Bodo Uhse

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Bodo Uhse in 1950

Bodo Uhse (12 March 1904 in Rastatt, Grand Duchy of Baden – 2 July 1963 in Berlin) was a German writer, journalist and political activist. He was recognised as one of the most prominent authors in East Germany.[1]

Early years[edit]

Uhse came from a Prussian Junker family with a long tradition of military service.[2] In his early years Uhse was associated with the agrarian movement and was considered to be on the far-right of this group.[3] This was evidenced by his involvement with the extremist Landvolkbewegung of Schleswig-Holstein.[4] He took part in the right-wing Kapp Putsch in 1920.[2] In 1927[citation needed] he became a member of the Nazi Party[2] as a protege of Gregor Strasser.[citation needed] He remained a member until 1930, when he joined the Communist Party of Germany under the influence of Bruno von Salomon (the elder brother of writer Ernst von Salomon).[citation needed] During his Nazi membership he became editor to the Nazi party newspaper in Ingolstadt.[5]

Communism[edit]

After the Reichstag fire in 1933 he fled to Paris, where he was in contact with Ernst Niekisch.[citation needed] At the first International Writers Congress in Paris in 1935 he met Bertolt Brecht and Johannes R. Becher (both of whom would also later become prominent East German writers).[citation needed] Uhse spent the rest of the 1930s in exile in Prague where he wrote for Neue Deutsche Blätter, a German language journal that was sympathetic to communism[6] as well as in Paris with Bruno von Salomon.[7] During this time he was involved in the establishment of the Free German University, a Paris-based body that involved both the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party of Germany.[8] In 1936 Uhse was one of a number of exiled dissidents to be declared ausgebürgert (deprived of German citizenship) by the Nazi regime.[9]

During the Spanish Civil War he served as an officer in the International Brigades[2] and wrote regularly about the conflict, with some of his work even smuggled into Nazi Germany.[10] His experiences in Spain and as a member of the Nazi Party led him to write the 1944 novel Leutnant Bertram, which dealt with a Condor Legion pilot switching sides to the Republicans.[2] The novel was a success and was translated into several languages.[11]

Mexico[edit]

In 1939 he accepted an invitation from the League of American Writers to join some other German dissidents in the United States but, despite settling there briefly, Uhse and other communist writers soon left, feeling uncomfortable in the United States due to the prevalence of anti-communist attitudes.[12] Uhse finally settled in Mexico in 1940, becoming part of a large group of emigrant German writers and thinkers who made their home in the capital Mexico City.[13]

Within Mexico City Uhse found a number of like-minded exiles including Alexander Abusch, Ludwig Renn and Egon Erwin Kisch.[14] Here he co-founded the influential exile journal Freies Deutschland along with Renn, Kisch and André Simone, and served as co-editor of this review from its 1942 foundation.[15] His time in Mexico was chronicled in his diary, Mexicanische Erzahlungen, published in 1957.[13]

East Germany[edit]

Uhse (left) with Theo Harych in 1954

After marrying the Lithuanian-Jewish-American divorcee Alma Agee in 1945[citation needed] Uhse left Mexico in 1948 to settle in East Germany, where he immediately joined the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.[16] He became the editor in chief of the East German monthly cultural journal Aufbau in 1949, holding the position until 1958 when he was sacked as part of a wider purge of East German cultural life.[17] His stepson Joel Agee later wrote a memoir about his family life, Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany (1981).[citation needed]

In 1954 Uhse joined the Literature Section of the German Academy of Arts, the most influential cultural body in the East.[18] In 1963 he was appointed editor-in-chief of the influential literary magazine Sinn und Form.[19] Uhse, who was suffering from severe ill health due to a lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking, died after only a few months in the post.[20]

Selected works[edit]

  • Söldner und Soldat, 1935 (Mercenary and Soldier; novel)
  • Leutnant Bertram, 1944 (Lieutenant Bertram, a Novel of the Nazi Luftwaffe, 1944)
  • The Shadow Thrower, 1945
  • Wir Söhne, 1948 (We Sons; novel)
  • Die heilige Kunigunde im Schnee und andere Erzählungen, 1949 (Saint Kunigunde in the Snow and Other Stories)
  • Landung in Australien: Reisebericht, 1950 (Arrival in Australian: A Travelogue)
  • Die Brücke: 3 Erzählungen, 1952 (The Bridge: 3 Stories)
  • Die Patrioten, 1954 (The Patriots; novel)
  • Tagebuch aus China, 1956 (Diary from China)
  • Mexikanische Erzählungen, 1957 (Mexican Stories)
  • Die Aufgabe: Eine Kollwitz-Erzählung, 1958 (The Task: A Kollwitz Story)
  • Gestalten und Probleme, 1959 (Figures and Problems)
  • Reise in einem blauen Schwan: Erzählungen, 1959 (Trip Inside a Blue Swan: Stories)
  • Sonntagsträumerei in der Alameda, 1961 (Sunday Dreamings in the Alameda)
  • Im Rhythmus der Conga: Ein kubanischer Sommer, 1962 (To the Beat of the Conga: A Cuban Summer)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Josie McLellan, Antifascism and Memory in East Germany: Remembering the International Brigades, 1945-1989, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 68
  2. ^ a b c d e McLellan, Antifascism and Memory in East Germany, p. 32
  3. ^ Ruth Liepman, Maybe luck isn't just chance, Northwestern University Press, 1997, p. 29
  4. ^ Timothy Scott Brown, Weimar radicals: Nazis and communists between authenticity and performance, Berghahn Books, 2009, p. 179
  5. ^ Jean Michel Palmier, Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America, Verso, 2006, p. 52
  6. ^ Philip Payne, Graham Bartram, Galin Tikhanov, A Companion to the Works of Robert Musil, Camden House, 2007, p. 83
  7. ^ Palmier, Weimar in Exile, p. 697
  8. ^ Palmier, Weimar in Exile, p. 211
  9. ^ Palmier, Weimar in exile, p. 235
  10. ^ James MacPherson Ritchie, German Literature under National Socialism, pp. 176-177
  11. ^ MacPherson Ritchie, German Literature under National Socialism, Taylor & Francis, 1983, p. 184
  12. ^ Palmier, Weimar in Exile, pp. 574-575
  13. ^ a b Conrad Kent, Thomas Wolber, Cameron M. K. Hewitt, The Lion and the Eagle: Interdisciplinary Essays on German-Spanish Relations over the Centuries, Berghahn Books, 2000, p. 32
  14. ^ Kristin Ruggiero, The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean: Fragments of Memory, Sussex Academic Press, 2010, p. 10
  15. ^ Palmier, Weimar in Exile, p. 373
  16. ^ Stephen Parker & Matthew Philpotts, Sinn und Form: The Anatomy of a Literary Journal, Walter de Gruyter, 2009, p. 180
  17. ^ Parker & Philpotts, Sinn und Form, p. 160
  18. ^ Parker & Philpotts, Sinn und Form, p. 146
  19. ^ Parker & Philpotts, Sinn und Form, p. 168
  20. ^ Parker & Philpotts, Sinn und Form, p. 181