Station: [152] Childhood, Youth and Networking

Erich Mendelsohn was born on 21st March 1887 in Allenstein/Ostpreußen. His father, David Mendelsohn was active within the Jewish community. He had a small shop and Erich grew up in modest circumstances. He aspired to be an architect from the young age of five, so he claims, but like Salman Schocken, obeyed his father’s wishes to study for a „secure,“ job and began training to become a „respectable,“ merchant in Berlin.  

He abandoned this course in order to study economics in Munich, but this didn’t hold him either and he swapped to study architecture, at first in Berlin, then in Munich again and graduated from the technical university in 1912. In the same year he settled in Munich as a freelance architect and opened an office in Berlin in 1918.

Music was an important source of inspiration for Erich Mendelsohn and works by above all Johann Sebastian Bach inspired him while he sketched. Mendelsohn’s wife was also a musician. He met the cellist Luise Maas in the summer of 1910 when she was just 16 years old and an active exchange of letters ensued. Luise’s family were sceptical of the acquaintance to begin with, because Erich didn’t meet their expectations in terms of social status. 

Erich and Luise married in 1915 and their daughter, Esther, was born a year later. The Mendelsohns cultivated contact with musicians, artists and architects, with scientists and politicians. They emigrated many times and as a result, met a great number of different personalities.

Among these were the painters Lyonel Feininger and Max Pechstein, the architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright, the physician Albert Einstein, Erwin Finlay Freundlich, and the president of the Zionist World Organisation and later, the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann. This network can be regarded as an expression of the time at which it took place.