Gottfried Benn's last lover: “My dear Gerdachen”

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She lived in the Reichsstraße in Berlin's Westend, he in Bozener Strasse in Schöneberg. He wrote her letters, sent telegrams, announced his visits – she never answered him in writing and received him in her flat at the “blue hour”. Gerda Pfau was a journalist and wrote for the cultural part of the Tagesspiegel,

Gottfried Benn still practiced a bit as a doctor for skin and venereal diseases, above all he wrote and was after years of public ostracism as one of the very great poets in Germany celebrate.


Gerda Pfau was after all that can be seen from Gottfried Benn's letters, his last mistress and remained it until shortly before the death of the German poet in June 1956. Uwe Lehmann-Brauns is convinced that Benn's letters to Gerda Pfau now for the first time released.

Lehmann-Brauns met Gerda Pfau as a CDU cultural politician. In 1986, he participated in a senate celebration of Benn's 30th anniversary. Representatives of the Senate then negotiated with Benn's widow Ilse, with whom he had spent his late years in Bozener Strasse, and his daughter Nele on the poet's estate.

Gerda Pfau heard Lehmann-Brauns on this occasion that she had letters and books that Benn had given her. And she entrusted Lehmann-Brauns with these letters and notes.

It was a discreet relationship. “My attempts to find out more about her emotional and psychic life in relation to Benn was only partially successful,” writes Uwe Lehmann-Brauns, himself an admirer of Benn's work. “What I learned has gone into the text.”

For decades, the woman remained true to its secrecy

Gerda Pfau, a self-confident, modern woman in post-war West Berlin, remained loyal to her “secrecy” three decades after Benn's death, writes Lehmann-Brauns – “noblesse obliege”. The slim book with many faksimilierten letter Gottfried Benns needs so no parental advice because of drastic expressions. Benn was, after all that is known, even in his last years a man who loved women – in the sense of “coveted”. He was a hunter – despite rheumatism, overweight and a height of only 1.68 – and apparently a successful. Lehmann-Brauns quotes what Benn wrote to his publisher in 1949: “Marriage is an institution for paralyzing the sex instinct …” Apart from his wife Ilse Benn, the doctor managed up to three more or less intimate relationships in parallel. For years he was romantically involved with the author Ursula Ziebarth.

Luckily she was a beer drinker

About Gerda Pfau he noted shortly after getting to know, she was a beer drinker – so he could take her to his favorite pub Dramburg (today: Robbengatter). The editor wrote about films at that time, in later years she was responsible for education and church issues.

Uwe Lehmann-Brauns (ed.): Benn's last loves (with original letters by Gottfried Benn). Criminal publishing house, Berlin. 112 pages, …Photo: promo

Benn's formal addresses soon became “my dear Gerdachen” – up to a meeting in which Gerda Pfau demanded something like a confession to her. That's it. “You showed too much on the 2nd V that you were dissatisfied and you were quite right in it, but it went u. does not go any different … We will always be good friends with beer u. Rumsteak and Pfefferlingen (sic!) And otherwise, dear Gerdachen! All the best! Her G.B. “Benn was faithful to his wife, or better, he kept her faithful as he wanted and could.

As far as women and men are concerned, this is a book from another era, with its discretion and cautions. “Dear Miss Gerda Pfau, without wanting to disturb your morning stand-up hour, I allow myself to think of you,” writes the doctor in the early phase of the relationship and ends charming “with a hand kiss”.

Uwe Lehmann-Brauns has supplemented this late Benn story with a beautiful, not at all old, text about the poet and his women, both openly and discreetly: “As a womanizer, love was not all that important to him.” His poems meant everything to him.

-Uwe Lehmann-Brauns (ed.): Benn's last loves (with original letters from Gottfried Benn). Criminal publishing house, Berlin. 112 pages, numerous illustrations, 24 euros. The book will be published on April 15th.

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