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Ernst von Salomon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ernst von Salomon (25 September 1902 – 9 August 1972) was a German novelist and screenwriter. He was a Weimar-era national-revolutionary activist and right-wing Freikorps member.

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Family and education

He was born in Kiel, in the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein,[1] the son of a criminal investigation officer. Salomon attended the Musterschule gymnasium in Frankfurt.

Military service

From 1913 Salomon was raised as a cadet in Karlsruhe and in Lichterfelde near Berlin; during the German Revolution of 1918–19, he joined the paramilitary Freikorps ("Free-Corps") unit under Georg Ludwig Rudolf Maercker suppressing the Spartacist Uprising. Later in 1919, he fought in the Baltic against the Bolsheviks and the Estonian and Latvian armies. With his unit he took part in the Kapp-Putsch in March 1920. He also fought against Polish insurgents in what the Poles call the Silesian Uprisings of 1921.[2]

Political activity before and during WW2

After the Freikorps units had been officially dissolved in 1920, Salomon joined the Organisation Consul and received a five-year prison sentence in 1922 for his part in the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau – he provided a car for the assassins. In 1927, he received another prison sentence for an attempted Feme murder (paramilitary "self-justice"), and was pardoned by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg after a few months – he had not killed the severely wounded victim, Wagner, when he pleaded for his life, which was noted by the court.[citation needed]

After his release from prison, Salomon committed himself to the support of Feme murder convicts and began to publish feuilleton articles in the national conservative Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, which earned him the attention of Conservative Revolutionary and National Bolshevist circles around Friedrich Hielscher and Arnolt Bronnen.[citation needed]

In 1929, he backed his elder brother Bruno in his struggle for the Schleswig-Holstein Rural People's Movement by simulating a bomb attack on the Reichstag building in Berlin. He had to spend three months in investigative custody, during which time he finished writing his first novel The Outlaws (Die Geächteten), published by Ernst Rowohlt.

Unlike many other German writers and poets, he did not sign the Gelöbnis treuester Gefolgschaft proclamation of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. He had been arrested after the Nazi Machtergreifung, together with Hans Fallada, but was released after a few days. Suspiciously eyed by the authorities, who suspected him to be an adherent of Otto Strasser's "Third Position", he earned his living by writing film scripts for the German film company UFA.[3] Salomon wrote the screenplay for the 1941 anti-British propaganda film Carl Peters. From October 1944 to May 1945, he was deployed in the local Volkssturm.[4] Salomon supported Ernst Rowohlt after he had received a publishing ban for employing Jewish personnel and temporarily corresponded with conservative resistance circles around Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen. His lover, Ille Gotthelft, was Jewish but he was able to protect her from persecution by passing her off as his spouse.

In June 1945, Salomon was interned by American military occupation authorities due to his active opposition to democracy during the Weimar era and his promixity ot Nazi ideology. Gotthelft was also interned.[5] In his autobiographical The Answers, Salomon described how he and his lover were seriously mistreated by American soldiers when he was in custody, being called "Nazi pig!" and "despicable creatures". Salomon was imprisoned by the Americans until September 1946.[6]

In 1951, Salomon published the book The Questionnaire (Der Fragebogen), in which he gave his ironic and sarcastic "Answers" to the 131 point questionnaire concerning people's activities between 1933-1945 which the Western Allied Military Governments in Germany issued by the tens of thousands at the end of the war. A famous public discussion of the book took place in the main train station of Cologne, organised by bookseller Gerhard Ludwig.[citation needed] Although Liberals and the Left condemned it violently, the book was a sensation in Germany and between its publication in 1951 and 1954 by which time it had sold over 250,000 copies.[7]


Ernst von Salomon died of heart failure at his home near Hamburg on 9 August 1972. He was 69 years of age.[8]

Selected filmography


(Note: this bibliography is incomplete.)

  • Die Geächteten (translated as The Outlaws) (1930), a fictionalized account of Ernst von Salomon's adventures as a Freikorps fighter.
  • Die Stadt ("The City" – translated as It Cannot Be Stormed) (1932)
  • Die Kadetten ("The Cadets") (1933)
  • Putsch ("Coup d'État") (1933)
  • Der Fragebogen (The Questionnaire or Answers to the 131 Questions of the Allied Military Government.) (Germany 1951). English edition, by Putnam, London, 1954.
  • Die schöne Wilhelmine ("The Beautiful Wilhelmine") (1965)
  • Der tote Preuße ("The Dead Prussian") (1973)


  1. ^ "Short Biography". Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  2. ^ Rees, Goronwy, in his "Preface" to The Answers by Ernst von Salomon, translated by Constantin FitzGibbon, London, 1954, p.ix.
  3. ^ Rees, Goronwy, in his "Preface" to The Answers by Ernst von Salomon, translated by Constantin FitzGibbon, London, 1954, p.x.
  4. ^ Jürgen Hillesheim, Elisabeth Michael: Lexikon nationalsozialistischer Dichter. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1993, ISBN 3-88479-511-2, S. 361.
  5. ^ Richard Herzinger: Ein extremistischer Zuschauer. Ernst von Salomon, konservative Literatur zwischen Tatrhetorik und Resignation. In: Zeitschrift für Germanistik, Neue Folge 1998, Heft 1, S. 92.
  6. ^ Salomon, Ernst von, The Answers, translated by Constantin FitzGibbon, London, 1954, p.433.
  7. ^ Rees, Goronwy, in his "Preface" to The Answers by Ernst von Salomon, translated by Constantin FitzGibbon, London, 1954, p.vii.
  8. ^ "Ernst von Salomon Dead; West German Author, 69". The New York Times. Bonn. 10 August 1972. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
This page was last edited on 22 November 2023, at 13:01
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