The Department of Philosophy and Humanities recognized Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s long-standing commitment to literary life in Germany with an honorary doctorate. As an eloquent and polemic critic, he continues to exert an authoritative influence on German literary life. Seven decades after Reich-Ranicki was not permitted to enroll in Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin to study German language and literature because of his Jewish background (1938), Freie Universität honored him for his life’s work.
“We see you before us, Mister Reich-Ranicki, and comprehend that the popularity of your literary criticism, in particular in the last years, if not decades, is not due to a mastery of worldly bantering, but rather, following Schlegel, compensates for a utopia, because in your criticism of art, characterized by irony, wit, and humor, art criticism regains its lost objectivity and commitment,” summarized President Prof. Dieter Lenzen in his words of welcome.
Prof. Rolf-Peter Janz gave the citation in honor of Marcel Reich-Ranicki. Beginning with the observation, “Literary critics and scholars are drawn to each other in wonderful antipathy,” Janz discussed the standards of this influential critic as well as his preferences and praised the literary qualities of Reich-Ranicki's autobiography.
Reich-Ranicki stated that he was particularly happy to receive this award “because it comes from Berlin, the city that shaped me.” In his commemorative address "Berlin and I" he offers insight into the world of theater in Berlin in the 1930s. In the fully occupied auditorium (Lecture Hall 1a), members of the university and their guests followed his descriptions of the Deutsches Theater of Heinz Hilpert and the Schauspielhaus at Gendarmenmarkt under Gründgens, both of whom influenced his relationship to German culture and his role as critic. With a standing ovation the audience thanked Reich-Ranicki for his autobiographical observations on his relationship to Berlin.
The commemorative event for the “eloquent and polemic critic” Marcel Reich-Ranicki was concluded with Schuhmann’s version of Heinrich Heine’s poem cycle, A Poet’s Love, performed by Peter Schoene and Elzbieta Sternlicht.