Charlotte von Kirschbaum

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Charlotte von Kirschbaum (June 25, 1899 – July 24, 1975) was a German theologian, and pupil of Karl Barth.

Charlotte von Kirschbaum was born in Ingolstadt. In 1916 her father died in the war. This induced her to be trained as a nurse. In 1924 she met Karl Barth personally and in 1929 moved in with Nelly and Karl Barth and their five children in Münster.

35 year relationship with Karl Barth and Nelly Barth[edit]

After being invited by Barth to move into the Barth household, which lasted for 35 years. The long standing relationship was not without its difficulties. "Lollo",[1] as Barth called the 13 year younger Charlotte, once wrote to Barth's sister Gertrud Lindt in 1935, where she expressed her concern about the precarious situation:

"The alienation between Karl and Nelly has reached a degree which could hardly increase. This has certainly become accentuated by my existence."[2]

The relationship caused great offence among many of Barth's friends, as well as his own mother.[3] Barth's children suffered from the stress of the relationship.[4] Barth and Charlotte took semester break vacations together.[5] While Nelly supplied the household and the children, Charlotte and Barth shared an academic relationship. She was the secretary and prepared his lectures.

Work with Karl Barth[edit]

For the sake of the work she learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew. She also visited the philosophical lectures of Heinrich Scholz. She made an important contribution to the production of Barth's Church Dogmatics. In 1935 Barth moved to Basel. Charlotte followed into Switzerland. From there they supported the German Resistance.

Theological work[edit]

In 1949 her theological book Die wirkliche Frau (The Real Woman) was published. It discussed the role of women.

End of life and burial[edit]

In the early 1960s she came to be ill from a cerebral disturbance. She moved to a nursing home in Riehen, where she died ten years later. She was buried alongside Barth, where Nelly was also laid to rest.


  • The Question of Woman: The Collected Writings of Charlotte Von Kirschbaum, Eerdmans Publishing Company (1996), ISBN 0-8028-4142-2

Further reading[edit]

  • Suzanne Selinger, Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology, Penn State University Press (1998), ISBN 0-271-01824-0 - reviewed by George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary [1]
  • Renate Kobler, In the Shadow of Karl Barth: Charlotte Von Kirschbaum, Westminster John Knox Press (1989), ISBN 0-664-25072-6
  • Renate Köbler, In de schaduw van Karl Barth: Charlotte von Kirschbaum, Uitgeverij Kok Pharos- Kampen (1991), ISBN 90-242-3327-5, translated (from German to Dutch)- by Inge Scholtheis.


  1. ^ Eberhard Busch, Karl Barths Lebenslauf, München: Kaiser, 177ff.
  2. ^ Karl Barth: Gesamtausgabe, Teil V. Briefe. Karl Barth – Eduard Thurneysen: Briefwechsel Bd. 3, 1930–1935: einschließlich des Briefwechsels zwischen Charlotte von Kirschbaum und Eduard Thurneysen, eds. Caren Algner; Zürich: TVZ, Theologischer Verlag, 2000, p. 839.
  3. ^ Busch, Karl Barths Lebenslauf, 199.
  4. ^ Busch, Karl Barths Lebenslauf, 199.
  5. ^ Busch, Karl Barths Lebenslauf, 199.