The Legacy (Böll)

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The legacy is a story by Heinrich Böll , which - written in 1948 - was published by Lamuv Verlag in Bornheim-Merten in September 1982 .

Wenk, returning from the war, fulfills the legacy of his friend Schelling, who is considered missing, by writing the story of Schelling's last months for his young brother.

The frame

At the time of the narration , the war is over and Captain Schnecker is enjoying himself in his home country. Back in civilian life and having just completed his doctorate, Schnecker is sitting next to a young woman in a café. He is watched by Wenk, the narrator. Wenk writes a very long letter to Lieutenant Schelling's 20-year-old brother. This letter is the present narrative. Right at the beginning of the letter, Schelling's brother, who was born later (who was still a youth at the end of the war), is confronted with a fact of which only Schnecker and Wenk have knowledge: Captain Schnecker murdered Lieutenant Schelling.

Wenk tells about the year 1943 - about the long, warm summer by the sea in the north-west of Normandy and about the short autumn up to the end of October on the eastern front in Army Group South .

The history

North French coast

Corporal Wenk, trained in the Wehrmacht as a rifleman and operator, serves as a reporter to Oberleutnant Schelling in Captain Schnecker's battalion. Schelling and Schnecker know each other well; even use terms. But the relationship between the two officers is tense. No wonder - the two characters are too different. Schelling fights against mismanagement in the Wehrmacht and is naturally inferior to the overpowering administration. In Schnecker's opinion, Schelling can be happy that after his lost trial in which he “was denied suitability as a company commander”, he was not given a lieutenant, but a captain as superior. Schelling owes this only to Schnecker. Captain Schnecker is generally dissatisfied with his subordinate, Oberleutnant Schelling. For example, Schnecker disapproves of Schelling's disrespectful treatment of the pompous picture of the Führer in the office. Or Schnecker criticized the fact that Schelling and Wenk took "the cheekiest pig of the battalion to the cleaner".

When the company commander who was not “able to be used in the East” fell ill, Schelling had to lead the company.

Russia, Eastern Front

The service and the events in France - that's all fun compared to the events in Russia. There, in the fight at the forefront, it soon becomes apparent what the officers Schelling and Schnecker were made of. Schelling coordinates the advance of his company to the battle line. The lieutenant is shaking immediately before the attack, but he is advancing personally. Schnecker, on the other hand, only shows up once after the fight and only to invite you to a binge. Whenever Schnecker shows up, there is new quarrel between the two officers. Schelling gave the troops off duty after the attack - as a breathing space before the next attack. Schnecker feels left out. Schelling goes to the small celebration at which he is to be honored for bravery in front of the enemy. He takes Wenk with him. At the festival between the drunken Schnecker and the sober Schelling there is a tangible argument, in the course of which Schelling is shot by Schnecker. Immediately after the murder, the Russian opponent attacks massively. Schnecker's entire fighting force is wiped out. Only Wenk and Schnecker can escape.

A friendship

It seems unusual for the Wehrmacht, this story of a friendship between a lieutenant and a corporal. The narrating soldier Wenk also has to admit that after five years of military service he and Schelling had met the first officer who balanced on the line between the commanding and the humble. Both are 25 years old. In France, Schelling and Wenk are still talking to you. When it turns out that they both love the beautiful Madeleine, Schelling goes on a duel with the subordinate and they let go of the young French girl, never to be seen again. Due to their employment relationship, Schelling and Wenk spend the short rest periods together in the shelter on the Eastern Front. Sometimes there are discussions about the nonsense of war.


The legacy - a work of art as if from a single mold - shows Böll's rare narrative talent. One can admire the refined narrative structure. A contrast creates a strange tension throughout the entire work: the weeks on the western front are described fairly broadly. The Wehrmacht does not live there like God does in France, but the service can be endured. The end of the story with the events on the Eastern Front is all the more succinct - with the advance against the Russian enemy, with wounding and death. The fear of death of all involved and the horror of the war of aggression come z. B. impressive to the language, when a break-in point must be cordoned off by Schelling's company. This is not a storm with a shout of cheers, but an anxious march into a dark, silent room. Unlike in France, the marchers step on corpses. Then the enemy artillery fire flares up. Grenades hit. Germans are dying. Wounded with severed limbs bleed to death.


“You always catch the little ones well”.


Hardly anyone wanted to hear about the last war in 1948. Böll couldn't find a publisher for the manuscript. In July 1948 he wrote: "Three years after the war one has to be afraid of the public again".

The front of the Atlantic coast

Wenk stands "in the north-western corner of Normandy ", "on this front of the Atlantic coast" and "the mouth of the summer " is not far. There is talk of Abbéville . At most that fits together if the whole English Channel is counted as part of the Atlantic; The Somme separates Normandy from Picardy in the east and flows into the canal. The Atlantic is about 500 km west of it.


  • Hoffmann emphasizes the book's anti-war character.
  • Balzer draws attention to the narrator Böll's view of the future.
  • In his concise, but accurate, socially critical summary, Vogt describes Schnecker as "unscrupulous" and Schelling as "uncomfortable because uncompromising".
  • Bernáth's comparison of the “short novel” “The Legacy” with The train was punctual is worth reading .
  • Bellmann points to Böll's classification of this work. The author describes it as a "story in letter form" and as a "war novel".


  • Heinrich Böll: The Legacy. Narration . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag Munich October 1984 (4th edition July 1990). 156 pages, ISBN 3-423-10326-4
First edition
  • Heinrich Böll: The Legacy. Narration . Lamuv Verlag Bornheim-Merten 1982. 158 pages
  • Heinrich Böll: The Legacy. Narration . Insel Verlag Leipzig 1984. Insel-Bücherei 1046. 93 pages
  • Bernd Balzer: Heinrich Böll works. Novels and short stories 1. 1947–1952 . Pp. 364-457. Kiepenheuer & Witsch Cologne 1977 (supplemented new edition 1987, 877 pages), ISBN 3-462-01871-X
Secondary literature
  • Gabriele Hoffmann: Heinrich Böll. Life and work . Heyne-Verlag biography 12/209 Munich 1991 (Cecilie-Dressler-Verlag 1977). 301 pages, ISBN 3-453-05041-X
  • Bernd Balzer: Anarchy and tenderness . in: Heinrich Böll works. Novels and short stories 1. 1947–1952 . Kiepenheuer & Witsch Cologne 1977 (supplemented new edition 1987, 877 pages), ISBN 3-462-01871-X
  • Jochen Vogt: Heinrich Böll . Verlag CH Beck München 1978 (2nd edition 1987), 192 pages, ISBN 3-406-31780-4
  • Árpád Bernáth: The 'Ur-Böll-Werk'. About Heinrich Böll's literary beginnings . Pp. 21-37. In: Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Ed.): Heinrich Böll . Issue 33 of Edition text + kritik Munich October 1982. 156 pages, ISBN 3-88377-120-1
  • Karl Heiner Busse: Too true to be beautiful. Early publications pp. 25–42 in: Bernd Balzer (Ed.): Heinrich Böll 1917–1985 for his 75th birthday. Peter Lang AG Bern 1992. 354 pages, ISBN 3-906750-26-4
  • Werner Bellmann : The literary work of Heinrich Böll in the first post-war years. An overview based on the estate . Pp. 11-30. In: Werner Bellmann (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag Opladen 1995, 292 pages, ISBN 3-531-12694-6
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German Authors A - Z . P. 68 (698 pages). Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Source, p. 1, 11. Zvo
  2. Bellmann, p. 203, entry 1982.18.
  3. Source, p. 106, 2nd Zvu
  4. Source, p. 101, 8. Zvo
  5. Source, p. 130, 1. Zvo
  6. Source, p. 107, 8. Zvu
  7. Quoted in Busse, p. 37, 16. Zvu
  8. Source, p. 13, 8th Zvu
  9. Source, p. 39, 3rd Zvu
  10. Source, p. 49, 13. Zvo
  11. Source, p. 120, 14. Zvo
  12. Hoffmann, pp. 271-272.
  13. Balzer, pp. [19] - [20].
  14. ^ Vogt, pp. 143-144.
  15. Bernáth, pp. 26–31.
  16. Bellmann, p. 20.