Alfred Dôbin, German physician and revolutionary


André J. Fabre February 8, 2011 

Alfred Döblin (1878-1957) German revolutionary physician remains an iconic writers of the twenties.

He was born in Stettin, Pomerania, but when his father abandoned the family to emigrate to the USA, Alfred and his mother came to Berlin.

Alfred, ambitious student gifted of a  high  intelligence, wanted to be a doctor. Hhe got the diploma with a thesis on "Main clinical aspects of psychosis"

He settled in Berlin, opening an office in the most elegant district, the Kurfürstendamm. He got rapidly a brilliant practice but he could not stay outside the turmoil agitating Germany at that time and took an increasingly active role in the birth of the Expressionist movement.

During WW1 he was sent as military doctor to Sarreguemines then to Strasbourg, where he was witness to the 1918 Alsace insurrection.

At the end of the war, Döblin returned witnessing there also a revolutionary movement which will be in background of one of his books : November 1918: A German Revolution (November 1918, eine deutsche Revolution).

In 1933, in the tragic aftermath of the Reichstag fire, Alfred Döblin, warned of an imminent arrestation, left Germany to take refuge with his family, first to Switzerland and then to France where he received the French nationality.

During World War II, Döblin is employed in the Ministry of Propaganda to edit propaganda leaflets but when Hitler forces come close to Paris, Döblin will have, once again, to flee.

The family gets scattered by the exodus and only after several days of agonizing research, can Döblin find back his wife and children. However, drama struck once more when Döblin's son, the mathematician Wolfgang Döblin, who had enlisted as volunteer in the Vosges French Army in the Vosges as a volunteer in the French army, committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of the Nazis.

In July 1940,  after many dramatic experiences, Alfred Döblin and his wife could reach Portugal and take a boat to the United States.

There, Döblin hoped to find work in Hollywood as scenario writer for the movies but had a rather frustrating experience in the studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Despite the presence of many German immigrants (including Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weil) Döblin had problems to adjust to the life in California. Strangely enough, Alfred Döblin found in a Protestant country the strength to fulfill his vow, done in France, to renounce to Judaism and convert to Catholicism.

In october 1945, the Döblin family is back to France Alfred gets the post of Literature controler in the in French military administration of Baden-Baden and Mainz.

Somewhat disappointed by postwar Germany, Döblin decides to emigrate to  East Germany where he becomes member of the DDR Academy of Arts. Very quickly, he understands that he will never adjust  to DDR and its ambient dogmatism.

There is only one thing left to Döblin, come back to Paris. Now he feels to be near the end , he has devekloped a Parkinson's disease and must stay for long weeks in hospital and the Black Forest cinics. He dies in Emmendingen, near Freiburg im Breisgau on  june 26n1957,  and three months later,  his wife, Erna, unable to overcome her grief, committed suicide in Paris.


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Date de dernière mise à jour : 30/07/2013

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