Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wilhelm von Scholz (1874-1969)

Poet, Playwright, Author, Actor, Editor, Narrator, and Translator
Born July 15, 1874, Berlin, Germany
Died May 29, 1969, Konstanz, Germany

Sooner or later, if you're writing about historical, cultural, or biographical events of the twentieth century, you will almost certainly have to deal with some unsavory topics, for the last century was one of horrors. Every century has its horrors of course. However, the horrors of all previous centuries are far removed from us, while those of the last hundred years survive. They survive not only in the memories--and in and on the bodies--of people who lived through them, but also in the minds of those who still adhere to the ideologies and philosophies that perpetrated those horrors. Even at this late date, despite abundant evidence that Marxism, communism, Nazism, socialism, Fascism, and their kindred isms are corrupt and murderous failures, the world is full of people who believe that we should march to their drums.

Seventy-four years ago this month, Nazi Germany annexed and occupied its southern neighbor, Austria, in an event known as the Anschluss. In that same month, Weird Tales printed a story called "The Head in the Window," translated and adapted by Roy Temple House from the work of a German writer named Wilhelm von Scholz. Scholz or von Scholz may be unique among contributors to Weird Tales, for the German author was a servant of Nazism.

Born on July 15, 1874, in Berlin, Wilhelm von Scholz was the son of Adolf Heinrich Wilhelm Scholz (1833-1924), later von Scholz and the Secretary for the Treasury of Germany and Minister of Finance for the Kingdom of Prussia. Wilhelm Scholz grew up in Berlin and moved with his father to the family estate, "Schloss Seeheim," in Konstanz in 1890. Scholz graduated high school in 1892 and studied literature, history, and philosophy in Berlin, Lausanne, and Kiel. He received his doctorate from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich in 1897. Scholz became dramaturge and director of the Stuttgart State Theatre in 1916 and president of the section for poetry of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1928.

I have called Scholz a servant of the Nazis, but I don't know that he was ever a member of the Nazi Party. It would have been hard for him to explain his actions during the Nazi era however. On March 16, 1933, he signed a declaration of loyalty to the German Academy of Literature. In October of that year, he pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler. According to a German Wikipedia article, in 1939 Scholz retracted his previous "philo-Semitic remarks." During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he published a Nazi newspaper in Krakow. Also according to the article, Scholz authored verse glorifying the F├╝hrer for an anthology of poetry as late as 1944. Finally, in June 1944, Scholz received an honorary doctorate from the Ruprecht-Karls University of Heidelberg and a grant of 30,000 marks from Adolf Hitler. Whether Scholz was compelled to serve the State or whether he was a willing participant in Nazism is a question for another time and place. It may be worth noting that, first, the main body of his work appeared before 1933, and, second, Scholz was nearly sixty when the Nazis came to power. It's also worth noting that large swaths of German society--including writers and of course military men--were required to take oaths of loyalty to Hitler and his regime. In any case, Scholz's reputation will probably forever be marred by his association with Nazi Germany.

After the war, Scholz served as president and honorary president of the Association of German Playwrights and Composers. I don't have clear details on the remainder of his career, although I know that he received various badges and medals during the 1950s and 1960s. Wilhelm von Scholz died on May 29, 1969, in Konstanz and was buried in his adopted home city. According to a German Wikipedia article, "His poetry is marked by the mystical-occult." In his plays, Scholz followed in the neoclassical tradition of Paul Ernst and Christian Friedrich Hebbel. By the way, the German playwright Karl Friedrich Paul Ernst (1866-1933) should not be confused with the American author Paul Ernst (dates uncertain), a prolific teller of weird tales. 

Works by Wilhelm von Scholz
(Titles are freely translated from the German)
The Losers, 1899
Swapped Souls, 1910
New Poems, 1913
The Lake, 1913
Dangerous Love, 1913
The Jew of Konstanz, 1913
Days of Summer, 1914
The German Narrator, edited by Wilhelm von Scholz, 1915
Ensign of Braunau, 1915
The Lake: A Millennium of German Poetry from Lake Constance, selected by Wilhelm von Scholz, 1915
The Unreal, 1916
German Mystic, 1916
The Poet, 1917
Luck and Fate [?], 1923
Perpetua, 1926
Charlotte Donc, ca. 1928, 1941
The Road to Ilok, 1930
The Duty, 1932
The Poems, Complete Edition, 1944

Wilhelm von Scholz's Story in Weird Tales
"The Head in the Window" translated and adapted by Roy Temple House (Mar. 1938)

Further Reading
I have based my biography almost entirely on a German-language Wikipedia article. This may be the first English-language biography of Scholz on the Internet.

Left to right: Wilhelm von Scholz, Oskar Fried, and Rainer Maria Rilke in a drawing by Emil Orlik, 1896.
An etching in illustration of Scholz's Charlotte Donc (ca. 1928) by Alois Kolb.
A work by Wilhelm von Schulz appeared in this issue of the American-style German magazine Uhu ("Owl"), from March 1932. The magazine was in print from 1924 until 1933. I doubt that it's any coincidence that the end year for publication was the same year in which Adolf Hitler rose to power. (Uhu was published by and named for the publishing house Ullstein. Thanks to Lars Dangel for further information.)
Six years later, Scholz's story, "The Head in the Window," appeared in this issue of Weird Tales. The cover art was by Margaret Brundage.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

No comments:

Post a Comment