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Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life

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This is the first complete biography of Ernst Kantorowicz (1895–1963), an influential and controversial German-American intellectual whose colorful and dramatic life intersected with many of the great events and thinkers of his time. A medieval historian whose ideas exerted an influence far beyond his field, he is most famous for two books—a notoriously nationalistic 1927 biography of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and The King's Two Bodies (1957), a classic study of medieval politics.

Born into a wealthy Prussian-Jewish family, Kantorowicz fought on the Western Front in World War I, was wounded at Verdun, and earned an Iron Cross; later, he earned an Iron Crescent for service in Anatolia before an affair with a general’s mistress led to Kantorowicz being sent home. After the war, he fought against Poles in his native Posen, Spartacists in Berlin, and communists in Munich. An ardent German nationalist during the Weimar period, Kantorowicz became a member of the elitist Stefan George circle, which nurtured a cult of the "Secret Germany." Yet as a professor in Frankfurt after the Nazis came to power, Kantorowicz bravely spoke out against the regime before an overflowing crowd. Narrowly avoiding arrest after Kristallnacht, he fled to England and then the United States, where he joined the faculty at Berkeley, only to be fired in 1950 for refusing to sign an anticommunist “loyalty oath.” From there, he “fell up the ladder” to Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, where he stayed until his death.

Drawing on many new sources, including numerous interviews and unpublished letters, Robert E. Lerner tells the story of a major intellectual whose life and times were as fascinating as his work.

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Lerner Robert
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Robert E. Lerner is professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University, where he taught medieval history for more than forty years. The author of many books, he is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and the American Academy in Rome, and a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

List of Figures ix

Acknowledgments xi
Abbreviations xiii
Introduction 1
1. Old Posen and Young Ernst 8
2. “With Rifle and Gun” 23
3. Fine Fever 41
4. Heidelberg 55
5. St. George 68
6. The Castle Hill 84
7. Frederick II 101
8. Center of Attention 117
9. Becoming a Professional 133
10. Frankfurt 145
11. Year of Drama 158
12. Oxford 172
13. “Leisure with Dignity” 184
14. Flight 201
15. “Displaced Foreign Scholar” 214
16. “Without Any Desire for Europe” 225
17. Laudes Regiae 240
18. Fight for Employment 252
19. “Hyperborean Fields” 268
20. “Scarcely Wants to Go to Germany” 284
21. “Land of Lotus-Eaters” 294
22. The Fundamental Issue 312
23. Advanced Study 329
24. The King’s Two Bodies 344
25. “Eka Is Sick of Eka” 358
26. Last Years 376
Afterword 386

Index 389

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