Hilde Domin

English translations by Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel

Biography of Hilde Domin

Hilde Domin was born Hilde Löwenstein in Cologne in 1909 to comparatively affluent secular Jewish parents: her father was a lawyer. She was highly educated for a woman of that era. She completed her Gymnasium education in 1929 and between 1929 and 1932 she studied law, economics, sociology and philosophy in Heidelberg, Cologne, Bonn and Berlin. Her tutors included the philosopher Karl Jaspers. She emigrated to Rome in 1932 and submitted her doctoral thesis in Florence in 1935. The subject was Renaissance politics particularly the influence of Polanus on Machiavelli. Between 1935 and 1939 she taught languages in Rome. In 1939 she left Italy for England, where her parents had previously emigrated, with Erwin Walter Palm, whom she had married in 1936. She taught languages in England until 1940 when she decided to leave. Her decision may well have been prompted by a doctor offering to prescribe Veronal for her and her husband so that they might take their lives in the event of a Nazi invasion. (Of course both Leonard and Virginia Woolf carried poison for just such an eventuality.)

She and her husband emigrated to the Dominican Republic where she worked as a translator and an architectural photographer. Between 1947 and 1952 she was a lecturer in German at the University of Santo Domingo. Her mother died in 1951 and she started to write poetry. She and her husband returned to Germany in 1954. He had been offered a post at the University of Heidelberg. It is at this point that she took the nom de plume of Domin in honour of her country of exile.

She was first published in 1957 and became a freelance writer in 1961. Her publications include volumes of poetry, literary criticism and autobiography. Her publisher is S. Fischer.

During her life she received many literary awards including: The Heine Medaille, Rilke Preis, Nelly Sachs Preis, Friedrich-Hölderlin-Preis and Carl Zuckmayer Medaille. Civic awards include: Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz and the highest civil distinction of the Dominican Republic.

She died on the 22nd February 2006 in Heidelberg following a fall.

Her obituary in the Guardian of 16th March 2006 described her poetry as having 'attained the status of (a) modern classic'.