December 13, 1797: In Dusseldorf, Peira (known as “Betty”), née van Geldern and Samson Heine, a textile merchant gave birth to the first child author and poet Heinrich Heine. The German author converted in 1825. Heine said, “The baptismal certificate is an admission ticket to European culture.” Unfortunately for Heine, things did not work out. Christians saw him as an opportunist. Jews saw him as a turncoat and in the end, he supposedly regretted his decision. “It is extremely difficult for a Jew to be converted, for how can he bring himself to believe in the divinity of another Jew?” “Experience is a good school, but the fees are high.” “The Jews trudged around with the Bible all through the Middle Ages, as with a portable fatherland.” And in words that almost seem to foretell the coming of the Nazis he wrote, “Where men burn books, they will also burn people.”
In 1972, East Germany – in German, “Deutsche Demokratische Republik” or “DDR” issued a souvenir sheet (Scott No. 1423) in honor of Heine’s 175th birthday. The example shown here has a special cancellation with Heine’s name included in the postmark.