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Jakob Van Hoddis -Expressionist poet- Weltende 1887-1942

Updated on January 27, 2015

Portraits Jakob Van Hoddis

Jakob Van Hoddis -was his pen name and an anagram of Hans Davidsohn
Jakob Van Hoddis -was his pen name and an anagram of Hans Davidsohn | Source

Free Expression?

As I read the biography of Jakob Van Hoddis, his story crept up on me. I've always felt a tug toward the Expressionist artworks and writings/ poetry.

The demise of Expressionist writers and artists under the regime of Hitler is horrifying to comprehend even now.

The Expressionists who did not manage to flee Germany at the time of Hitler were murdered in concentration camps and some committed suicide.

Jakob Van Hoddis crept up on me because he was a reminder that during this time Expressionists and artists deemed degenerative suffered so.

As did those with mental difficulties were often given "mercy killings."

The Jewish population as we shall never forget were murdered in their millions at Camps.

Jakob Van Hoddis was an Expressionist writer -One of the Grandfathers of the Expressionist movement. He was also Jewish. Jakob was also mentally ill and in Care after 1913.

Being Expressionist, Jewish and mentally ill left Jakob in a position that would lead to a "mercy killing" under Hitler's regime.

The most uncomfortable part is knowing that he was fully aware of his dangerous predicament

in a State Mental hospital.

Aware of the Hitler's Regime and the implications for him.

His mother and family managed to escape. But his mother died a few months later.

It is recorded he repeatedly requested an official document to be able to leave the State Mental Hospital -To escape Germany to be with his remaining relatives.

The document was never granted and Jakob Van Hoddis was transported in 1942 with his hospital and staff to Sobibor Camp.

Staff and patients were all killed.


No record

Jakob Van Hoddis was the eldest son of Doctor Hermann and Doris Davidsohn.

Born in 1887 as a twin although his sibling was sadly stillborn.

He grew up in Berlin with four siblings Marie, Anna, Ludwig and Ernst.

Early on he suffered with anger problems. This was further frustrated because Jackob was very intelligent. He became hard to teach at schools. The teachers found him unteachable.

Jakob became an unsuccessful student.

Unteachable as he was reckoned to be- His high creativity knew no bounds.

He made his pen name Jakob Von Hoddis from his real name Hans Davidsohn

Jackob formed Der Neu Club with his friend Kurt Hiller.

They began introducing their Expressionist ideas, thoughts and writings at Der Neu.

They called these gatherings the Neopathetisches Cabaret.

This was attended and contributed to by many young artists and poets. Amongst them

Alfred Lichtenstein. Jakob and he were friends.

The night Jakob read his poem Weltende was an inspiring moment for affected all those who were present.

The poem Weltende-Worlds End, influenced the writing and thinking of the group and was important in the formation of Expressionist writing.

It was known that Jakob was volatile in temperament.

Alfred Lichenstein in his story "The Winner" Which has caricatures of himself and Hoddis.

He writes of the impact of the mental state upon art- asking if instability of mind does gives an edge of brilliance.

The circumstances and events that came upon Jakob at this point in his life. Are like one of Alfred Lichenstein's most unfortunate creations.

Jackob's Father died.

He also lost two close friends Heym and Ernst Balcke

He was expelled from University

It is recognised by psycologist's today that the loss of a relative is a change of stability.

But Psychologists also recognise the loss of a close friend can compound harder.

Jackob must have been reeling from such loss.

His anger issues would have surely worsened at this stage.

Little wonder he was expelled from University

Expressive as Jackob could be in his poems it seems he lacked the skills many of us have to filter his emotions-anger issues.

It must have been frightening and overwhelming to be like this. There was little support or treatment for mental health at the turn of the century.

All his solid foundations of friendship, patriach and Institution had been swept away.

Jakob knew he needed help and voluntarily signed himself into a Mental Hospital.

Although his condition appeared to improve after release he attacked his mother in an outburst. This time forcibly he was put back in Mental care.

At the Outbreak of World war in 1914 -Jackob was in a private mental hospital.

From this time there was a decline in his mental health.

The impact of the death of his friends Alfred Lichtenstein and other contemporaries during WW1 would have impacted.

In 1927 his mother ran out of money and he was transferred to a State Mental Hospital.

In 1933 when Hitler was nominated for Prime minister Jakob's mother and family fled Germany to Tel Aviv. His Mother died a few months later.

From this time until his transportation to Sobibor Concentration Camp in 1942 -Almost ten years.

Jackob was unable to obtain an Entrance certificate to Anglo-Palastine because of his mental illness.

There are no records of his date of death that were found or of any of the five hundred staff and patients of Jackob's hospital who perished with him.


Weltende-Worlds End By Jakob Van Hoddis

World's End ..... Jakob Van Hoddis.... Weltende....

Whisked from the Bourgeois'

pointy head hat flies,

Throughout the heavens,

reverberating screams,

Down tumble roofers, shattered 'cross

roof beams

And on the coast-one reads-flood waters rise

The storm is here, rough seas come merrily


Upon the land, thick dams to rudely crush

Most people suffer colds. their noses dripping

While railroad trains from bridges headlong rush

Translated by Richard John Ascarate


Dem Burger fliegt vom spitzen Kopf der Hut

In allen Luften hallt es wie Geschrei

Dachdecker sturzen ab und gehn entzwei

Und an den Kusten-liest man-steigt die Flut.

Der sturm ist da, die wilden Meere hupfen,

An land, um dicke Damme zu zerdrucken.

Die meisten Menschen haben einen Schnupfen

Die Eisenbahnen fallen von den Brucken


The poem Weltende by Jakob Van Hoddis was written in 1911.

It is an apocalyptic vision of a World to come, it is written as a stream of thought.

The style of the poem is simple almost rhyme.

His style adds weight to the people of a society being unaware and naïve to the happenings and impending disaster before them.

At this time in history there were natural disasters happening around the world. In 1910 Halley's comet was streaking across the skies.

By 1914 World war had broken out Many of his friends and peers were killed.

This poem is powerful written from gut instinct.



Thank you by Richard John Ascarate



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