Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ernst Toller - Imprisonment

Ernst Toller during imprisonment in Niederschönenfeld, Germany, 27. August 1920.

Toller, a distinguished writer, was involved in the 1919 Bavarian Soviet Republic along with other leading revolutionaries such as B. Traven, Gustav Landauer, Erich Mühsam and  Rudolf Egelhofer. This republic was short-lived and was defeated by rightwing forces. He was imprisoned for his part in the revolution.

Erich Mühsam was murdered in Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934. Toller was also detained and tortured, but was later able to exile himself to London.

Suffering from deep depression (his sister and brother had also been arrested and sent to concentration camps) and financial woes (he had given all his money to Spanish civil war refugees), he committed suicide by hanging in his hotel room at the Mayflower Hotel in New York on May 22, 1939.

W. H. Auden's poem "In Memory of Ernst Toller" was published 1940. It contains these sentences:

We are lived by powers we pretend to understand: 
They arrange our loves; it is they who direct at the end
The enemy bullet, the sickness, or even our hand.

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