Born in Berlin to a Jewish family assimilated gentry, studied philosophy, German studies and art history at the universities of Freiburg, Berlin, Munich and Bern. In 1915 he met Gershom Scholem. In 1928 he published his habilitation thesis, rejected by the university, on The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Linked to the members of the Institute of Social Research, with the rise of Nazism took refuge in Paris, where he worked as a journalist and translator in poor living conditions. It will crash on the border of Spain fleeing the Gestapo. His figure and his work have become increasingly important, not only recognized in him a master of German prose but one of the most conspicuous and insightful essayists and critics of European culture wars.