The writer Erich Kästner was a close companion of Jella Lepman. They met in Munich in the publishing rooms of the Neue Zeitung and the magazine Heute. Erich Kästner was senior editor of the feature section of the Neue Zeitung, while Jella Lepman worked as deputy editor-in-chief for the magazine Heute. Erich Kästner wrote enthusiastically in the Neue Zeitung about the exhibition Das Jugendbuch (The Book for Young People), which Jella Lepman had organized in 1946 in the Haus der Kunst. At her suggestion, he wrote the peace parable The Conference of Animals, illustrated by Walter Trier, in which he set a literary monument to Jella Lepman's vision of a world peace community of children. In December 1948, together with his partner Luiselotte Enderle and other personalities, he signed the founding charter of the "Association of Friends of the International Youth Library", which became the library's sponsor. When the library was opened on September 14, 1949, he wrote a "Letter to all children of the world" which was printed in the newspaper Münchner Merkur. There he called on children to take possession of the International Youth Library as their home and to enliven it with fun, ideas and a sense of responsibility. He himself founded a theater group for young people in the library.
Erich Kästner was associated with the International Youth Library and Jella Lepman and later also with their successor Walter Scherf throughout his life. He repeatedly gave lectures in the young library and read for children. When Jella Lepman was publicly thanked for her merits by the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main in 1969, he gave the laudation.
Erich Kästner became the first honorary member of the International Youth Library in 1969. After his death in 1974, the Erich Kästner Society was founded, which is still based in the International Youth Library today. An Erich Kästner room in the clock tower, with selected documents and numerous first editions by the author, reminds us of the importance he had for the International Youth Library.
© photos: International Youth Library