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Indiana University Bloomington

March 5, 2009

Christmas Poems from the Madhouse

Filed under: Manuscripts,New acquisitions — Breon Mitchell @ 3:36 pm

Haringer woodcut

This Expressionist portrait of Jakob Haringer (1898-1948) at age 22, by Emil Betzler, may well be a rare survival. It reached the Lilly together with five small groups of poems in manuscript, written on the back of old letters and scraps of paper, and hand-bound by Haringer as Christmas greetings to a few friends. Each copy is unique. On the copy shown here, Haringer has noted “written in prison and the madhouse.”

Following his early discharge from the military in WWI on medical grounds, Haringer took up the life of a vagabond. Accused of various petty crimes, including insulting officials, falsifying papers, and blasphemy, he spent most of the rest of his life on the streets, in hospitals, and in mental institutions. He lived largely by begging from friends. In 1936 the Nazis revoked his citizenship and he fled to Switzerland. From 1939 on he lived for a time in Paris, then, illegally, in Switzerland, where he was interned in various refugee camps during WWII. He died during a visit to Zurich in 1948. Arnold Schönberg set three poems by Haringer to music in 1933.

– Breon Mitchell, Director

View more images of the Haringer manuscripts

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