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In the matter of:

Ernst Joël & Fritz Fränkel

I. Works by Ernst Joël and Fritz Fränkel

II. Introductory Essay: Walter Benjamin, Dr. Ernst Joël & Hashish

III. Related Links (to sites with information on Joël & Fränkel)

"Under hashish intoxication the proband states: 'my body feels like a husk, a coffin in which the soul is suspended, as something delicate, transparent, like spun-glass and floating free within the confines of the shell. Arms and legs can see, all the senses are one; the shell is heavy and immobile; but the kernel thinks, feels, and experiences.' All this was not just imagined but actually felt to be real. The proband was afraid of being damaged by others."

---Joël and Fränkel, quoted by Karl Jaspers, General Psychopathology (1923/1946), trans. J. Hoenig & Marian W. Hamilton, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1963, p. 92.

I. Works by Ernst Joël and Fritz Fränkel


Ernst Joël:

Der Aufbruch [The Awakening] Ernst Joël's short-lived anti-war monthly periodical (issues 1 and 2/3; July 1915 and August/September 1915.) The periodical contained articles by Ernst Joël, Gustav Landauer, Kurt Hiller, Rudolf Leonhard, Bernhard Reichenbach and others. It was banned as subversive after the third issue. [Under construction: the selections from both issues are currently presented here in German only. The contents pages, however, are offered here in both German and English.]

The Ernst Joël Petition (1915): After Ernst Joël's journal, Der Aufbruch, was banned, Joël was expelled from Berlin University. His expulsion became a rallying point for those who protested wartime censorship. Among the signatories of the petition were some of the leading cultural figures of the day, including Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, Kurt Eisner, S. Fischer, Alfred Kerr, Gustav Landauer, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Fritz Mauthner and Frank Wedekind.


Ernst Joël & Fritz Fränkel:

The Hashish-Rausch: Contributions to an Experimental Psychopathology Essay by Ernst Joël & Fritz Fränkel (Berlin 1926), with translation/introduction by Scott J. Thompson (1997). Walter Benjamin began his famous essay, "Hashish in Marseilles," with a long excerpt from this article, which appeared the year before Benjamin began his experiments in psychopathology under the supervision of Drs. Joël and Fränkel.


Fritz Fränkel:

The Hashish-Rausch Explained by the Rorschach Test Article by Dr. Fritz Fränkel (Paris, 1935), translated by Helene Renault (1998). Fränkel's long-forgotten abstract takes on a new importance in light of its connection to the mescaline experiment with Walter Benjamin the previous year (Protocol XI, 22. May 1934), during which Fränkel introduced the Rorschach test into the session.

Bibliography of the Writings of Ernst Joël and Fritz Fränkel: (In progress)

II. Walter Benjamin, Dr. Ernst Joël

and Hashish


Written in 1926, Joël and Fränkel's "The Hashish-Rausch" is known in part through the long excerpt from this work which prefaces Walter Benjamin's "Hashish in Marseilles." When his essay appeared in the Frankfurter Zeitung on December 4,1932, Benjamin had been periodically engaging in hashish experiments with Joël and Fränkel for four years. For these two experimental psychopathologists, their old acquaintance and adversary was just the kind of test subject they considered suitable for their experiments. To better appreciate the relationship between "The Hashish-Rausch" and Benjamin's experimental protocols and published writings on this subject, the prior adversarial rapport between Walter Benjamin and Ernst Joël must be examined.


In a long passage in Berliner Chronik (1932), recalling Ernst Joël (1893-1929) in the context of Berlin's Tiergarten district, Benjamin's melancholy remembrance intimates the development of a friendship between the two men who had been antagonists during their student days in Berlin:

To be sure, there are parts of the city in which it was destined to have equally deep and harrowing experiences, but in none of them was the place itself so much a part of the event. The district I am talking of is the Tiergarten quarter. There, in a back wing of one of the houses standing nearest the municipal railway viaduct, was the "Meeting House." It was a small apartment that I had rented jointly with the student Ernst Joël. How we had agreed on this I no longer remember; it can hardly have been simple, for the student "Group for Social Work" led by Joël was, during the term in which I was president of the Berlin Free Students' Union, a chief target of my attacks, and it was precisely as leader of this group that Joël had signed the lease, while my contribution secured the rights of the "debating chamber" to the Meeting House. The distribution of the rooms between the two groups --- whether of a spatial or a temporal character --- was very sharply defined, and in any case, for me at that time only the debating group mattered.

My cosignatory, Ernst Joël, and I were on less than cordial terms, and I had no inkling of the magical aspect of the city that this same Joël, fifteen years later, was to reveal to me. [1]

In a letter to his friend, Gershom Scholem (January 30,1928), Benjamin briefly mentions that he had "formally declared war" on Joël in May 1914 upon assuming the presidency of the Berlin Free Students. At that time Joël had been "the presiding officer of the so-called social welfare office" of the students.[2] Part of Benjamin's acceptance speech has been preserved in his early essay "The Life of Students," which contains numerous passages clearly pointed at Joël and his Group for Social Work. Benjamin's philosophically and poetically grounded position of "critical, intellectual existence" stands in opposition to the practical activity of attempting to ameliorate social conditions, which reveals its true nature, according to Benjamin, as a combination of "duty and charity." At this point in his life, Benjamin considered consciousness-raising and spiritual freedom to be primary. As these passages clearly indicate, he was entirely suspicious of Joël's practical endeavors:

There is no internal or authentic connection between the spiritual existence of a student and, say, his concern for the welfare of workers' children or even for other students. No connection, that is, apart from a concept of duty unrelated to his own inner labor. It is a concept based on a mechanical contrast: on the one hand, he has a stipend from the people; on the other, he is acting out his social duty. The concept of duty here is calculated, derivative, and distorted; it does not flow from the nature of the work itself. . . .

In a word, all that socially relevant labor represents not an ethical intensification but only the timid reaction of a spiritual life. . . .

For in reality a student is only a student because the problems of spiritual life are closer to his heart than the practice of social welfare. And last ---and this is an infallible sign---this socially relevant student activity does not succeed in revolutionizing the conception and value of such social work in general. In the public mind, such work still seems to be a peculiar mixture of duty and charity on the part of the individual. Students have not been able to demonstrate its spiritual necessity and for that reason have never been able to establish a truly serious community based on it. . . .

The attempt to convert an academic community into a social-welfare organization failed because of the abstract nature of its object and the students' lack of inner connection with it. The totality of will could not find any expression, because in that community its will could not be directed toward the totality. . . .[3]

. . .[P]hilosophy, in turn, should concern itself not with limited technical philosophical matters but with the great metaphysical questions of Plato and Spinoza, the Romantics, and Nietzsche. This, rather than conducted tours through welfare institutions, is what would create the closest links between life and the professions, albeit a life more deeply conceived.[4]

Given Benjamin's antagonism to Joël's Group for Social Work, it is quite understandable that the two rooms of the "Meeting House" rented by the two students would have had a "very sharply defined" boundary between them. For Benjamin, the debating chamber of the Meeting House was "a final, heroic attempt to change the attitudes of people without changing their circumstances."[5]

The evenings in the debating chamber spent discussing the poetry of Hölderlin and Stefan George, the philosophy of Plato and Nietzsche, or even the graphology of Ludwig Klages [6] took on a somber and poignant quality in August of 1914, when the bodies of Benjamin's close friend, the poet Fritz Heinle, and Heinle's girlfriend were discovered in the Meeting House. They had committed suicide in despair at the outbreak of the First World War.


Opposition to the war brought Benjamin and Joël somewhat closer together. Both broke from the educational reformer, Gustav Wyneken, after the latter's Munich speech on "War and Youth" in November of 1914.[7] Joël went on to edit three issues of a pacifist journal, Der Aufbruch (The Awakening] which was to earn him expulsion from the university in 1916. Although Benjamin had not accepted Joël's invitation to contribute to the journal, he did sign the petition which was circulated to show solidarity with the pacifist. Included among the 60-odd signatories were Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, Eugen Diederichs (the publisher), Kurt Eisner, Kurt Hiller, Magnus Hirschfeld, Gustav Landauer,Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Fritz Mauthner, Frank Wedekind and Gustav Wyneken.[8]

Unable to avoid being drafted into the war, Joël was able to change his course of study to medicine in order to help the wounded. An endearing portrait of the man during this period of time has been recalled by Bernhard Reichenbach, brother of the philosopher and educator, Hans Reichenbach. Writing in 1962 to a scholar who had written a biographical outline of Benjamin for a compilation, Reichenbach corrected his incorrect belief that Benjamin had supported the war effort. In the excerpt which follows, the different reactions of Benjamin and Joël to the outbreak of the First World War are vividly contrasted.


London, 14. August 1962

Dear Herr Podzus,

The Walter Benjamin selection Illuminations is very nice. It would please me if it were possible to publish my copy of his work on Hölderlin, which up to now has not appeared in print. "The Life of Students" also reminds me of those days in 1914 when WB was elected to the office of chairman and I was elected as deputy chairman, with Ernst Joël taking charge of the "Social Office."

Now there is a discordant note, however, which can be heard in your otherwise fine and quite straightforward biographical outline. How on earth could one assume that WB had been a thwarted war volunteer! Heinle had just taken his own life --- as you have correctly, if insufficiently, written --- "in apprehension of the coming atrocity" ---namely as a result of the unbearable shock that this war was even possible at all. . . .

Indeed you yourself have mentioned that the outbreak of war had grave consequences for our situation. "Wyneken, who had given his assent to the war, was disavowed." To be sure! I hope I still have buried somewhere under old papers the duplicate of the letter written by my brother Hans to Wyneken, which clearly and unswervingly substantiated this break. The censor had prohibited the reprinting of this letter in Der Aufbruch [The Awakening].

The most difficult episode into which we were then cast was this sudden awareness of isolation from the great majority --indeed! also from those who had elected Benjamin chairman. Hence one of the finest episodes was to experience the élan with which Ernst Joël pulled both us and himself together for new collective actions. At that time, WB was keeping a distance and I completely respected his position, for he was only able to weather this shock by focusing his concentration upon himself and in quiet contact with a couple of friends. . . .

What was it then that actually took place? All of us then were just of the age when one was really "in for it" right away, namely, to become inducted. We saw that volunteer positions would at least allow us to select the place of training, preventing us from being dispatched to Pomerania or the Lüneburg Heath. In this way one could stay in Berlin as long as possible, in contact with the people one loved. Others like Ernst Joël changed their professions to medicine so that they would be able to save human lives rather than extinguish them. . . .[9]


From the autumn of 1915 to the winter of 1919 Benjamin was in Munich and Berne,Switzerland, and Ernst Joël figured less in his life. Were one to go by Momme Brodersen's newly translated biography of Benjamin, Joël ceased to exist for Benjamin after this point. Benjamin's hashish experiments under Joël and Fränkel's supervision in Berlin between 1927-1929 are ample proof of the inaccuracy of such an assessment as are certain remarks by Gershom Scholem. Joël's journal Der Aufbruch was to become a topic of conversation between Benjamin and Gershom Scholem when they struck up their famous friendship and correspondence in 1915. Scholem describes their reception and subsequent discussions of the journal in his biography of Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship:

The first issue of Der Aufbruch contained articles by Gustav Landauer and Kurt Hiller, men who were ill suited to each other by nature but who had banded together in this periodical, which, so we thought, suffered from general feebleness and despite its antiwar stance lacked a definite aim. Benjamin made a very good analysis of Landauer's essay, which I defended to some extent.[10]

According to Scholem, it was during this time that Ernst Joël converted to Christianity. In the context of discussing Der Aufbruch one evening, Benjamin produced a postcard from Kurt Hiller informing him of the fact:

Benjamin rather angrily showed me a postcard from Kurt Hiller, the "activist," with a postscript on the address side that I can visualize even now. "I've just heard that Joël has been baptized. Have you perhaps been baptized also? I have found that baptism goes hand in hand with an uncheerful cast of mind." Benjamin said, "And this on an open postcard!"[11]



While Walter Benjamin was in Munich and Berne, Ernst Joël was a doctor in the First World War. What little can be gleaned from the few sources available to us at this time, Joël was evidently captured by the British and taken to England. There he seems to have become introduced to morphine as a painkiller for his injuries, like so many doctors and soldiers during the war. One of Dr. Ernst Joël's patients during the 1920's in Berlin, actress-writer Salka Viertel, mentioned in a interview during the early 1970s that Joël "had been a prisoner of war in England, and I think he got addicted there."[12] Her comments seem to be discreetly corroborated by Ernst Joël himself in the monograph Der Cocainismus (Berlin, 1924), which he wrote with his colleague, Dr. Fritz Fränkel. The passage in question reads as follows:

The expansion of cocainism in the war can only be explained to a very limited extent by direct medical causes, just as this most definitely holds true for the rise in morphinism. Only a quite negligible fraction of the wounded and sick had any kind of opportunity to come into contact with cocaine. To be sure, a number of morphinists, particularly doctors, who were searching for a substitute indirectly came into contact with cocaine, which has remained with them ever since.[13]



After the war Joël and his colleague, Dr. Fritz Fränkel started a clinic for addicts in the Tiergarten district of Berlin. Like Freud's pupil, Alfred Adler, Joël emphasized the social dimension of psychological problems. With the inflation of 1923, new methods in treatment were necessitated by an unstable economic environment with less and less funding for social programs. In his work with destitute and suffering people Joël focused his attention upon the creation of new associations, occupations, and inner substance rather than perpetuate reliance upon state subsidies. Joël utilized unconventional methods of social inquiry, which reinforced the postive qualities of the indigent. During this final period of his life he published many articles in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für Wohlfahrtspflege [German Journal for Welfare Work]. The term "social psychiatry" is attributed to him.

Joël was a practical man. The theoretical insights acquired through his praxis were applied in turn to specific cases. Believing that social work and psychiatry had to learn to work together, he trained other doctors and social workers to recognize the importance of this cooperation.[14]



During the 1920s while working in the Health Office of the Tiergarten district, Joël and Fränkel began to supplement their clinical investigations of "psychotomimetic" substances by observing specially selected test subjects in a relaxed and natural atmosphere. For Joël and Fränkel the set and setting of the experiment was an essential factor. One of the criticisms they leveled against Emil Kraepelin's psychopharmacology was its artificial environment and the artificial bracketing of isolated psychic functions. The drawbacks to such research were to be redressed by investigations which allowed the rausch-state to be engendered arbitrarily. It was under these relaxed conditions that Walter Benjamin accepted Dr. Ernst Joël's invitation to participate in experiments with hashish.

In 1972, some of Benjamin's writings and experimental notes on hashish, opium and mescaline were finally published as Über Haschisch [On Hashish]. Of the eleven protocols recorded between 1927 and 1934, six were conducted under the supervision of Joël and Fränkel. Joël really only figures prominently in the third protocol to the hashish experiment of May 11, 1928. Although it took place almost fifteen years after their initial opposition, a tension can be detected in this protocol which goes back to the old antagonism between the contemplative philosopher and the activist. But the antagonism which had been in the forefront in 1914 was now replaced by what Benjamin referred to as the "magical aspect of the city".

Though it is not mentioned in the protocols after 1929, Ernst Joël's suicide that year must have added a melancholy hue to the ongoing research between Fränkel and Benjamin. Whether or not Benjamin had ever known of Joël's misfortune in the years prior to the latter's untimely death, others closely acquainted with the young doctor had been completely taken by surprise. "He talked a lot about addiction, very frankly, answered questions about it," says Salka Viertel in her interview,[15] but it was only after Joël's suicide that she discovered his addiction. In 1928, one out of every 100 German doctors were said to be addicted to morphine, consuming at least 0.1 grams per day.[16]

We conclude this introductory sketch with the poignant image of Ernst Joël evoked in A Berlin Chronicle by the melancholy friend who had once been a rival:

So this image appears in me at this stage only as an answer to the question whether forty is not too young an age at which to evoke the most important memories of one's life. For this image is already now that of a dead man, and who knows how he might have been able to help me cross this threshold, with memories of even the most external and superficial things? To the other threshold he had no access, and of all those who once had it I alone remain.[17]


--Scott J.Thompson [San Francisco, 31 May 1997]


[1.] Walter Benjamin, "A Berlin Chronicle," in Reflections, trans. E. Jephcott, NY: 1978, pp. 16-17; [GS VI:476-477].

[2.] The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 1910-1940, ed. Gershom Scholem and Theodor W. Adorno, trans. M.R. Jacobson & E.M. Jacobson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994, p.323.

[3.] "The Life of Students," Walter Benjamin, trans. R. Livingstone, Selected Writings, Vol. I: 1913-1926, ed. M. Bullock & M. Jennings, Cambridge,Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 40-41; [GS II/1: 78-80].

[4.] Ibid., p. 43; [GS II/1:82].

[5.] "A Berlin Chronicle," op. cit., p. 18; [GS VI: 478].

[6.] Klages visited the Free Students in the summer of 1914. See Benjamin's letter to Ernst Schoen (June 22, 1914) in Correspondence, op.cit., p.69.

[7.] Momme Brodersen, Walter Benjamin: A Biography, trans. M.R.Green & I.Ligers,ed. M.Dervis, London/NY: Verso, 1996, p. 71. Brodersen has collected some very interesting documentation on Joël's opposition to the war and his subsequent censure, see pp. 72-73, 75-76, 271(#28 & #30), 274(#94), 275 (#117 & #123), 276(#134). In this he has been assisted by Erdmut Wizisla: Walter Benjamin - Friedrich Heinle - Ernst Joël: Weltanschauung, Literatur und Politik in der Berliner Freien Studentenschaft 1912-1917, Diss., Berlin, 1987; "Die Hochschule ist eben der Ort nicht zu studieren," in Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, vol. 36, 1987; "Akademische Freiheit im Kriege? Die Petition Ernst Joël 1916," Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (Gesellschaftliche Reihe), vol. 38, 1989. At the time of this writing, none of our efforts to obtain these works by Wizisla have been successful. Given Brodersen's interest in Joël's opposition to the war, it is all the more surprising that Brodersen says nothing at all about Joël's later involvement with Benjamin in the hashish experimentation.

[8.] Brodersen includes a miniature illustration of the Joël petition, op.cit., p. 76.

[9.] Walter Benjamin 1892-1940 [Eine Ausstellung des Theodor W. Adorno Archivs], eds. Rolf Tiedemann, Christoph Gödde und Henri Lonitz, Marbacher Magazin, 55, 1990, pp.46-47 [Trans.---S.T.] Momme Brodersen mentions this book in the notes to his above-mentioned biography, p. 275(#123).

[10.] Gershom Scholem, Walter Benjamin: Story of a Friendship, NY, Schocken Books, 1981, p. 13.

[11.] Ibid., pp. 15-16.

[12.] Otto Friedrich, Before the Deluge: A portrait of Berlin in the 1920's, New York, Harper & Row, 1972, p. 344.

[13.] Ernst Joël & Fritz Fränkel, Der Cocainismus, Berlin: Verlag von Julius Springer, 1924, p. 14 [Trans.---S.T.].

[14.] See Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich: Ein Sammelwerk, ed.. R. Willstätter, Berlin, Jüdischer Verlag, 1962, p. 850.

[15.] Before the Deluge, op.cit., p. 344.

[16.]. Thomas Szasz, Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers, Garden City, New York, Doubleday/Anchor Books, 1974, p.183.

[17.]. Walter Benjamin, "Berlin Chronicle" in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott, New York, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978, pp. 16-17.

III. Related Links

Hans Blüher, Ulrich von Wilamowitz und der deutsche Geist 1871/1915 (erschienen 1916 im Verlag Hans Blüher, Berlin Tempelhof) Essay in German discusses Ernst Joël's expulsion from Berlin University.

Klaus Täubert, (Berlin): Bemerkungen zu einem Brief : Short essay on a Letter from Ernst Joël to Kurt Tucholsky [From the essay: "Ernst Joël (1893-1929) ist zum Zeitpunkt des Briefes 35 Jahre alt. Er hat 1924 gemeinsam mit Fritz Fränkel eine beachtete Studie zum "Cocainismus" geschrieben und in praxi die Haschisch-Selbstversuche protokolliert, die Walter Benjamin den beiden Medizinern zuliebe an sich vornahm."]<New Link 7/29/00>

The Victor Serge Homepage:<New Link 7/29/00> (Victor Serge & Fritz Fränkel, both sympathizers with POUM revolutionaries of the Spanish-Civil War, emigrated to Mexico where they both participated in the group Socialismo y Libertad, along with Franz Pfemfert and Otto Rühle. Serge mentions Fritz Fränkel in his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (Peter Sedgwick Tr., New York, Writers & Readers, 1984).

German Psychopharmacological Research Before 1945 A Bibliography.


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