works and bequests. Critical complete edition . Edited by Henri Lonitz and Christoph Gödde. 21 volumes (planned), Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main / Berlin since 2008.
    • Volume 3: The concept of art criticism in German romanticism . Edited by Uwe Steiner. 2008, ISBN 978-3-518-58501-6 .
    • Volume 7: Charles Baudelaire Tableaux Parisiens . Edited by Antonia Birnbaum and Michel Métayer. 2017. ISBN 978-3-518-58704-1 .
    • Volume 8: one-way street . Edited by Detlev Schöttker with the assistance of Steffen Haug. 2009, ISBN 978-3-518-58524-5 .
    • Volume 9: Broadcasting works (two volumes). Edited by Thomas Küpper and Anja Nowak. 2017, ISBN 978-3-518-58610-5 .
    • Volume 10: German people . Published by Momme Brodersen. 2008, ISBN 978-3-518-58510-8 .
    • Volume 11: Berlin Chronicle. Berlin childhood around nineteen hundred (two volumes). Edited by Burkhardt Lindner and Nadine Werner. 2019, ISBN 978-3-518-58728-7 .
    • Volume 13: Criticism and Reviews (two part volumes). Published by Heinrich Kaulen. 2011, ISBN 978-3-518-58560-3 .
    • Volume 16: The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility . Published by Burkhardt Lindner. 2012, ISBN 978-3-518-58589-4 .
    • Volume 19: On the Concept of History . Edited by Gérard Raulet. 2010, ISBN 978-3-518-58549-8 .

Single publications (selection)

  • The translator's job. 1921
  • To the criticism of violence. In: Archives for Social Sciences and Social Policy . 1921 (pdf)
  • Goethe's elective affinities . In: New German Contributions. 1924/1925
  • The surrealism. In: The literary world. 1929.
  • To the picture of Proust. In: The literary world. 1929
  • Karl Kraus . In: Frankfurter Zeitung. 1931
  • Franz Kafka . On the tenth anniversary of his death. Excerpts in: Jüdische Rundschau . December 21 and December 28, 1934.
  • The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility (four versions 1935–1939). First edition Übers.] In: Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. 1936
  • The narrator. Reflections on the work of Nikolai Lesskov . In: Orient and Occident. 1936.
  • Eduard Fuchs , the collector and the historian. In: Journal for Social Research. 1937
  • About some of Baudelaire's motifs . In: Journal for Social Research. 1939
  • About the Concept of History (1940). In: Walter Benjamin in memory. 1942; The New Rundschau. 1950
  • Das Passagen-Werk (1928–1929, 1934–1940), ed. by Rolf Tiedemann, 2 volumes, Suhrkamp Frankfurt am Main 1983 [paperback edition]
  • Berlin childhood around nineteen hundred (1932–1934 / 1938). With an afterword by Theodor W. Adorno and an editorial postscript by Rolf Tiedemann. Final version and fragments from earlier versions. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987.
    • Berlin childhood around nineteen hundred . Giessen version, ed. and with an afterword by Rolf Tiedemann. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000.

Complete catalog of works




  • Momme Brodersen: Walter Benjamin. Life, work, effect . (= Suhrkamp BasisBiographie. 4). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-518-18204-8 .
  • Sven Kramer : Walter Benjamin as an introduction. 3. completely revised Edition Junius, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-88506-683-5 .
  • Burkhardt Lindner (Ed.): Benjamin-Handbuch. Life - work - effect . Metzler, Stuttgart and Weimar 2006, ISBN 3-476-01985-3 .
  • Ansgar Lorenz, Antonio Roselli: Walter Benjamin. Philosophy for beginners. Wilhelm Fink, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-7705-6163-6 .
  • Bernd Witte: Walter Benjamin. With testimonials and photo documents. (= Rowohlt monographs). Rowohlt, Reinbek 1985, ISBN 978-3-499-50341-2 .


Contemporary witnesses

Research and reception

Philosophy bibliography : Walter Benjamin - Additional references on the topic

  • Julia Abel: Walter Benjamin's translation aesthetics. The task of the translator in the context of Benjamin's early work and his time. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2014, ISBN 978-3-8498-1094-8 .
  • Wolfgang Bock : About the whispering of things. Language. Memory and Aesthetics with Walter Benjamin. Lectures in Rio de Janeiro 2007. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8260-4179-2 .
  • Peter Bulthaup (Ed.): Materials on Benjamin's theses “On the Concept of History”, contributions and interpretations. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-518-07721-X .
  • Jacques Derrida : Force of Law. The "mystical ground of authority". Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-518-13331-4 (discussion of Benjamin's on the critique of violence ).
  • Jacques Derrida: Des tours de Babel. In: J. Derrida: Psyché. Inventions de l'autre. Éditions Galilée, Paris 1987, pp. 203-237. (in connection with Benjamin: The task of the translator. 1923).
  • Sophia Ebert: Walter Benjamin and Wilhelm Speyer. Friendship and cooperation. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2017, ISBN 978-3-8498-1231-7 (Modern Studies Volume 21).
  • Justus Fetscher: To Port Bou. Walter Benjamin in literature. In: No. 9, September 2006 - Focus: Walter Benjamin (full text)
  • Dominik Finkelde : Benjamin reads Proust. Mimesis - Theory of Language - Poetology. W. Fink Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7705-3932-X .
  • Stefan Gandler: Materialism and Messianism. On Walter Benjamin's theses “On the Concept of History”. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-89528-695-7 .
  • Claude Haas; Daniel Weidner (Ed.): Benjamin's tragedy. Theory - Reading - Afterlife . Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos 2014. Literature Research Volume 21, ISBN 978-3-86599-237-6 .
  • Jürgen Habermas : Criticism that makes people aware or that saves them. The topicality of Walter Benjamin. (1972). In: Jürgen Habermas: Politics, Art and Religion. Essays on Contemporary Philosophers. Reclam, Stuttgart 1978 (current new edition 2006) ISBN 3-15-009902-1 , pp. 48-95.
  • Anselm Haverkamp (ed.): Violence and justice. Derrida – Benjamin. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-518-11706-8 .
  • Werner Hamacher : The gesture in the name. Benjamin and Kafka. In: Werner Hamacher: Distant Understanding. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-12026-3 , p. 280ff.
  • Andreas Jacket : Dream passages - a film theory with Walter Benjamin. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8260-5046-6 .
  • Eric Jacobson: Metaphysics of the Profane: The Political Theology of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem. Columbia University Press, New York 2003, ISBN 0-231-12657-3 , pp. 352ff.
  • Sascha Kirchner, Vivian Liska , Karl Solibakke, Bernd Witte (eds.): Walter Benjamin and Viennese Judaism between 1900 and 1938. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8260-4246-1 .
  • Ralf Konersmann : Frozen restlessness. Walter Benjamin's concept of history. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-596-10962-0 .
  • Isabel Kranz: The past made space. Walter Benjamin's Poetology of History. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Paderborn 2011, ISBN 978-3-7705-5108-8 .
  • Rudolf Maresch : Ghost traffic. Derrida reads Benjamin's "On the Critique of Violence". E-text as PDF .
  • Burkhardt Lindner: Studies on Benjamin , ed. v. Jessica Nitsche u. Nadine Werner, Berlin 2016.
  • Horst Nitschak: Walter Benjamin in Latin America. A contradicting success story. In: Peter Birle, Friedhelm Schmidt-Welle (Hrsg.): Mutual reception processes of Germany and Latin America in the 20th century . Vervuert, Frankfurt am Main 2007, pp. 47-77.
  • Jessica Nitsche: Walter Benjamin's Use of Photography , Berlin 2010.
  • Jessica Nitsche / Nadine Werner (eds.): Entzüge. Walter Benjamin and his sources. Paderborn: Fink 2019, ISBN 978-3-7705-6352-4 .
  • Michael Opitz, Erdmut Wizisla (ed.): Benjamin's terms. 2 volumes. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-12048-4 .
  • Jean-Michel Palmier: Walter Benjamin - rag collectors, angels and hunchbacked little men. Aesthetics and politics with Walter Benjamin. Edited and with a foreword by Florent Perrier. Translated from the French by Horst Brühmann, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-518-58536-8 .
  • Sandro Pignotti: Walter Benjamin - Judaism and literature. Tradition, origin, doctrine with a brief history of Zionism. Rombach, Freiburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7930-9547-7 .
  • Birgit Recki : Aura and autonomy. On the subjectivity of art in Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno. Würzburg 1988, ISBN 3-88479-361-6 .
  • Detlev Schöttker: Constructive fragmentarism. Form and reception of Walter Benjamin's writings. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-518-29028-2 .
  • Hermann Schweppenhäuser: On Walter Benjamin's concept of history. In: Thinking History. Lit, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4176-6 , pp. 95ff.
  • Rolf Tiedemann : Studies on the philosophy of Walter Benjamin. With a preface by Theodor W. Adorno. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1965 (2nd edition: Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1973, ISBN 3-518-00644-4 ).
  • Rolf Tiedemann: Dialectics at a standstill. Attempts on Walter Benjamin's late work. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-518-28045-7 .
  • Walter Benjamin Archive (Ed.): Walter Benjamin Archive. Images, texts, signs. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-518-41835-1 .
  • Lienhard Wawrzyn : Walter Benjamin's art theory. Criticism of a reception. Luchterhand, Darmstadt 1973, ISBN 3-472-77016-3 .
  • Sigrid Weigel : Walter Benjamin. The creature, the sacred, the images. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-18018-9 .
  • Sigrid Weigel, Daniel Weidner (Ed.): Benjamin Studies 3 . Munich, Fink 2014.
  • Daniel Weidner: Traduction et survie. Walter Benjamin lit Marcel Proust. Translate and survive. Walter Benjamin reads Marcel Proust . Éditions de l'éclat / 'éclats, 2015, ISBN 978-2-84162-358-7 .
  • Nadine Werner: Archeology of Remembering. Sigmund Freud in Walter Benjamin's “Berlin Childhood” , Göttingen: Wallstein 2015.
  • Jan Urbich : Representation by Walter Benjamin. The "epistemological preface" in the context of aesthetic representation theories of modernity. De Gruyter, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-11-026515-6 .
  • Libero Federici: Il misterioso eliotropismo. Filosofia, politica e diritto in Walter Benjamin . Ombre Corte, Verona 2017, ISBN 978-88-6948-062-1 .
  • Hans J. Vermeer : Translating as Utopia. The translation theory of Walter Bendix Schoenflies Benjamin . (Science series, Vol. 3) Textcontext-Verlag, Heidelberg 1996, ISBN 3-9805370-2-1 .
  • Jessica Nitsche, Nadine Werner (ed.): Thefts. Walter Benjamin and his sources , Paderborn 2019, ISBN 978-3-7705-6352-4 .

Other articles and publications


  • Who killed Walter Benjamin ... (OT: Quién mató a Walter Benjamin ... ) Documentary, Spain, Netherlands, 2005, 53 min., Book: David Mauas and Joan Ripollès, director: David Mauas, production: Milagros producciones, Televisió de Catalunya, film page with preview .
  • Stories of friendship. Walter Benjamin in memory. Documentary, France, Germany, 2010, 53 min., Script and director: David Wittenberg, production: Navis Film, WDR , arte , first broadcast: September 20, 2010 by arte, summary by arte.

Web links

Commons : Walter Benjamin  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Walter Benjamin  - Sources and full texts
Wikibooks: Walter Benjamin  - learning and teaching materials

To person

To the work

In memory

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Kraft : Time out of joint. Records. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1968, p. 201.
  2. ^ Hainer Weißpflug: Benjamin Walter . In: Hans-Jürgen Mende , Kurt Wernicke (Hrsg.): Berliner Bezirkslexikon, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf . Luisenstadt educational association . Haude and Spener / Edition Luisenstadt, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-7759-0479-4 ( - as of October 7, 2009).
  3. Florian Telsnig: The rebellion of the youth against the enthusiasm for war of their teachers: Benjamin - Wyneken, Scholem - Buber, Kraft - Borchardt . In: Yearbook for European Jewish Literature Studies. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2014. ISSN  2196-6249
  4. Peter Kollwitz: Fell in 1914 at the age of only 18. In: vrtNWS, October 22, 2014, on:
  5. Ulrich Grober : The short life of Peter Kollwitz. Report of a search for clues. In: Die Zeit , November 22, 1996, on:
  6. A school friend from this time was Ernst Schoen , with whom he kept in correspondence. Schoen later gave Benjamin the opportunity to realize the radio play Radau um Kasperl (1932), for which Schoen wrote the music.
  7. The first independent book publication of Heinle's literary works took place in 2016 under the title “ Christoph Friedrich Heinle. Poetry and Prose ”by Johannes Steizinger. Heinle's work, which is known today, mainly comprises poetry, along with some prose pieces. Nine letters have been received. See Johannes Steizinger (Ed.): Christoph Friedrich Heinle. Poetry and prose. With a preface by Giorgio Agamben . Kadmos, Berlin 2016. ISBN 978-3-86599-257-4
  8. a b Ulrike Koch: "I found out about it from Fritz Klatt" - Käthe Kollwitz and Fritz Klatt . In: Käthe Kollwitz and her friends: Catalog for the special exhibition on the occasion of the 150th birthday of Käthe Kollwitz . Published by the Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum Berlin, Lukas Verlag, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-86732-282-9 , p. 65.
  9. ^ Anna M. Lazzarino Del Grosso: Poverty and wealth in the thinking of Gerhoh von Reichersberg . CH Beck, Munich 1973. p. 83.
  10. Maya Nitis: A Woman's Many Names - Dora Sophie Kellner . (English). In: November 5, 2012, accessed December 1, 2015.
  11. ^ Jean-Michel Palmier: Walter Benjamin. Ragman, angels and hunchbacked men. Aesthetics and politics with Walter Benjamin. 2009, p. 235.
  12. Martin Mittelmeier: Adorno in Naples. How a landscape of longing turns into philosophy . Siedler, Munich 2013.
  13. Cornelia Niedermeier: The library of the diaspora. In: The Standard. March 7, 2009.
  14. Benjamin had known her husband, Hans Fittko, since they were imprisoned in the same camp by the French in 1939
  15. Original text in French and German translation .
  16. The correspondence. Hannah Arendt, Gershom Scholem. Berlin 2010, p. 17f. There are also - strongly doubted - speculations about the murder of Benjamin, which range from an enforced suicide to the killing by agents of Stalin: a death with many intermediate stages . In: The daily newspaper. November 7, 2005; See The Missing Briefcase . ( Memento from December 15, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) In: Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung. June 25, 2001. (English translation).
  17. Dying in Port Bou . Spanish documentary sheds light on the mysterious death of the philosopher Walter Benjamin
  18. ^ GS V, 578.
  19. ^ Eckhardt Köhn: Small history of photography. In: Burkhardt Lindner (Ed.): Benjamin-Handbuch. Life - work - effect. Stuttgart 2006, p. 400.
  20. GS II, 371.
  21. GS II, 378.
  22. ^ Herbert Molderings: Photography in the Weimar Republic. Berlin 1988, p. 23.
  23. Theodor W. Adorno: About the fetish character in music and the regression of hearing. In: Journal for Social Research. Vol. 7 (1938), H. 3, pp. 321-355.
  24. ^ Walter Benjamin: The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility. Three studies in the sociology of art. Frankfurt am Main, 1963, pp. 45f.
  25. See Thomas Neumann / Natias Neutert : Walter Benjamin and photography. In: tendencies. No. 86, 13th year Dec./Jan., Munich 1973, pp. 21-23.
  26. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: A farewell to the interpretation. [1994], In: Presence . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-518-29542-7 , pp. 171-189, therein p. 187 and footnote.
  27. Jürgen Habermas: Consciousness-making or saving criticism - The topicality of Walter Benjamin 1972. In: ders .: Culture and criticism. Scattered essays . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1973, p. 304.
  28. Stuart Jeffries: Grand Hotel Abyss. The Frankfurt School and its time. Klett-Cott, Stuttgart 2019, p. 137.
  29. Mission statement. (No longer available online.) In: September 11, 2016, archived from the original on November 26, 2016 ; Retrieved November 25, 2016 .
  30. Quote: German Tank Museum Munster
  31. Burkhardt Lindner: Benjamin Handbook: Life - Work - Effect , Springer-Verlag, 2017, p. 315/316.
  32. Burkhard Gutleben: The Great Republican Party… Unsuccessful collection efforts in the Weimar Republic. In: Liberal. Vol. 32, H. 1, 1990, pp. 95-102.
  33.!+Walter+Benjamin&source=bl&ots=cWsLmdcykd&sig=ACfU3U2SHjmg8wJFpx3UCBDxxjEPL7RD9Q&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwir9dznjNXlAhWF66QKHQmMDhoQ6AEwAnoECAkQAQ#v = onepage & q = Peace goods% 20% 20Paris% 20is% 20our% 20Ziel!% 20Walter% 20Benjamin & f = false
  34. Stadtplatz made of stone: Opening of the Leibniz Colonnades in Berlin. on , May 14, 2001.
  35. Claudia Diemar: Passages in freedom. The "Chemin Walter Benjamin" commemorates the philosopher's flight over the Pyrenees exactly seventy years ago. Berliner Zeitung , September 4, 2010, accessed on August 13, 2014 .
  36. ^ "Reiser": Chemin Walter Benjamin, the F-way., May 19, 2012, accessed on August 13, 2014 .
  37. Chemin Walter Benjamin: Multimedia guide with extensive background information. February 26, 2015, accessed September 5, 2015 .
  38. ^ Elliott Sharp: opera / theater , accessed September 8, 2015.
  39. Port Bou at Konzerthaus Berlin ( Memento from April 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  40. Exposition: Walter Benjamin Archives , Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme
  44. Benjamin's wife, often also with "Sophie" to distinguish it from the sister of the same first name. Both women are represented in this book