Sebastian Haffner

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Raimund Pretzel
Detail of book cover Germany: Jekyll & Hyde
Born (1907-12-27)27 December 1907
Berlin, German Empire
Died 2 January 1999(1999-01-02) (aged 91)
Berlin, Germany
Pen name Sebastian Haffner
Occupation Journalist and historian
Nationality Germany
Subject Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, World War I, Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, World War II
Notable works The Meaning of Hitler

Raimund Pretzel (27 December 1907 – 2 January 1999), better known by his pseudonym Sebastian Haffner, was a German journalist and author. He wrote mainly about recent German history. His focus was specifically on the history of the German Reich (1871–1945); his books dealt with the origins and course of the First World War, the failure of the Weimar Republic, and the subsequent rise and fall of Nazi Germany under Hitler. His most known work is The Meaning of Hitler (German: Anmerkungen zu Hitler, 1978), a short biography and analysis of Hitler.


In 1938 he emigrated from Nazi Germany with his Jewish fiancée to London, where he intended to work as an author and journalist. He encounterd difficulties at first since he was hardly able to speak English at the time (but rapidly became remarkably proficient in the language), had no money and no financial support, and his fiancée (who became his wife later on) was pregnant. He adopted the pseudonym Sebastian Haffner so that his family, who remained in Germany, would not be endangered by his writing. It was a combination of Johann Sebastian Bach and of Mozart's Haffner Symphony, later he used the signature of this piece (KV 385) on his vehicle registration plate.

His book Offensive against Germany (1941) was commissioned by George Orwell and T.R. Fyvel for Searchlight Books.[1]

Under the auspices of his mentor, David Astor, Haffner wrote for the London Sunday newspaper, The Observer, and became its editor-in-chief. However, because of differences between Astor, who had become the newspaper's publisher, and the London editorship regarding a divided Germany, he became the German correspondent in Berlin in 1954, a position which he kept until the building of the Berlin Wall.

He then wrote for a German newspaper, Die Welt, until 1962, and from then until 1975 was a columnist for the Stern magazine. Haffner was a frequent guest on the television show Internationaler Frühschoppen (translates roughly to "international morning pint"), hosted by Werner Höfer, and even had his own television program on the German channel Sender Freies Berlin.

Haffner is considered as one of the most successful German authors on the history of the 19th and 20th century written for a broad, nonacademic audience.

He wrote most of his works in German, some of which have been translated into English, French, Spanish, Hebrew and other languages. The manuscript of Defying Hitler, discovered posthumously by his son, Oliver Pretzel,[2] is an insightful memoir of the Nazis' rise to power, as witnessed by Haffner before he went into exile.

Selected writings

  • 1940 Germany: Jekyll & Hyde, (German language) ISBN 3-930278-04-9
  • 1941 Offensive Against GermanySearchlight Books
  • 1964 Die sieben Todsünden des deutschen Reiches im Ersten Weltkrieg
  • 1967 Winston Churchill, Biography (German language) ISBN 3-463-40413-3
  • 1968 Die verratene Revolution – Deutschland 1918/19. (about the German Revolution in November 1918) Stern-Buch, Hamburg 1969, (no ISBN)


  • Soukup, Uwe (2001). Ich bin nun mal Deutscher. Sebastian Haffner. Eine Biographie. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag. ISBN 3-351-02526-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Orwell, George (2010) The Orwell Diaries. Penguin UK At Google Books. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  2. "Defying Hitler" by Sebastian Haffner –

External links