This historic café was founded just after the First World War in 1919. It is located in the Westend district of Frankfurt at Bockenheimer Landstraße 67, corner of Brentanostraße, halfway between the Old Opera and the Bockenheim Campus of the Goethe University.
When I first moved to Frankfurt, Cafe Laumer was best known locally as the former daily haunt of the philosopher, social critic, musicologist and composer Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), author or co-author of such books as The Dialectic of Enlightenment (with Max Horkheimer), Philosophy of Modern Music, The Authoritarian Personality (a collaborative project), and Minima Moralia.
Adorno was born in Frankfurt. He lived, worked and taught here for his entire life except during the Nazi era, when he had to go into exile in Oxford, New York City, and southern California. He returned to Frankfurt in 1949 to teach in the philosophy department, and later became the director of the Institute of Social Research.
The new central square of the Westend Campus, about a kilometre north-northeast of Café Laumer, is now called the Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz. This is the square with Jaume Plensa’s sculpture Body of Knowledge in the middle.
Much as I’d like to brag about chatting with Adorno in Café Laumer, the fact of the matter is that I didn’t move to Frankfurt until a year after he died.
Later, my family and I lived for twelve years just a block away from Café Laumer, at Brentanostraße 1.
After being closed for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the café reopened on May 15, 2020. The tables are now arranged to allow a distance of two meters from guest to guest, both indoors and out. The waiters wear face masks, and the guests have to fill in a form with their contact details, so they can be traced in case of any infection. The café opens at 8 am on weekdays, 9 am on weekends, and closes at 7 pm.
In earlier times the café was also open in the evenings, at least that’s what I gathered from a conversation years ago with an elderly lady, a retired musician, who said she had always felt guilty about one particular evening in Café Laumer in 1938. She was sixteen at the time, and was in love for the first time in her life. She was sitting at a table in Café Laumer with her new boyfriend when someone came rushing in and said the synagogue was on fire. This was the Westend Synagogue on Freiherr-vom-Stein-Straße, barely 400 metres north of Café Laumer, and the evening was November 9, 1938, later known as the Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass, when Nazi stormtroopers and their supporters attacked synagogues and Jewish businesses all over Germany.
My friend later felt guilty about this because at age sixteen she hadn’t known or cared what was going on, she just wanted to have an evening with her new boyfriend and was annoyed about the interruption.
My photos in this post are from 2005 and 2020. I revised the text in 2020.
See more posts on the city of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.