Ernst Toller

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Ernst Toller_table_infobox_0

Ernst TollerErnst Toller_header_cell_0_0_0
BornErnst Toller_header_cell_0_1_0 (1893-12-01)December 1, 1893

Samotschin, Posen, GermanyErnst Toller_cell_0_1_1

DiedErnst Toller_header_cell_0_2_0 May 22, 1939(1939-05-22) (aged 45)

New York City, United StatesErnst Toller_cell_0_2_1

NationalityErnst Toller_header_cell_0_3_0 GermanyErnst Toller_cell_0_3_1

Ernst Toller (1 December 1893 – 22 May 1939) was a German left-wing playwright, best known for his Expressionist plays. Ernst Toller_sentence_0

He served in 1919 for six days as President of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, after which he became the head of its army. Ernst Toller_sentence_1

He was imprisoned for five years for his part in the armed resistance by the Bavarian Soviet Republic to the central government in Berlin. Ernst Toller_sentence_2

While in prison Toller wrote several plays that gained him international renown. Ernst Toller_sentence_3

They have performed in London and New York as well as in Berlin. Ernst Toller_sentence_4

In 1933 Toller was exiled from Germany after the Nazis came to power. Ernst Toller_sentence_5

He did a lecture tour in 1936–1937 in the United States and Canada, settling in California for a while before going to New York. Ernst Toller_sentence_6

He joined other exiles there. Ernst Toller_sentence_7

He committed suicide in May 1939. Ernst Toller_sentence_8

In 2000, several of his plays were published in an English translation. Ernst Toller_sentence_9

Life and career Ernst Toller_section_0

Toller was born in 1893 into a Jewish family in Samotschin, Germany (now Szamocin, Poland). Ernst Toller_sentence_10

He was the son of Ida (Kohn) and Max Toller, a pharmacist. Ernst Toller_sentence_11

His parents ran a general store. Ernst Toller_sentence_12

He had a sister and brother. Ernst Toller_sentence_13

They grew up speaking Yiddish and German, and he later became fluent in English. Ernst Toller_sentence_14

At the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered for the German Army. Ernst Toller_sentence_15

After serving for 13 months on the Western Front, he suffered a complete physical and psychological collapse. Ernst Toller_sentence_16

His first drama, Transformation (Die Wandlung, 1919), was wrought from his wartime experiences. Ernst Toller_sentence_17

Together with leading anarchists, such as B. Ernst Toller_sentence_18 Traven and Gustav Landauer, and Toller's party, the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD), Toller was involved in the short-lived 1919 Bavarian Soviet Republic. Ernst Toller_sentence_19

The communists are against the founding of a communist republic at this point. Ernst Toller_sentence_20

He served as President from April 6 to April 12. Ernst Toller_sentence_21

Communists agitated against Toller and his councils and sent speakers into soldiers barracks to announce that the Council Republic did not deserve to be defended. Ernst Toller_sentence_22

He issued numerous decrees, the press was socialised, the mining industry was socialised, and the eight-hour working day made legally binding. Ernst Toller_sentence_23

He decreed that citizens could withdraw only 100 marks per day from the banks, and issued reassurance to the workers that these measures were directed against the major capitalists who were attempting to take money abroad. Ernst Toller_sentence_24

A decree was made against exorbitant rents. Ernst Toller_sentence_25

His government members were not always well-chosen. Ernst Toller_sentence_26

For instance, the Foreign Affairs Deputy Dr. Franz Lipp (who had been admitted several times to psychiatric hospitals) informed Vladimir Lenin via cable that the ousted former Minister-President, Johannes Hoffmann, had fled to Bamberg and taken the key to the ministry toilet with him. Ernst Toller_sentence_27

On Palm Sunday, April 1919, the Communist Party seized power, with Eugen Leviné as their leader. Ernst Toller_sentence_28

Shortly after that, the republic was defeated by right-wing forces. Ernst Toller_sentence_29

The noted authors Max Weber and Thomas Mann testified on Toller's behalf when he was tried for his part in the revolution. Ernst Toller_sentence_30

He was sentenced to five years in prison and served his sentence in the prisons of Stadelheim, Neuburg, Eichstätt. Ernst Toller_sentence_31

From February 1920 until his release, he was in the fortress of Niederschönenfeld, where he spent 149 days in solitary confinement and 24 days on hunger strike. Ernst Toller_sentence_32

His time in prison was productive; he completed work on Transformation, which premiered in Berlin under the direction of Karlheinz Martin in September 1919. Ernst Toller_sentence_33

At the time of this work's 100th performance, the Bavarian government offered Toller a pardon. Ernst Toller_sentence_34

He refused it out of solidarity with other political prisoners. Ernst Toller_sentence_35

Toller continued writing in prison, completing some of what would be his most celebrated works, including the dramas Masses Man (Masse Mensch), The Machine Breakers (Die Maschinenstürmer), Hinkemann, the German (Der Deutsche Hinkemann), and many poems. Ernst Toller_sentence_36

These works established him as an important German expressionist playwright, and they used symbols derived from the First World War and its aftermath in his society. Ernst Toller_sentence_37

Not until after his release from prison in July 1925 was Toller able to see any of his plays performed. Ernst Toller_sentence_38

In 1925, the most famous of his later dramas, Hoppla, We're Alive! Ernst Toller_sentence_39

(Hoppla, wir Leben! Ernst Toller_sentence_40

), directed by Erwin Piscator, premiered in Berlin. Ernst Toller_sentence_41

It tells of a revolutionary discharged from a mental hospital after eight years, who discovers that his former comrades have grown complacent and compromised within the system they once opposed. Ernst Toller_sentence_42

In despair, he kills himself. Ernst Toller_sentence_43

The most recent biography of Toller is by Robert Ellis "Ernst Toller and German Society: Intellectual as Leaders and Critics" (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press,2013). Ernst Toller_sentence_44

Exile, death and legacy Ernst Toller_section_1

In 1933, after the Nazi rise to power, Toller was exiled from Germany because of his work; the Nazis did not like modernist arts of any form. Ernst Toller_sentence_45

His citizenship was nullified by the Nazi government later that year. Ernst Toller_sentence_46

He travelled to London with 16-year-old Christiane Grautoff; they married in London in 1935, the same year he participated as co-director in the Manchester production of his play Rake Out the Fires (Feuer aus den Kesseln). Ernst Toller_sentence_47

In 1936 and 1937, Toller went on a lecture tour of the United States and Canada, settling in California. Ernst Toller_sentence_48

Fluent in English, he wrote screenplays but could not get them produced. Ernst Toller_sentence_49

In 1936 he moved to New York City, where he joined a group of artists and writers in exile, including Klaus Mann, Erika Mann (at one time married to the poet W.H. Ernst Toller_sentence_50 Auden, who was also in the US), and Therese Giehse. Ernst Toller_sentence_51

He earned some money from journalism. Ernst Toller_sentence_52

Two of his early plays were produced in New York in this period: The Machine Wreckers (1922), whose opening night in 1937 he attended, and No More Peace, produced in 1937 by the Federal Theatre Project and presented in New York City in 1938. Ernst Toller_sentence_53

Their sense of immediacy was gone: the first play was related to the First World War and its aftermath, and the second an earlier period of the rise of the Nazis. Ernst Toller_sentence_54

Their style was outmoded for New York, and the poor reception added to Toller's discouragement. Ernst Toller_sentence_55

Suffering from depression, separated from his wife and struggling with financial woes (he had given all his money to Spanish Civil War refugees), Toller committed suicide on 22 May 1939. Ernst Toller_sentence_56

He hanged himself in his room at the Mayflower Hotel, after laying out on his hotel desk "photos of Spanish children who had been killed by fascist bombs". Ernst Toller_sentence_57

The English author Robert Payne, who knew Toller in Spain and in Paris, later wrote in his diary that Toller had said shortly before his death: Ernst Toller_sentence_58

W. Ernst Toller_sentence_59 H. Auden's poem "In Memory of Ernst Toller" was published in Another Time (1940). Ernst Toller_sentence_60


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst Toller.