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Max and Alfred Weber and their female entourage

DOI https://doi.org/10.15543/MWS/2017/1/7

Eberhard Demm



This article based on a vast array of sources refutes quite a few legends about Max Weber invented by his biographers. First, it can be proved that Weber did consummate his marriage with his wife Marianne, was sexually active until his nervous breakdown in 1898 and regained his virility at a later date. In 1909 he fell in love with Else Jaffé born Richthofen, but contrary to the Venice gondola legend he was too timid to dare an erotic or even a sexual approach. As poetical words were not enough for this passionate woman, in December 1909 she ceded to a vehement initiative taken by Max’s younger brother Alfred Weber and she became his mistress and later his life companion—a most fortunate relationship which lasted without interruption until Alfred’s death in 1958. Max Weber consoled himself with the piano teacher Mina Tobler, but contrary to the insinuations of previous research he had no affair with one of the cocottes of Ascona or with Fanny zu Reventlow, the famous Munich icon of free love. It is true that Max Weber from 9 November 1918 until his death in June 1920 had a sadomasochistic love affair with Else Jaffé, but did not abandon Mina Tobler. Contrary to the unfounded assumptions by all Max Weber specialists Else not only continued her intimate relation with Alfred during that time, but conceded him a much higher priority over Max who was formally obliged to accept this terrible humiliation. In the intellectual sphere the brothers Weber reacted quite differently to Else. In Max’s letters intellectual issues played a very minor role compared to incessant declarations of love and submission. As far as his scholarly work was concerned he was even disturbed by his love affair and had to take opium and cocaine in order to concentrate on his studies. Alfred’s case was completely different. For him Else was an admired muse, and their rich correspondence is full of discussions about scholarly projects. For Max, Else was an obstacle to his work, for Alfred she was an indispensable intellectual stimulation.

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