1865 – 1918
Born in Stolp, Pomerania on August 21, 1865, poet and translator Hedwig Lachmann was the eldest of the six children of Isaak Lachmann (1838–1900) and Wilhelmine, née Wohlgemuth (1841–1917). In April 1873 the family settled in Hürben/Krumbach, where her father, a passionate collector of liturgical music, became cantor and teacher of religion. Hedwig Lachmann attended the girls’ high school in Krumbach and, thanks to her great gift for languages, passed the language teaching examination in Augsburg when she was only fifteen years old. In 1882 she took up her first post as governess in England and then went on to Dresden and, in 1887, to Budapest. From 1889 she lived in Berlin, where she cared for a sick uncle and a deaf aunt in addition to working as a governess. Among her translations were Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, which were published in 1891. These, as well as her occasional journalism, introduced her into the circle of Richard and Paula Dehmel. A leading poet, he became her mentor and her first love. However, she rejected his proposal of a ménage à trois and after long arguments she left for Budapest. In spring 1899 she met the married Jewish anarchist-pacifist author Gustav Landauer (1870–1919), who was himself in profound crisis. He wrote her love letters from Tegel, the prison where he was serving a six-month sentence for incitement. He derived strength from her support.
After the death of her father in May, 1900, she moved to England with Landauer, but early in the summer of 1902 returned to Hermsdorf, near Berlin, where Erich Mühsam had found an apartment for them. In August their older daughter, Gudula, was born. In the same year Lachmann published a volume of poetry containing her own verse and translations. Her translation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome (Leipzig, 1903) was successfully performed in a production by Max Reinhardt at the Schall und Rauch Theater and set to music by Richard Strauss in 1905. Fascinated by the text’s musical possibilities, Strauss made some deletions, shortening the text by about one-third, underplaying certain homo-erotic undercurrents in Wilde’s original, but maintaining the air of sensual decadence and debauchery which permeates the work.
After Landauer’s divorce, she married him in 1903. Collaborations in translation, Landauer’s literary work and family support enabled them to keep their heads above water. Their second daughter, Brigitte, was born in 1906. Hedwig Lachmann lived a very withdrawn life, writing poetry that was published in Landauer’s journal, Der Sozialist, and elsewhere, and also trying to find time for translating while performing her household duties. The family was indeed the center of her life, especially during World War I. After her mother’s death in 1917, Hedwig and her daughters lived in Krumbach, where Landauer joined them during the summer months. She fell ill during the Spanish flu epidemic and died of pneumonia on February 21, 1918.
Im Bilde, Eigenes und Machdichtungen. Wilde-Übertragungen von Hedwig Lachmann. Berlin: 1902; Oscar Wilde. Berlin: 1905.
de Balzac, Honoré. Verlorene Illusionen. Leipzig: 1909 (with Gustav Landauer); Der Tod Arthurs. Leipzig: 1912; Wilde, Oscar. Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray. Leipzig: 1907; Idem. Der Sozialismus und die Seele des Menschen. Leipzig: 1907.
Bab, Julius. Richard Dehmel. O. O.: 1926.
Landauer, Gustav. Wie Hedwig Lachmann starb. Privatdruck.
Idem. Lebensgang in Briefen. Frankfurt am Main: 1929.
Walz, Annegret. Hedwig Lachmann (unpublished manuscript).
Walz, Annegret. “Ich will ja gar nicht auf der logischen Höhe der Zeit stehen.” Hedwig Lachmann. Eine Biographie. Flacht:1993.
Lexikon Jüdische Frauen. Edited by Jutta Dick and Marina Sassenberg.