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Sebastian Haffner (1907–1999) | English translation

Denkzeichen, Stele, Sebastian Haffner (1907–1999), English translation

Denkzeichen, Stele, Sebastian Haffner (1907–1999), English translation

PDF-Dokument (5.3 MB) Dokument: Museum Pankow / Grafik: Kerstin John

Denkzeichen, Stele, Sebastian Haffner (1907–1999), English translation

JPG-Dokument (1.3 MB) Bild: Museum Pankow / Grafik: Kerstin John

Sebastian Haffner was a “role model (…) as a democrat, as a patriot and as a historical teacher. (…) For him, historiography was an art”.
Peter Bender (1923-2008, historian and publicist) on the occasion of the naming of the Education and Culture Centre on 12 December 2007.

The publicist and writer Sebastian Haffner, whose real name was Raimund Pretzel, grew up as the youngest child of Wanda and Carl Louis Albert Pretzel in the rector’s house of the Municipal Double School on Prenzlauer Allee. His father had been rector of the 105th Boys’ School there since 1908. Raimund Pretzel started school here in 1914. Starting in 1917 he attended the Königsstädtische Gymnasium on Alexanderplatz.

Following his father’s advice, Raimund Pretzel studied law in Berlin despite his literary leanings and completed his legal clerkship at the Berlin Court of Appeals. He left the civil service in 1936 for political reasons. From then on he earned his living as a journalist. In 1938 Raimund Pretzel followed his Jewish friend Erika Schmidt-Landry (1899-1969) into exile in England. With the publication of his first book “Germany: Jekyll and Hyde” in 1940 the English public became aware of Raimund Pretzel. Out of concern for his family members in Germany he published the book under the pseudonym Sebastian Haffner.

In 1954 Haffner returned to Berlin as a correspondent for the British Sunday newspaper “Observer”. He became known to the German public as a “British journalist” in Werner Höfer’s (1913-1997) “Internationalem Frühschoppen”. In the sixties and seventies Haffner wrote columns for “Christ und Welt”, “Die Welt”, and “Stern”, as well as “konkret”, a magazine. In addition to his work as a journalist, Haffner also increasingly wrote non-fiction books. With his historical essays he reached an audience of millions, not least because of his ability to describe politics and history with concise words in a clear, entertaining and pointed manner.

On the initiative of Sarah Haffner (1940-2018), the cultural and educational centre on Prenzlauer Allee has borne the name of her father, Sebastian Haffner, since 12 December 2007. A memorial plaque commemorating Haffner was erected in 2008 at Ehrenbergstraße 33 in Berlin-Dahlem, where Haffner lived starting in 1954.

“A man of strong sentiments”
Arnulf Baring (born 1932, historian and journalist) on Sebastian Haffner – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14 March 2002