Rudolf Majut was born in Vienna on 13 March 1887 into a family of Jewish origin. He received his early education there and, at the age of 10, moved with his family to Breslau (now Wroclaw), and then Berlin. In Berlin he began his studies in Germanistik, completing them at Greifswald. He obtained his doctorate in 1912 with a thesis entitled 'Farbe und Licht im Kunstgefühl Georg Büchners'. Büchner became the focal point of his research and this opened the gates for a spate of subsequent study and publication by others. Majut may, however, be regarded as a pioneer in Büchner research.
Majut was promoted to Studienrat, a post equivalent to a teacher in a secondary school but with the status of a civil servant. He began studying for the Habilitation in contemporary German literature and planned to try for a chair in pedagogics. His plans foundered with the advent of the National Socialist regime: in 1933 he was dismissed from the teaching profession due to his non-Aryan descent and, in addition, found it increasingly difficult to publish his research.
Although already in his mid-40s, Majut began to study evangelical theology at the University of Basle. For the first few years he commuted daily over the Swiss/German border, being unable to get papers to stay abroad, but for his final year, 1938-39, he left German territory and and took up residence in Basle. He had been warned of the personal dangers posed by the Nazi regime in Germany by a young woman from Berlin, Käthe Genetat, who became his wife and life companion. Their correspondence in those difficult years was preserved by a friend, Eva Hellbardt, who acted as post restante, and has been published as Briefe für Käthe 1933-37. Eine Auswahl, edited by Heinz Fischer (1995).
In 1939 Majut received a personal invitation from the Bishop of Chichester, Dr George Kennedy Allen Bell, to come to England. Dr Bell operated a support organisation for Christian ministers of Jewish descent. Majut accepted and left Switzerland with Käthe, arriving in London in May 1939. For a short period he was vicar at the Sefton Internment Camp on the Isle of Man. Then he was obliged to carry out gardening work at Redbrook, which he found totally unconvivial. In 1941 he came to Leicester and accepted a post as a teacher of German in a secondary school. Later he was appointed Lecturer, first at Vaughan, and then at Loughborough College. Eventually he joined the staff of Leicester University as a Lecturer and, when he retired, was made an Honorary Professor. In 1970 he was awarded the German Bundesverdienstkreuz First Class. He passed away in 1981.
Majut belonged to the group of literary Expressionists and was later in contact with members of the Stefan George-Kreis, principally with Melchior Lechter, who became the subject of an essay by Majut. His publications ranged from standard literary history and criticism, through philological and lexicological studies to volumes of his own poetry, the product of his life-long study of the German language combined with a truly creative talent. Many of the poems, originally published in six parts and then combined in a collected edition edited by his wife in 1994, reflect his personal experiences and emotions particularly as a refugee.
The papers were given to the Institute of Germanic Studies (now Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies) by Dr Majut himself in 1969-70. They comprise mainly correspondence from eminent German literary figures and scholars, some musicians, and a lengthy and highly informative correspondence extending from 1944-1962 with Jethro Bithell (1878-1962), formerly Head of the Department of German at Birkbeck College, University of London.
There are annotated typescripts of a broadcast Majut made for Austrian Radio in 1953, and of his controversial poem about the child victims of the Nazi death camps, 'Das Lied von den Schuhen' (enthusiastically praised by Thomas Mann). Also present are typescripts of poetry and prose by his brother Hans Majut (1892-1937), who suffered persecution under the Nazi regime for being of Jewish descent, despite being a protestant Christian like his brother.
Majut's library of some 6,000 volumes was donated to Leicester University for giving him a professional foothold in his adopted country, and the Library and Archive contain copies of the catalogue compiled in 1987 by Catharine Wynn and Allan Spruce of the University of Leicester.
1.1 Typescripts of Hans Majut's work
1.2 Typescripts of Rudolf Majut's work
RMA/2 General Correspondence (arranged alphabetically by sender's name)