Döblin’s Zionist Circle


Berlin: S. Fischer Verlag, 1932. 203 by 125mm (8 by 5 inches). Original tan cloth boards stamped in brown and red; [8], 11–377, [7] pp. First Edition. In German. Owner signature (“Leo Steinberg”) to front free endpaper. ¾ page presentation inscription from Alfred Döblin to Comrade Steinberg (i.e. upon information and belief Leo’s father Isaac Steinberg), dated April 7, 1932, to preliminary blank. Very Good with light soiling to cloth and edges, trace of insect damage to upper joint. Alfred Döblin (1878–1957) was a German novelist best remembered for his 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. This First Edition of Döblin’s Giganten is a condensed version of his 1924 novel Berge Meere und Giganten, adapted to find a broader audience for this stylistically experimental work of science fiction. Döblin recounts the course of human history from the 20th to the 27th century, portraying it as a catastrophic global struggle between technological mania and competing political visions. Critical attention in recent years has turned to Berge Meere und Giganten, with its prescient emphasis on energy crises and environmental catastrophe; the 1924 text was translated into English as Mountains Oceans Giants in 2021.

Döblin was good friends with Isaac Steinberg (1888–1857), a Socialist Revolutionary and leader of the Jewish Territorialist movement. Steinberg convinced Döblin to join the Zionist movement Freiland-Liga” and they both participated in the Scholem-Aleichem Club in Berlin to discuss Jewish settlements in Siberia during early 1932—the very timeframe in which this book was inscribed. Sander, footnote 21.

The inscription reads:

Dem Genossen Steinberg. Mit schönen Grüßen. Von Haus zu Haus. Alfred Döblin. 7.4.32”

[“To Comrade Steinberg. With pleasant greetings. From house to house. Alfred Döblin. April 7, 1932.”]

[“From house to house”] in German often refers to proselytizing from door to door. This is a remarkable Döblin association copy documenting a close connection in his search for Jewish identity—an identity that he later would reject in Los Angeles when he converted to Catholicism in 1941.

Leo Steinberg (1920–2011), whose name is on the endpaper, was Isaac’s son, and a well-known New York art critic and art historian. Leo Steinberg’s papers are at the Getty.

EXILE: In 1924 Döblin set out on a two-month trip through Poland, prompted in part by the Anti-Semitic pogroms in Berlin, which awakened Döblin’s interest in Judaism and his Jewish heritage. Just a month after Hitler’s ascension to power in 1933, he left Germany for Switzerland. From there he moved to France and emigrated over Portugal to the United States. By September 1940, Döblin had moved to Los Angeles where he worked for Metro Goldwyn Mayer writing screenplays.

The Steinbergs, as leaders of the Zionist movement, were also forced to leave Germany. Initially they settled in the United Kingdom, but soon made their home in New York City.

This book is offered jointly with Honey and Wax Booksellers, ABAA.

Bibliography: Sternfeld and Tiedemann; Sander; Bahr (with an entire chapter on Döblin’s time in Los Angeles).


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Stock Code: 1240A20 Collections: , Catalogue:


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