GERMAN
POETS




Kurd ADLER, 1892-1916. Some of his trench poems were collected in Erwin Piscator's anthology 1914-1916, as well as appearing in Die Aktion ('Das Geschutz', 'Ruhe an der Front'). His collected poems appeared in the series Der rote Hahn under the title Wiederkehr: Gedichte, (Verlag die Aktion, Berlin-Wilmersdorf, 1918). Killed in action on the Western Front, 6 July 1916.


Gottfried BENN. Studied theology at the University of Marburg, then transferred to the academy there for military-medical instruction, becoming a specialist in venereal and skin diseases. During the war, Benn served for a brief time on the Belgian front, then as medical supervisor of jail inmates and prostitutes in occupied Brussels. An Expressionist, degeneracy and medical aspects of decay are prominent in his early poems, which were influenced not only by his wartime work in the wards, but by the death of his first wife in 1914, and the suicide of a close actress friend. His first and third collections of verse fittingly entitled Morgue (1912) and Fleisch (1917; "Flesh"). Treated the war more in prose than verse, particularly in his Ronne stories. It is also worth noting that Benn witnessed the trial and execution of nurse Edith Cavell, one of the seminal symbolic events of the war. After the war, Benn ran afoul of the Nazis and in 1937 was no longer permitted publication. He gained world attention after WWII.


Gerrit ENGLEKE. Born 21 October 1890 in Hanover. Served in the front lines at Langemarck, St Mihiel, the Somme, Champagne, Dunaberg & Verdun. Awarded the Iron Cross in 1916 for swimming the flooded Yser on the German-Belgian border. Wounded in 1917 and hospitalized. Returned to front line duty in May 1918. Wounded again on 11 October and lay on battlefield until discovered by British troops the next die. Died in a British field hospital on 13 October. Works not collected until 1960.

~~~ RHYTHUMUS DES NEUEN EUROPA, DAS GESAMTWERK . (Hanover: Postskriptum, 1960).


Franz JANOWITZ. Born 28 July 1892, in Podebrady on the Elbe. Attended the Gymnasium in Prague; studied chemistry & philosophy in Liepzig & Vienna. In 1913 joined the Second Tiroler Landschutzen-Regiment as an Einjahrig Freiwilliger. On 24 October 1917, Lt Janowitz was hit by machine-gun fire during an assault on Monte Rombon. He died of his wounds on 4 November 1917.

~~~ AUF DER ERDE, GEDICHTE . (Munich, Kurt Wolff Verlag, 1919).


Wilhelm KLEMM 1881-1968. Called up in early August 1914 for service as Army field-surgeon in General von Hausen's Third Army in Flanders. Left for the Front on 10 August. Tended the wounded from the French counter-attack during the First Battle of the Marne.

~~~ GLORIA, KRIEGSGEDICHTE AUS DEM FELD (Munich, 1915).

~~~ AUFFORDERUNG. GESAMMELTE VERSE (Berlin / Wilmersdorf, 1917 [reprinted Wiesbaden, 1961] ).


Alfred LICHTENSTEIN. Born in Berlin, 23 August 1889. Early poems published in Der Sturm, Die Aktion and Simplicissimus. Honored with a special issue of Die Aktion in 1913, featuring his poetry. Began compulsory year of military service in October of that same year. During the war, he served in the 2nd Bavarian Infantry Regiment. He was wounded in the attack on Vermandovillers on the Somme on 24 September 1914, and died soon after. (Wilfred Owen's regiment would retake Vermandovillers exactly four years later).


Albert MICHEL, 1877-1915. Expressionist writer and poet from Munich. Contributor to Die Aktion. 'Nachtstruck'. Killed on Western Front, June, 1915.


Adolf PETRENZ, 1873-1915. Journalist, poet & writer. Editor of the Tagliche Rundschau in Berlin. Died of wounds, 9 February 1915.


Wilhelm RUNGE, 1894-1918. Poet of the Sturm-Circle. Das denken traumt (Sturm Verlag, Berlin, 1918). Killed in action at Arras, March, 1918.


Anton SCHNACK, born 1892. Served in the German Army from 1914 to 1918. His first major collection of poetry, Tier rang gewaltig mit Tier, in 1920, was derived from his war experiences.


Ernst STADLER, 1883-1914. Studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Enlisted in the German Army in 1914, the same year his collection of Expressionist poetry, Der Aufbruch was published. Stadler served as a lieutenant of artillery; he was killed in action October 1914 at Ypres. .


August STRAMM, born at Munster, Westphalia, 1874. Entered the German post office administration in 1893. Compulsory year's military service 1896-7. Held post office appointment on ocean-liners. Several stays in the United States. Received commission in German Army reserve. Married in 1902. Wrote two plays, Sancta Susanna and Die Haidebraut in 1912-13. Seven plays published in 1914, as well as poetry which appeared in the Futurist / Cubist art periodical Der Sturm from 1914 on.

As Captain in the Army Reserve, Stramm was called up immediately when war was declared. Posted as company commander to Landwehrregiment 110, with which he saw action on the Western Front, in the Vosges & in Alsace. Posted as company commander to Infantry Regiment 272 in mid-January 1915 at Oise in the Somme region. By late January had been awarded Iron Cross (Second Class). Saw heavy fighting there in Spring of 1915. At end of April posted to Eastern Front, took part in Galician campaign, involved in storming of Gorlice Pass and fall of Gorlice on 2 May 1915. Was for a time acting battalion commander during the attack on the Russian position at Ostrow, for which action he was recommended for the Iron Cross (First Class). By July 1915 his regiment reached the River Bug, following Mackensen's recapture of Przemysl & Lwow. Took his last leave in August 1915, during which he refused opportunity to be released from the Army. Returning to his company, he found it reduced to 25 men. Was involved in the front-line of the "Riesenkampf um Brest-Litowsk". Killed in action 1 September 1915, shot through the head in hand-to-hand combat in the Rokitno marshes. Buried at Horodec (modern David Gorodok, in Russia). In all, Sturmm was in action 70 times and was the last man in his company to fall.

His Futurist war poems, which had appeared in Der Sturm , were collected after the war and published in Berlin in a book entited TROPFBLUT, in 1919.


Ernst TOLLER (1893-1939). Born in Samotschin (Prussian province of Posen, in what is now Poland). In 1906 began studies at Realgymnasium in Bromberg, and began studies at University of Grenoble in France in 1914, which is where he was war broke out in August. Returned to Germany & enlisted in the First Bavarian Foot Artillery Regiment. Sent to Western Front in March 1915, assigned duties as an artillery observer. Requested transfer to front line duties in Sept 1915 to escape persecution of his battalion commander. Served at Bois-le-Petre and then at Verdun, where the carnage evidently precipitated a nervous breakdown. In May 1916 Toller was evacuated to hospital in Strasbourg suffering from exhaustion & "nervous stress".
Scene from Transformation
He was later transferred to Mainz and discharged as unfit for service on January 4, 1917. In the same year Toller recommenced his studies at the University of Heidelberg became friends with sociologist Max Weber, and met met Kurt Eisner in Berlin. In 1918 Toller co-organised a munitions workers' strike in Munich, and became sufficiently conspicuous in anti-war efforts that he was arrested for treason and imprisoned for three months. During his incarceration he wrote his first significant play, Transformation (first staged in 1919), a semi-autobiographical story of a front-line soldier in the German Army who becomes a pacifist through his experiences in the trenches. After his release, Toller played a prominent role in the communist coup in Munich led by Kurt Eisner which established an ill-fated government over the province of Bavaria. Toller served as a member of the Central Committee of the government and as a section commander in its Red Army, until the revolutionaries were brutally crushed by the German Army.
Revolutionary handbill:
Toller's name at bottom.
Toller was arrested and imprisoned, but escaped the death penalty and received the relatively light sentence of five years through the intervention of influential friends, including Max Weber and Thomas Mann. While imprisoned, Toller continued to write poetry and several plays, including The Machine Wreckers and Masses and Man . Upon release from prison in 1924, Toller published further plays, including Once a Bourgeois Always a Bourgeois (1927). In 1933, Toller published his memoir, I Was a German , which stressed world humanity over nationalism. In the same year the Nazis, newly ascended to power, withdrew Toller's citizenship and banned and burned his works. Toller went into exile, living in both England and Switzerland. In 1934 he married actress Christiane Grautoff. In 1935 he traveled to Portugal and Spain, and the following year moved to the United States, where he began work as a screen-writer for Metro-Goldwin-Mayer (Hangman Also Die ). In 1938 he became active as a lobbyist in the U.S., France, England and Sweden for pro-Republican intervention in the Spanish Civil War. Also in 1938 Toller separated from his wife. In May of 1939, in a state of depression following the victory march of Franco in Madrid, Ernst Toller hanged himself in his New York apartment.


Friedrich WOLF, 1888-1953. In charge of 12th Army Corps military hospitals. Socialist writer, poet and playwright. Expressionist beginnings with his first plays in Dresden. His later play Professor Mamlock was a world-wide success.




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