Eleanor Alexander
Walter Calé
(1881 - 1903)
A Few Words about His Life -
A Personal Note

Walter Calé was born in Berlin in 1881, the son of a well to do merchant. He and his older brother Richard went to the Friedrichsgymnasium where they became good friends with my father, Erich Eyck. After finishing school Calé went to the University, studying Law and Philosophy. Although he was a serious student, he spent much time writing essays, plays and lyric poetry. He loved being with friends and often was full of laughter and good cheer, but in a moment of depression he ended his life in his twenty-third year, destroying all his work.

I was very glad to learn more about Walter Calé, since I had heard my father speak of him with affection and sympathy. His brother Richard and wife Alice were among the closest friends of my parents. We children played together in the Tiergarten or around the Hercules fountain on the Lützowplatz.

Richard and my father were lawyers at the Court of Appeal in Berlin, and I remember that he was very successful in his profession, but he was also a brilliant pianist, and we spent many an evening at his house listening to him play the piano. He was, like his brother, over-sensitive and given to great changes in mood. The Nazi years devastated him, although the Calés were able to leave Germany and move to Cleveland where a daughter lived who was married to a cellist in the Cleveland Symphony. I saw Alice for the last time in 1964 at a memorial service in New York for my uncle, Arthur Nussbaum.

I also remember Richard as a poet when the occasion demanded it. We celebrated my father's fiftieth birthday in 1928 with a wonderful party in our large dining room; the highlight of the evening was a long and witty poem by Richard, telling about my fathers deeds and misdeeds. My sister, living in Sydney, found it by chance among old papers.

He starts out by telling us that my father was a bit lazy in school, but Professor Voigt, the German teacher, awakened his love of literature. Quotations by Goethe and Schiller became the order of the day. We also heard about my fathers studies in Law School, wanting to know everything there was to know which left him no time for the usual student exploits, but prepared him well for his professional career.

In 1907, S. Fischer published a volume of Walter Calé's work, with a preface by Fritz Mauthner and an introduction by Arthur Brückmann, a close friend of Calé. It was fortunate that family and friends had saved copies of Calé's plays, essays and lyric poems that the author had tried to destroy before he died. In 1910, a third edition of the volume was published.

Fritz Mauthner begins his preface with these words: More than a year ago two gentlemen visited me who were trying to get me interested in the work of Walter Calé who had died in 1903. The gentlemen, as well as the name of Walter Calé, were unknown to me. I sensed the passionate love of these two visitors, a brother and a friend, but I was unable to respond - I remained cool and distant.

Half an hour later they had convinced me to accept the task and I was soon engrossed in reading his plays, essays and his lyric poems. And it was the poems that I loved: they were so fine, so quiet and very beautiful; they seemed to be a new beginning. Sadly it remained a beginning only - the promise was never fulfilled.
LITERATUR - Letters to Fritz Mauthner, Translation by Eleanor Alexander, Winter 2001