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.

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

35 year relationship with Karl and Nelly Barth[edit]

von Kirschbaum and Barth met at the University of Göttingen in 1924, when she was 25 years old, at the time she was a Red Cross nurse and had an interest in theology. She was introduced to some of Barth's writing and later to him and with his help and encouragement she started secretarial school.[1] By 1929 she was working full-time for Barth as a secretary and assistant preparing his lectures, in October 1929 she moved into the Barth household with Barth's wife and children, where she remained until 1966.[1] Barth and Charlotte took semester break vacations together.[2] Charlotte and Barth shared an academic relationship, while Nelly took care of the household and the children. The long-standing relationship was not without its difficulties. The relationship caused offense among some of Barth's friends, as well as his mother and brothers.[2] Barth's children suffered from the stress of the relationship between Barth and his wife,[2] and "Lollo",[3] as her friends and Barth called 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.[4]

Work with Karl Barth[edit]

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

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 became ill with a cerebral disturbance[clarification needed]. 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.


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

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b Suzanne Selinger (1 January 1998). Charlotte Von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology. Penn State Press. pp. 2–, 9–. ISBN 0-271-01864-X.
  2. ^ a b c Busch 1975, p. 199.
  3. ^ Busch 1975, pp. 177ff.
  4. ^ Barth, Karl (2000), Algner, Caren, ed., Gesamtausgabe, Teil V: Briefe. Eduard Thurneysen: Briefwechsel Bd. 3, 1930–1935: einschließlich des Briefwechsels zwischen Charlotte von Kirschbaum und Eduard Thurneysen [Complete Works, Part V: Letters. Eduard Thurneysen: correspondence. Volume 3: 1930–1935 (including the exchange of letters between Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Eduard Thurneysen)] (in German), Zürich: TVZ Theologischer Verlag, p. 839.


  • Busch, Eberhard (1975), Karl Barths Lebenslauf, nach seinen Briefen und autobiographischen Texten [Karl Barth’s biography, according to his letters and autobiographical texts] (in German), München: Christian Kaiser.