Jakob Schaffner

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Jakob Schaffner c. 1920.
Jakob Schaffner c. 1920.

Jakob Schaffner (14 November 1875 – 23 September 1944[1]) was a leading Swiss novelist who became a supporter of Nazism.

Emergence as a writer[edit]

Born on 14 November 1875 in Basel, both his father and his mother, a native of the State of Baden, died when he was young, leaving him to be reared in an orphanage.[1][2] His early experiences inspired his most celebrated novel Johannes (sometimes known as Roman einer Jugend), which was published in 1922 and was a semi-autobiographical story of life in an orphanage.[1] He initially worked as a shoemaker before turning to writing and held a number of other jobs throughout his life whilst an author.[1] As a young shoemaker Schaffner travelled extensively as a journeyman in the Netherlands, Belgium and France, which heavily influenced his later writing, much of which was concerned with travel.[2]

He studied at the University of Basel, and wrote his early works in Basel.[3] In his very early days Schaffner was sympathetic to communism but he would switch at an early age to nationalism.[1][4]

In 1912, Schaffner moved to Charlottenburg, near Berlin, Germany, after marrying a German woman and was driven by his German ethnic identity.[1][3] His native spoken tongue was the Alemannic German dialect but seeking to rid himself of regional peculiarities and become what he described as an "all-German" he consciously adopted north German forms and expressions in his writing.[2] He was strongly critical not only of Judaism but also of Christianity, dismissing the Bible as "a foreign collection of texts".[5]

Far right activity[edit]

He later returned to Switzerland and from 1936 to 1938 was active on behalf of the National Front, leaving the movement along with Rolf Henne and Hans Oehler.[1] For a time Schaffner was a member of the Bund Treuer Eidgenossen Nationalsozialistischer Weltanschauung, a pro-Nazism group established by Henne, Oehler and others on the extreme wing of the National Front.[6] Schaffner had initially been a sceptic about Nazism but soon became a strong supporter of Adolf Hitler, feeling that he could spearhead a renovation of Europe.[1]

During the Second World War Schaffner returned to live in Germany.[1] He joined the Nazi Party and worked as a propagandist for Joseph Goebbels.[citation needed] He rarely returned to Switzerland, except for a meeting with cabinet minister Marcel Pilet-Golaz in 1940 alongside Ernst Hofmann and Max Leo Keller, two leading members of the recently established Swiss Nazi movement, the National Movement of Switzerland.[7]

He was killed in 1944 during an air raid on Straßburg[1] and was buried in his hometown Buus in September 1944. Having formerly been widely regarded as a writer, Schaffner's reputation in German-speaking literary circles was damaged significantly after the war due to his support for Nazism.[1]

Literary works[edit]

  • Irrfahrten (Wanderings) 1905
  • Die Laterne und andere Novellen (The Lantern and other novellas) 1907
  • Konrad Pilater 1910, a story of a rather whimsical journeyman shoemaker, embodying scenes of Schaffner's boyhood as a shoemaker[3]
  • Der Bote Gottes (The Messenger of God) 1911
  • Die goldene Fratze (The Golden Fratze – a German term for a distorted or ugly face or grimace) 1912
  • Die Irrfahrten des Jonathan Bregger (The Wanderings of Jonathan Bregger) 1912, a new edition of Irrfahrten of 1905[3]
  • "The Iron Idol,” an English translation of one of his stories, appears in Kuno Francke, ed., German Classics, v. 19, New York, 1914
  • Die Weisheit der Liebe (The Wisdom of Love) 1919
  • Konrad Pilater (new version) 1922
  • Johannes 1922
  • Brüder (Brothers) 1925
  • Das grosse Erlebnis (The Grand Experience) 1926
  • Die Jünglingszeit des Johannes Schattenhold (The Young Manhood of Johannes Schattenhold) 1930 (sequel to Johannes)
  • Eine deutsche Wanderschaft (A German Journey) 1933 (third Johannes book)
  • Offenbarung in deutscher Landschaft. Eine Sommerfahrt (Revealing in German Landscape – A Summer Journey) 1934
  • Berge, Ströme und Städte. Eine schweizerische Heimatschau (Mountains, Rivers and Cities – A Swiss Homeland Show) 1938
  • Kampf und Reise (Struggle and Journey) 1939 (final part of Johannes tetralogy)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Philip Rees (1990) Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, Simon & Schuster, p. 347, ISBN 0-13-089301-3
  2. ^ a b c Mohammad A. Jazayery (1978). Linguistics and Literature / Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 161–162. ISBN 978-3-11-080764-6.
  3. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Schaffner, Jakob" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  4. ^ Georges André Chevallaz (2001) The Challenge of Neutrality: Diplomacy and the Defense of Switzerland, Lexington Books, p. 96, ISBN 0739102745
  5. ^ Heinrich Karl Fierz (1991) Jungian Psychiatry, Daimon, p. 392, ISBN 3856305211
  6. ^ Philip Rees (1990) Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, Simon & Schuster, p. 178, ISBN 0-13-089301-3
  7. ^ Pierre-Th Braunschweig (2004) Secret Channel To Berlin: The Masson-Schellenberg Connection And Swiss Intelligence In World War II, Casemate Publishers, p. 337, ISBN 1612000223

External links[edit]