Along with German re-unification, a much quieter and more subdued series of events took place in Berlin in 1990: those marking the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic death of one of the city's most intriguing intellectual sons: Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). A forgotten figure in the immediate post-war period, he is now recognised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation. 1990 saw the publication of two biographical studies and the preparation of a third.
The contours of Benjamin's life are relatively familiar. The eldest of three children in a prosperous, assimilated Jewish family, Benjamin was born, brought up, and educated in Berlin until he was sent to the progressive Haubinda school in Thuringia.