From left to right: Henri Seel / Dr. Paul Onasch / Franziska Hell / Prof. Dr. Holger Helbig / Karoline Lemke / Dr. Volker Probst / Dr. Karsten Müller / Dr. Sebastian Giesen

Ernst Barlach: The Letters

Critical Edition in Four Volumes

Ernst Barlach holds a special place among modern artists. Thomas Mann judged his play, The Dead Day, to be "the strongest and most peculiar...thing produced by the latest drama in Germany". Bertolt Brecht wrote about his sculptures: "They contain much that is essential and nothing that is superfluous". When Neil MacGregor searched for an iconic exhibit for his 2014 London exhibition "Germany - Memories of a Nation", he chose Barlach's The Floating One (also known as The Floating Angel ) from the Güstrow Cathedral.

With his letters, Barlach wrote the novel of his life. The arc ranges from a search for meaning and self-expression to becoming an artist and achieving mastery, to despair and loneliness. The single father provides updates, the confident artist negotiates, the loner withdraws, the politically interested observer comments. The writer is well-read in many literatures, knowledgeable about art, and gifted at self-promotion. He is sensitive and unassuming, curious and stubborn, asking for help and ignoring it. In his letters, Barlach is revealed as a human being.

In January 2020, on the occasion of Ernst Barlach's 150th birthday, Suhrkamp Verlag published a four-volume critical edition of his letters. This contains newly transcribed texts from the originals as well as a contextual commentary. About a quarter of the more than 2200 letters are published here for the first time.

Our Team

Project Director / Director of the Working Group
Prof. Dr. Holger Helbig

Deputy Project Director / Director of the Working Group
Dr. Paul Onasch

Research Associates
Dr. Elisabeth Laur
Parental leave replacement for Henri Seel
Karoline Lemke
Sarah Schossner
Henri Seel

Student Assistants

Svenja Pauline Adamek
Period of employment: 04/2017 to 12/2019

Ann-Marie Engelke
Period of employment: 05/2018 to 08/2018

Julia Höhlein
Period of employment: 02/2017 to 03/2018

Cory Kolber
Period of employment: 10/2018 to 03/2018

Sophie Magaard
Period of employment: 07/2018 to 03/2019

Nina Pilz
Period of employment: 07/2018 to 03/2019

Charlotte Ruchhoeft
Period of employment: 09/2016 to 08/2017

Caroline Thom
Period of employment: 09/2018 to 03/2019


Prof. Dr. Holger Helbig
Institute for German Studies
Gertrudenstraße 11, Torhaus
18057 Rostock

Tel.: +49 381 498 2540
E-Mail: holger.helbiguni-rostockde