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by Bamber Gascoigne

Hans Fallada (1893-1947) - originally Rudolf Ditzen


German writer, representative of 'Neue Sachlichkeit', who took his pen name Fallada from the magical talking horse in the Grimm tale 'The Goose Girl'. The horse is killed because it always tells the truth and continues to do so even after decapitation. Fallada's best-known works include Kleiner Mann – was nun? (1932, Little Man, What Now?). It depicted the survival struggle and problems of a young couple, Johannes Pinneberg and Emma "Lämmchen" Mörschel, in Germany in the grip of unemployment. During World War II Fallada did not openly criticize the government, but published later on an intense story, Jeder stirbt für sich allein (1947, Every Man Dies Alone), about the life and thoughts of ordinary people in a police state. Primo Levi, the author of If This is a Man (1947), has called it "the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis."

"Persicke is some political functionary or other Eva Kluge always gets the titles mixed up. At any rate, she has to remember to call out "Heil Hitler!" at the Persickes' and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there's not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks." (in Every Man Dies Alone, translated by Michael Hofmann, 2009)

Rudolf Ditzen (Hans Fallada) was born in Greifswald, the son of Wilhelm Ditzen, a jurist, and Elisabeth Ditzen (née Lorenz), who came from a family of clerics. Fallada's father would later become a supreme court judge. In his childhood memoir, Damals bei uns daheim (1941) Fallada described him as a sensitive man, who loved music and literature, and suffered deeply, when he had to condemn somebody to death and attend and witness the execution. The first 18 years of his life Fallada spent in Berlin and Leipzig. In his youth he joined the Wandervogel association, which arranged walking tours and journeys to young people. Due to its opposition to petty bourgeois conventions, it was viewed with suspicion by teachers and parents.

A turning point in Fallada's life came in October 1911, when he caused the death of his friend, Hanns Dietrich von Necker. They had made a suicide pact, which was staged as a duel to protect the reputation of their families. Von Necker was fatally wounded, Fallada shot himself in the chest with his friend's revolver, but survived miraculously. Declared unfit for trial, Fallada was confined to an asylum. His attempt to enlist the army in 1914 was rejected. During these years Fallada developed a dependence on drugs and alcohol, with which he struggled his whole life.

In his childhood Fallada had found the fantasy world of books. Among his favorite writers was Karl May, whose works he later, as an adult, bought – all 57 volumes. At one point of his life he sold his library to buy morphine. In his early teens Fallada read also works by such authors as Flaubert, Zola, Daudet, and Maupassant. Encouraged by his aunt Adelaide, who had known Nietzsche, Fallada went to Berlin, where he was introduced to expressionist circles. He worked in odd jobs, as a clerk, a bookkeeper, an estate agent, a dealer in provisions, and a potato grower. Fallada once claimed that he learned to identify 1,200 varieties of the tuber.

Between the years 1920 and 1922 Fallada wrote his first novels, starting with autobiographical Der junge Goedeschal (1920). In order not to embrass his father, Fallada published it under his pseudonym, which he used for all of his subsequent books. The name was inspited by two Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, 'Hans in Luck' and 'The Goose Girl,'  which contains an enchanted horse named Falada. After his second novel, Anton und Gerda (1923), Fallada fell in silence for years. Neither novel was successfull, he became addicted to morphine, and was unable to write. Continuing his self-destructive way of life, Fallada was condemned into prison twice (in 1924 and 1926-28) for embezzlement when trying to finance his drug habit. Fallada also spent times in clinics for nervous illness. Wer einmal aus dem Blechnapf frißt (1934, Who Once Eats out of the Tin Bowl) drew upon his experiences in the Greifswald and Neumünster gaols.

In the late 1920s Fallada's life took a new turn. He joined a temperance society and married in 1929 Anna Margarete Issel, a working class woman, who become a balancing force in his life. The couple moved to Holstein where Fallada was employed by Neumünster Advertiser, rising to the rank of an editor, and had a close observation place in the conflict between the socialist administration and the protesting farmers. After moving back to Berlin, where he worked for the Rowohlt Verlag, Fallada wrote Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben (1931), his first important novel, which was based on his reporting of a trial in Neumünster. The famous satirist and critic Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) praised the book as "a political tetxbook of the Germanic species as good as one can wish to be," and even Joseph Goebbels admitted that it was wellwritten despite being published by a left-wing publishing house. ('Some Thoughts on the Political Opinions of Hans Fallada: A Response to Ellis Shookman' by Thomas M. Bredohl, in German Studies Review, Vol. 15, No. 3, Oct., 1992)

Kleiner Mann – was nun?, published by Rowolt, gained international success, and restored the firm's finances. (It was also the very first book in Rowohlt's paperback series starting in 1950, selling between 1950 and 1976 half a million copies.) As a tribute to his wife, Fallada modelled the figure of Lämmchen after her. Noteworthy, none of the main characters express stong political statements, they are reserved to minor characters. Johannes Pinneberg's colleague, a Nazi, is presented in an unsympathetic light. Those who joined in the chorus of praise included such names as Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Carl Zuckmayer and Graham Greene. 

The realistic style of Neue Sachlichkeit (new factualism) was born as a reaction against expressionism in the 1920s. Like the Futurists in Italy, the movement acknowledged the importance of technological advances to the development of a new view of the world. Its prominent representatives included Fallada, Erich Kästner, and Erich Maria Remarque. Fallada's characters struggle with the social and economic difficulties of the era, the Inflation of 1923 and its effects, unemployment, poverty, and the decline of moral values. Though in general cynicism and disillusionment was the tone of fiction which dealt with topical issues and the discontent of the Kleinbürger, Fallada's social critical stories were often progressive in their content and expressed his faith in people. Critics considered his uncomplicated style banal, but his works were well received by readers.

Shortly after the Nazis seized the power in 1933, Fallada was briefly arrested by a stormtrooper unit. The former owner of the house, which he had purchased in Berkenbrück, had falsely accused him of being an anti-Nazi conspirator. Following this experience, he moved into the country, in Carwitz, near Feldberg in Mecklenburg.

Little Man, What Now? was filmed in Hollywood in 1934 by Universal Pictures, with Douglas Montgomery and Margaret Sullivan in the lead roles. The director, Frank Borzage (1893-1962), was known for his unabashed sentimentalism and lyrical tenderness. Borzage's other memorable films from the 1930s are A Farewell to Arms (1932), based on Hemingway's novel, and Three Comrades (1938), adapted from the novel by Eric Maria Remarque.

Almost all Fallada's novels, which he wrote in the 1930s, were translated into English. Also Fallada's children's book became immense popular. Geschichten aus der Murkelei (1938), remained a classic for several generations of German children. Süßmilch Spricht: Ein Abenteuer Von Murr Und Maxe (1939) was commissioned by the Hitler Youth.

Setting aside Fallada's light non-contemporary novels, the best of these works provide an unique insight into everyday life in Germany by an author, who neither embraced Nazism nor left his home country, like so many of his friends and colleagues. To the annoyance of the literary authorities, he did his best not write books suitable to be used by the Third Reich propaganda machine, but continued to produce  entertaining but socially honest works. Nevertheless, there are occasions when he bent to the regime's will; they still haunt Fallada's reputation. ". . . although some of his work is informed by an insistent humanity in the face of hardship and suffering, he stands out as a weak and compromised writer." (Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany: The Literature of Inner Emigration by John Klapper, 2015, p. 77)

Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary entry fo 31 January 1938 that Fallada's 800 page panorama of Weimar during the hyperinflation of 1923, Wolf unter Wölfen (1937),  was "a super book" "("ein tolles Buch") and its author had "real talent". (More Lives than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams, 1998, p. 186) After the war the work was denounced as a fascist novel by the writer and journalist Hans Habe in the Munich newspaper the Neue Zeitung. In the Soviet zone authorities removed all copies of Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben from public libraries because of its criticism of Social Democrats (SDP) and the Communists (KPD).

Fallada was declared in September 1935 "undesirable," which led to bans on his translated work and overseas publications. Following a request by the Ministry of Propaganda, he rewrote the ending of Der eiserne Gustav (1938, Iron Gustav). All negative Nazi references were censored. Moreover, the title character's son join the Nazi storm stoopers. The book, his most notorious Nazi-era work, was aimed to be the basis of a film project starring Emil Jannings. Fallada's original manuscript has never been found. A restored edition was published in 1962 by the Aufbau-Verlag in East Berlin.

By the early 1940s, Fallada began to drink again, and had an affair with a woman, whom he later married. After a shooting incident when visiting Anna Issel – she took the gun, hit him in the head with it, and called a doctor – Fallada was incarcerated in an asylum in Alt-Strelitz for four months. Whilst there Fallada set out to write Der Trinker. Its almost illegible manuscript, scribbled in a very small hand and filling all empty places that could be filled, was not deciphered and published until 1950.

Der Trinker (1950). A novel written in the form of a diary. "Of course I have not always been a drunkard. Indeed it is not very long since I first too to drink. Formerly I was repelled by alcohol; I might take a glass of beer, but wine tasted sour to me, and the smell of schnaps made me ill. But then the time came when things began to go wrong with me." Erwin Sommer, a provincial merchant, starts to drink when his business is going down. His wife Martha, who had run the shop better, has devoted herself to take care of their home. Erwin has an affair with an other woman. He meets Lobedanz, who is an alcoholic and drinks with him Martha's money and tries to steal her silverware. He is later taken into an institution. Martha wants a divorce. In hospital Erwin infects himself with tuberculosis, hoping to die and to get drunk for the last time.

Besides Der Trinker, Fallada secretly wrote In meinem fremden Land: Gefängnistagebuch 1944 (2009), a book of memoir, and stories for children. During a visit to his home he managed to smuggle the papers out of the asylum. In February 1945 Fallada married a young widow Ursula (Ulla) Losch (née Boltzenthal), whose first husband, Kurt Losch, had been a soap manufacturer. Fallada's relatively short second marriage lasted until his death. Ulla was an alcoholic and morphine addict; Fallada himself had not touched morphine for twenty years. Fallada resumed his morphine habit. To pay their debts, he sold off his extensive library.

At the end of World War II Fallada was appointed mayor of Feldberg, after the Red Army had occupied the town. He held this post for only a few months. Later on he claimed, that the local Soviet commandant deliberately overworked him, "in order to get his hands on my twenty-four-year-old wife." ('Afterword' by Geoff Wilkes, in Every Man Dies Alone: Special 10th Anniversary Edition by Hans Fallada, 2019, p. 546) When he resigned he was taken up by the literary establishment of the German Democratic Republic. He settled in East Berlin, where he was employed by the Soviet-edited newspaper Tägliche Rundshcau (Daily Survey) and contributed to the East German journal Aufbau. With his wife Ursula he bought drugs from the black market and was long periods hospitalized. After Fallada's death his wife sold some of his manuscript to a local butcher. These papers, which included his memoir, remained out of sight for decades.

Fallada died of an overdose of morphine on February 5, 1947 in Berlin. His last works include the autobiographical novel Der Alpdruck (1947), set in the ruins of Berlin, and Jeder stirbt für sich allein, a story of a working-class couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, in their tragic fight against Gestapo. "The moral question is profound: if an action appears to have no effect, in that it is ignored or unnoticed by those to whom it was directed, then can it be considered to have had an effect in itself? And, if so, how is this effect felt and where is it manifested?" (Helen Dunmore, Guardian, Friday 7 January 2011) Fallada wrote the work in a few months before his death. It was the first anti-Nazi postwar novel published in Germany. One of the charcters, Dr. Reichhardt, refer to Otta and Anna as "the righteous few".

The real-life models of the fictional couple were two Berliners, Otto and Elise Hampel, who were executed in Plotenzee Prison in March, 1943, after conducting an anti-Nazi postcard campaign. "Free Press! Why suffer was and death for the Hitler plutocrazy?" they wrote in one of the cards. ('The Gestapo Files,' in Every Man Dies Alone: Special 10th Anniversary Edition by Hans Fallada, 2019, p. p. 562) As research for the book Fallad looked through the Gestapo files from 1942 concerning the case. The story was suggested by Johannes R. Becher, a German author who served in the Soviet military administration and who had provided Fallada with extra rations of food and fuel and a comparatively comfortable house in in the soviet sector of Berlin. Der Alpdruck, which came out posthumously, dealt with the feeling of guilt among survivors after the defeat and occupation of Nazi Germany.

For further reading: Hans-Fallada-Handbuch, edited by Gustav Frank and Stefan Scherer (2019); Hans Fallada: Biografie by André Uzulis (2017); Hans Fallada: die Biographie by Peter Walther (2017); Hans Fallada - nach wie vor: Betrachtungen - Erinnerungen - Gespräche - biographische Splitter by Gunnar Müller-Waldeck (2016); Der andere Fallada: eine Chronik des Leidens by Klaus-Jürgen Neumärker (2014); Ich bin nicht der, den du liebst: die frühen Jahre des Hans Fallada in Berlin by Cecilia von Studnitz (2007); Der Alp meines Lebens: Hans Fallada in Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein by Hannes Lamp (2007); Hans Fallada's Crisis Novels, 1931-1947 by Geoff Wilkes 2002); 'Hans Fallada 1893-1947' by Arrigo V. Subiotto, in Encyclopedia of German Literature, edited by Matthias Konzett (2000); More Lives Than One: A Biography of Hans Fallada by Jenny Williams (1998); Hans Fallada - sein Leben in Bildern und Briefen, ed. by G. Müller-Waldeck, R. Ulrich, U. Ditzen (1997); Es war wie ein Rausch: Fallada und sein Leben by Cecilia von Studnitz (1997); Hans Fallada: Beitrèage zu Leben und Werk: Materialien der 1. Internationalen Hans-Fallada-Konferenz in Greifswald (1993); Hans Fallada Als Politischer Schriftsteller by Reinhard K. Zachau ( 1990); Techniken der Leselenkung bei Hans Fallada by Angelika Kieser-Reinke (1986); Leben und Tode des Hans Fallada by Tom Crepon (1978); Hans Fallada in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten by J. Manthey (1973); Hans Fallada: Humanist and Social Critic by H.J. Schueler (1970); Hans Fallada by L. Frank (1966). Other writers who gained fame in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s: Bertolt Brecht, Erich Kästner, Joachim Ringelnatz, Carl Zuckmayer, Alfred Döblin, Ernst Glaeser, Hermann Kesten, Erich Maria Remarque, Leonhard Frank, Arnold Zweig, Ernst Wiechert.

Selected works:

  • Der junge Goedeschal, 1920
  • Anton und Gerda, 1923
  • Bauern, Bonzen und Bomben, 1931
    - A Small Circus (translated by Michael Hofmann, 2012)
    - Film: TV adaptation 1973 (5 episodes), dir. Egon Monk, prod. Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR)
  • Kleiner Mann – was nun?, 1932
    - Little Man, What Now? (translated by Eric Sutton, 1933; Susan Bennett, afterword by Philip Brady, 2009)
    - Mikä nyt eteen, Pinneberg? (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1933) / Mikä nyt eteen, pikkumies? (suom. 1935)
    - Films: 1933, dir. Fritz Wendhausen, screenplay Herbert Selpin, starring Hermann Thimig, Hertha Thiele, Viktor de Kowa, Ida Wüst; 1934, dir. Frank Borzage, screenplay William Anthony McGuire, starring Margaret Sullivan, Douglass Montgomery, Alan Hale ("Frank Borzage directed this fine, very unusual film that is set in Germany in the early thirties. Adapted from a novel by Hans Fallada, story tells of marriage between young bookkeeper Douglass Montgomery and lovely Margaret Sullivan, who are willing to endure hardships and poverty because of their great love for one another. ... Fine acting, authentic creation of pre-Hitler Germany, a strong argument for love. With Hollywood ignoring the Depression in the U.S., this was one the few films of the era to depict the plight of the indigent lumpen proletariat. Also with: Mae Marsh, Alan Mowbray, Hedda Hopper." Danny Peary in Guide for the Film Fanatic, 1986); TV film 1967, dir. Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, teleplay Klaus Jörn, starring Arno Wyzniewski, Jutta Hoffmann, Inge Keller, Wolf Kaiser; TV film 1973, dir. Peter Zadek, prod. Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)
  • Wer einmal aus dem Blechnapf frißt, 1934
    - The World Outside (translated by E. Sutton, 1934) / Who Once Eats out of the Tin Bowl (U.K. title, 1969)
    - Joka kerran keksitään (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1934)
  • Wir hatten mal ein Kind, 1934
    - Once We Had a Child (translated by E. Sutton, 1936)
    - Oli meilläkin ennen lapsi (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1934)
  • Märchen vom Stadtschreiber, der aufs Land flog, 1935
    - Sparrow Farm: The Tale of the City Clerk Who Flew into the Country for a Holiday (translated by E. Sutton, 1937)
  • Wizzel Kien, der Narr von Schalkemaren, 1935
  • Altes Herz geht auf die Reise, 1936
    - An Old Heart Goes A-Journeying By (tr. 1936)
    - Kummisetä ja Rosemarie (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1936)
    - Films: 1938, dir. Carl Junghans, starring Eugen Klöpfer, Helga Marold, Maly Delschaft, Gerhard Bienert, Carl Kuhlmann; TV film 1987, dir. Hans Knötzsch
  • Hoppelpoppel – wo bist du?, 1936
  • Wolf unter Wölfen, 1937
    - Wolf Among Wolves (translated by P. Owens, 1938; restored, and with additional translations by Thorsten Carstensen and Nicholas Jacobs, 2010)
  • Der eiserne Gustav, 1938
    - Iron Gustav (translated by P. Owens, 1940)
  • Geschichten aus der Murkelei, 1938
  • Dies Herz, das dir gehört, 1939 (film script)
  • Süßmilch spricht. Ein Abenteuer von Murr und Maxe, Erzählung, 1939
  • Kleiner Mann, Großer Mann – alles vertauscht, 1940
    - Ajatella – me perimme linnan: eli rahan murheet ja riemut (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1942)
  • Der ungeliebte Mann, 1940
  • Damals bei uns daheim, 1941 (ed. Lee Chadeayne and Paul Gottwald, 1972)
    - Lapsuudenkodissa: katsottua, koettua, keksittyä (suom. Lauri Hirvensalo, 1944)
  • Die Stunde, eh' du schlafen gehst, 1941
  • Ein Mann will hinauf, 1942
  • Der Jungherr von Strammin, 1943 (ed. Barbara Thron, 1996)
  • Heute bei uns zu Haus, 1943
  • Der Alpdruck, 1947
    - Alone in Berlin (translated by Michael Hofmann, 2016)
    -  Film 2016, dir. by Vincent Pérez, starring Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and Daniel Brühl
  • Jeder stirbt für sich allein, 1947
    - Every Man Dies Alone (translated by Michael Hofmann, afterword by Geoff Wilkes, 2009) / Alone in Berlin (U.K. title, 2009)
    - Kukin kuolee itsekseen (suom. V. Arti, 1949) / Yksin Berliinissä (suom. Ilona Nykyri, 2013)
    - Films: TV film 1962, dir. Falk Harnack, prod. Sender Freies Berlin (SFB); TV mini-series 1970, dir. Hans-Joachim Kasprzik, prod. Deutsche Film (DEFA), cast: Erwin Geschonneck, Elsa Grube-Deister, Wolfgang Kieling, Dieter Franke; 1976, dir. Alfred Vohrer, starring Hildegard Knef, Carl Raddatz, Martin Hirthe, Gerd Böckmann
  • Der Trinker, 1950
    - The Drinker (translated by C. and A.L. Lloyd, introduction by John Willett, 1990)
    - Elinkautinen (suom. Kyllikki Mäntylä, 1953)
    - TV film 1995, dir. Tom Toelle, prod. Artus-Film, cast: Harald Juhnke, Jutta Wachowiak, Deborah Kaufmann, Eberhard Esche, Christian Grashof
  • Zwei zarte Lämmchen weiß wie Schnee, 1953
  • Fridolin, der freche Dachs, 1944
    - That Rascal, Fridolin (translated by R. Michaelis-Jena and R. Ratcliff, 1959)
  • Junger Herr – ganz groß, 1965
  • Gesammelte Erzählungen, 1967
  • Lieschens Sieg und andere Erzählungen, 1973
  • Hoppelpoppel, wo bist du?: Und andere Kindergeschichten, 1989
  • Falladas Früwerk in zwei Bänden, 1993 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Wizzel Kien. Der Narr von Schalkemaren, 1995 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Drei Jahre kein Mensch: Erlebtes, Erfahrenes, Erfundenes : Geschichten aus dem Nachlass, 1929-1944, 1997 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Strafgefangener, Zelle 32: Tagebuch 22. Juni-2. September 1924, 1998 (ed. Günter Caspar)
  • Pechvogel und Glückskind: Ein Märchen für Kinder und Liebende, 1998
  • Mein Vater und sein Sohn: Briefwechsel, 2004 (ed. Uli Ditzen)
  • Wenn du fort bist, ist alles nur halb: Briefe einer Ehe, 2007 (ed. Uli Ditzen)
  • Ewig auf der Rutschbahn: Briefwechsel mit dem Rowohlt Verlag, 2008 (ed. Michael Töteberg and Sabine Buck)
  • In meinem fremden Land: Gefängnistagebuch 1944, 2009 (ed. Jenny Williams and Sabine Lange) [A Stranger in My Own Country]
  • Junge Liebe zwischen Trümmern: Erzählungen, 2018 (herausgegeben und mit einem Nachwort von Peter Walther)
  • Ohne Euch wäre ich aufgesessen: Geschwisterbriefe, 2018 (herausgegeben von Achim Ditzen)
  • Der eiserne Gustav: Roman, 2019 (herausgegeben und mit einem Nachwort von Jenny Williams)

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