by Weininger’s friend Artur Gerber

Secrecy went well with his striking appearance. The slender body was rigid and without any elasticity or grace. His movements were abrupt and helpless, never impulsive. His lack of grace was so much more remarkable when one noticed the hesitating way his hand would grasp a thing and then suddenly take a hard grip on it. If his movements were hesitant and weak, his grip was strong and hard, so that his hand was no more a regular hand, but a fist. He dressed shabbily. His way of walking was undecided, and he would often walk with his chin resting on his chest. But sometimes he would race along.

Nobody who had once seen his face could ever forget it. The big dome of his forehead marked it. The face was peculiar looking because of the large eyes; the look in them seemed to surround everything. In spite of his youth, his face was not handsome, it was rather ugly. Never did I see him laugh or smile. His face was always dignified and serious. Only when he was outdoors in spring did it seem to relax, and then become cheerful and bright. At many concerts he would shine with happiness. In the most wonderful moments we spent together, particularly when he talked about an idea in which he was interested, his eyes were filled with happiness. Otherwise his face was impenetrable. One could never - except to the last few months - find in his face any hint of what was happening deep within his soul. The taut muscles would often move, and sharp wrinkles would appear on his face, as if they were caused by intolerable pain. I asked for the reason, he controlled himself at once, gave a vague or evasive answer, or talked about other matters, making further questioning impossible.

His manners would occasionally elicit surprise, and often a smile, since he cared little for traditions and prejudices.

The influence of his personality seemed strongest at night. His body seemed to grow; there was something ghostlike in his movements and there would be something demoniac in his manner. And when, as happened at times, his conversation became passionate, when he made a movement in the air with his stick or his umbrella as if he were fighting an invisible ghost, one was always reminded of a person from the imaginary circles of E. Th. A. Hofmann.

I have often thought of one particular evening: we had been wandering around the Votivkirche for a long time. He had kept me company to my home, and then I went back with him part of the way until, finally, after hours of walking late at night, we were outside my home again. We shook hands. Not a sound was heard except our own voices, not a soul in the street except the two of us. He looked at me and whistled: "Have you ever thought of your own double? What if he came now! Your double is the man who knows everything about you, even that which nobody tells!" Then he turned around and disappeared.

In the early afternoon of November 20, 1902, Otto's father came to tell me that the day before Otto had been to his home and had said goodbye to his family in such a heartfelt and serious manner that there was reason to be afraid that something might happen. I knew nothing about it.

At that time of day my friend was in Heiligenstadt, where he was teaching. I hurried out there and waited for him outside in the street. It was a long time before he finally appeared. He came out of the house at a slow, solemn tempo. The concentrated strength in his facial expression had given way to a desperate exhaustion and dejection, something never previously present. His face was ravaged, worn out, sinister, and serious. In the tone of his voice I could hear a grave and silent pain. I had not thought that his condition could be so bad as that. We had been together the evening and afternoon of the eighteenth, and there had been no hint of this fundamental change in him. When I asked him why he felt so obviously ill, he answered in a deprecatory way: "I might at least get rid of my uncomfortable feeling by confiding in someone."

We took the streetcar to his lodgings, which were in Gersthof. It was a gloomy, stormy day. Although he wore his overcoat, he still felt cold. To my anxious question about him he answered by saying: "In me is the chill of the grave." He said this quite slowly and with an emphatic stress so that every word cut into my heart. It was quite clear to me that he could not be left alone while in that condition.

When we reached his room, he said: "There is already a smell of corpse here, isn't there?" The room gave the impression of not having had fresh air for several days. I asked him to come and spend the evening with me. It was under those circumstances that I told him the news that I had seen in the morning paper, which later proved to be false - that Knut Hamsun, to whom he felt much attached, whose books he owned, and whose Pan he had called the greatest book in the world, had shot himself. Otto winced, looked disturbed, and said: "He, too, then?" He was even more silent now, refused to leave his room and go with me, and his conversation consisted only of hints which he perhaps thought I would not understand. But those hints left no doubt as to his condition. It was getting dark. When I asked him to turn on the light, he groaned as if he were being choked by an intolerable pain: "No, no light!" and then he repeated it, stressing each syllable so that it was not hard to guess his thoughts: "No light!"

In that painful hour, when it was a question of saving or losing my most precious friend, it was clear to me that only one thing would be of any help - unflinching energy. Instinctively I asked him: "Do you have a weapon here?" He was silent. I repeated the question. No answer. Then I pleaded with him and begged him to give me his weapon.

We had never spoken an angry word to each other. But now, when I was trembling with sorrow and anxiety, now for the first time in his life he shouted at me as if I were his enemy: "You have no right to take away from me my own will!" He had jumped up and stood directly in front of me. Painful as the moment was for both of us, it was necessary for me to remain uncompromisingly firm in order not to lose everything. I threatened him and said that I would search for the weapon myself if he did not give it to me willingly. Then he answered, a little subdued: "I have no weapon." Shortly afterward he said that he was ready to go with me and to spend the night with me. When we arrived there it was nearly eight o'clock. He complained of the cold and sat down by the stove. When supper was served, he refused to eat a bite. All urging that he eat something was in vain. Although the windows were closed and the stove so hot that the heat in the room was intolerable, he kept his overcoat on, put more coal on the fire constantly, and moved closer to it. Finally, after several hours, I succeeded in making him eat a little. We were now seating facing each other. His expression seemed a bit easier. For a short while it seemed as if everything was as it used to be, as if the future were full of hope for both of us. But when a little time had passed his face once more became painfully serious. The crisis was not yet over. To be able to meet the danger, I had to discover what had brought him into this mood.

He confessed that he wanted to kill himself, but he refused to give any reason.

In the hours that followed there was between us a struggle of wills and energies. From me: "I must know! You must tell me! I cannot lose you this way!" And from him always the same sullen answer: "I cannot tell you! Not even you!" What we suffered through that night, which I can remember only with horror, is something I am incapable of describing.

(from: Ecce Homo!)