Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer

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Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer
Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, um 1920.jpg
Born December 30, 1878 Edit this on Wikidata
Budapest Edit this on Wikidata
Died April 12, 1962 Edit this on Wikidata (aged 83)
Munich Edit this on Wikidata

Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer (December 30, 1878, Budapest – April 12, 1962, Munich) was an Austrian novelist, poet and playwright. Later based in Germany, he belonged to a group of writers that included the likes of Hans Grimm, Rudolf G. Binding, Emil Strauß, Agnes Miegel and Hanns Johst, all of whom found favour under the Nazis.[1] He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature five times.[2]

Early life[edit]

A Volksdeutscher from the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he attended school in Budapest before furthering his education in Karlsbad and Vienna.[3] Kolbenheyer studied philosophy, psychology and zoology at the University of Vienna and earned his PhD in 1905. He became a freelance writer and came to specialise in historical novels that were characterised by their fixation with all things German.[3] In 1908 he published Amor Dei, a novel about life and thinking of the Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, which made Kolbenheyer fairly known. Kolbenheyer published an anthology with own poetry under the title Der Dornbusch brennt (i.e. Burning bush) in 1922. Between 1917 and 1925 he produced his most celebrated works, a trilogy of novels about Paracelsus, and in these books Kolbenheyer explored many of the Völkisch movement concepts prevalent at the time by presenting his hero as the Nordic race archetype struggling against racial degeneracy and immorality.[4] In 1929 he published „Heroische Leidenschaften“ (i.e. Heroic Passions), a drama about the Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno. Having settled amongst the Sudeten Germans, Kolbenheyer's right-wing attitudes solidified and he came to pre-empt many ideas of Nazism, notably in his theoretical work Die Bauhütte (1925), which predicted a turn away from 'Judeo-Christianity' as the source of German salvation.[3] This work has been identified as being one of the main influences on Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century.[5] In Kolbenheyer's own words the addressee of his book "Bauhütte" is the "philosophical conscience ... of the white race" which he wanted to arouse.[6] A strong opponent of left-wing politics, he joined Wilhelm Schäfer in resigning from the Akademie der Künste in 1931 over what he saw as their support for the activities of Heinrich Mann and Alfred Döblin.[7]


He continued to write widely under the Nazis, taking up his pen to praise Adolf Hitler in a poem and to defend the Nazi book burnings, as well as to write pro-Nazi war novels such as Karlsbader Novellen 1786 (1935) and Das Gottgelobte Herz (1938).[3] The Gottgelobte Herz (i.e. The God-blessed heart) is a novel about the Dominican nun Margareta Ebner. Indeed, his star rose under the Nazis because his literature fitted their world view.[8] He was one of a number of writers added to the Prussian Academy of Arts after the Nazis came to power in 1933 at the expense of the likes of Franz Werfel, Ludwig Fulda and Jakob Wassermann, none of whom shared the Nazi weltanschauung.[9]

His 1934 play Gregor und Heinrich, concerning Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Pope Gregory VII, demonstrated an instance of his pro-Nazi stance as he dedicated it to "the German spirit in the process of being resurrected".[10] As a reward for his high standing under the Nazis he was one of six writers included on 'List A' or the 'List of the God-gifted', properly known as the Gottbegnadeten list, who were exempted from military service on account of their prestige.[11] He was also awarded the Goethe Prize in 1937.[12] In 1940 he published the anthology Vox humana.

Post-war writing[edit]

Kolbenheyer was banned from writing for five years after the Second World War although from his base in West Germany he continued to publish novels that were largely in the same nationalist spirit as his previous output.[13] He also became a regular contributor to the far right, pan-European nationalist journal Nation Europa.[14]


  1. ^ Raymond Furness, The twentieth century, 1890-1945, 1978, p. 255
  2. ^ "Nomination Database". Retrieved 2017-04-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d Robert S. Wistrich, Who's Who in Nazi Germany, 2001, p. 144
  4. ^ Andrew Weeks, Paracelsus, 1997, pp. 25-6
  5. ^ Klaus P. Fischer, Nazi Germany: A New History, London, 1996, p. 369
  6. ^ Christian Jäger, Minoritäre Literatur: Das Konzept der Kleinen Literatur am Beispiel Prager- und Sudetendeutscher Werke, Deutscher Universitats-Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3824446073, p. 158; Kolbenheyer: "weltanschauliche Gewissen [...] der weißen Menschheit"
  7. ^ Jay W. Baird, Hitler's War Poets, 2008, p. 54
  8. ^ Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship, Penguin, 1970, p. 324
  9. ^ Viktor Reimann, The Man Who Created Hitler, William Kimber, 1977, p. 182
  10. ^ Karl-Heinz Schoeps & Kathleen M. Dell'Orto, Literature and film in the Third Reich, pp. 130-1
  11. ^ Reimann, The Man Who Created Hitler, p. 192
  12. ^ R. Wistrich, Who's Who in Nazi Germany, 1984, p. 177
  13. ^ Karl-Heinz Schoeps & Kathleen M. Dell'Orto, Literature and film in the Third Reich, p. 289
  14. ^ Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship, Penguin, 1970, p. 585
Preceded by
Georg Kolbe
Recipient of the Goethe Prize
Succeeded by
Hans Carossa