The angel was silent

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The angel was silent is a novel by Heinrich Böll , which - written in 1949/50 - was published posthumously in Cologne in 1992 on the author's 75th birthday.

A great love is told. Hans Schnitzler, returning from the war, finds Regina Unger. Charity is the second major theme of this novel. Elisabeth Gompertz, the wealthy charitable donor, can oppose the rich, hard-hearted Dr. Dr. Fishermen don't argue. The place of the action, although not mentioned once, is “unmistakable: Cologne”.

Cologne 1945


May 8, 1945: Hans Schnitzler's hometown, located on the Rhine, was bombed by air raids. Hans enters the badly damaged hospital of the Vincentine Sisters in the uniform of a highly decorated sergeant . The Wehrmacht member is looking for Mrs. Elisabeth Gompertz. He wants to tell her how her husband was shot by his own people. Hans was a prisoner of the Wehrmacht and should be shot for desertion. Sergeant Willi Gompertz made it possible for him to escape by forcing his uniform jacket on Hans. Then Gompertz was accidentally shot.

Frau Gompertz, who has a serious stomach problem, has been discharged from the hospital and is at home. Hospital surgeon Dr. Weiner helps the wanted Wehrmacht member Hans to a new identity. Hans simply pulls the coat of a certain Regina Unger over the treacherous uniform skirt. Regina was also discharged from the hospital after giving birth.

Hans goes to Frau Gompertz and reads her husband's will to the sick. Willi Gompertz bequeathed the entire considerable property to his wife. Hans goes to Regina and brings her the coat. Regina's baby died. He is a victim of the shootings in the last days of the war. Hans tells Regina about his short, unhappy marriage. He could only spend one night with his wife. The woman was killed on a train ride during an air raid. Regina doesn't want to be alone. Hans is allowed to go into hiding with her. His situation is difficult. Initially, he did not dare to leave the house with false papers, nor did he apply for food stamps at the residents' registration office. Regina makes the necessary forays through the city and later she gets Hans better papers on the black market. With these he applies for and receives his trademarks. Then Hans takes part in the struggle for survival. He regularly steals briquettes from freight trains. But Regina undertakes the larger fishing trips. The young woman donates for the sick daughter Dr. Fischer's blood and collects the rich art collector's hefty premium for it. Fischer is related by marriage to Mrs. Gompertz. He wants to get the will of his brother-in-law Willi Gompertz by all means. So he wants to prevent the use of Gompertz's property for charitable purposes. Shortly after Mrs. Gompertz succumbs to her stomach ailment, Hans catches the Dr. Fisherman rooting for the will. Fischer takes the paper forcibly.

Hans and Regina, looking for witnesses, want to be married in church.


The story alternates between Hans and Dr. Fischer, with the passages about Hans dominating. Hans and Regina are abandoned and “just have life”. Hans envies the dead their rest. Only in the last third of the novel - after he and Regina have confessed their love to each other - does he take on life.

According to Bellmann, the text is influenced by Léon Boy's writings The Blood of the Poor and The Ungrateful Beggar : Hans asks the nun in the hospital and the chaplain in his old parish church for bread. Regina gives her blood for the rich. Frau Gompertz spits large amounts of blood in her last hour.

The eponymous picture of the large, silent marble angel - used twice - not only connects the beginning with the end of this contemporary novel . At the beginning of the novel, the homecomer looks "with strange joy" into the face of the sculpture , but the angel smiles painfully, as if he were proclaiming: There is no home in this story. Hans and Regina then find each other, but the end of the novel is by no means comforting. The unscrupulous, selfish, triumphant over charity Dr. Fischer kicks the angel in the dirt.

Edition history

Friedrich Middelhauve announced the novel in Opladen for the spring of 1951 . On August 17, 1950, Böll had sent his work to the publisher. There were objections. The reader's taste must also be taken into account. Because the war theme is no longer desired. On July 30, 1951, the author received his manuscript back and used parts of it for short stories (e.g. The Night of Love , The Taste of Bread , Inspection , The Gutter ). Böll takes over some passages, sometimes literally, in the novel Und Said Not a Word , published in 1953 . In 1992 Annemarie , René , Vincent and Viktor Böll together with Heinrich Vormweg publish the work from the estate. Werner Bellmann and Beate Schnepp reconstruct the text of the novel from the estate materials, complete it by inserting the entrance passage designed by the author ( published separately in the FAZ in 1951 ) and set it up for printing


  • “The angel was silent” , so Böll wrote to Paul Schaaf in September 1949, was a “novel of the lost generation ”.
  • Böll has resisted the term "realist". This reluctance of the author is understandable to the reader when he z. B. admired the magic inherent in the love story recited in the novel.
  • Böll did not want to be shoved into the "Catholic writer" drawer. Although the protagonist Hans repeatedly visits his old parish church in his distress, prays and even confesses to the chaplain, Böll's portrayal of the church also has two sides in this work: Dr. Dr. Fischer, the villain in the novel, is close to the highest church circles.


  • The narrator is “disappointed about the missed new beginning” after the collapse of the Third Reich.
  • Schnepp points out the characteristics of the novel that apply to Böll's early work. "The heroes come ... from the lower classes of society ... They have nothing ... and do not strive for possession". Even more, Böll shows solidarity “with the non-privileged people”.
  • The female figures, that is Regina and Elisabeth, are "surrounded by an unreal-seeming wreath of light".
  • In keeping with the theme of charity, Böll conceived two dialogues - about poverty and money - but then discarded them.
  • WG Sebald takes the view that the novel ignores “imposed taboos” and conveys an approximate idea of ​​“the depth of horror that threatened to seize everyone who really looked around the ruins”. It is therefore plausible that “precisely this story, which is apparently characterized by incurable melancholy”, could not have been expected of the contemporary audience.


First edition
  • Verena Auffermann: When the war was over. Heinrich Böll's first novel about the "zero hour" . In: Frankfurter Rundschau . Book fair supplement. No. 228. September 30, 1992. S. B13.
  • Hans Joachim Bernhard: "No home in this world" . In: new German literature. Volume 40, 1992, Issue 478, pp. 138-140.
  • Michael Butler: Love among the ruins . In: The Times Literary Supplement . Volume 91, No. 4671, October 9, 1992, p. 24.
  • Hans Daiber : The dry bread of the early years . In: The world . November 21, 1992.
  • Ulrich Greiner: Not reconciled. A man is coming home. The city is in ruins. The future is a hole. 43 years ago Heinrich Böll wrote his first novel “The Angel Silent”, which is now appearing for the first time . In: The time . No. 36, August 28, 1992, pp. 53f.
  • Jochen Hieber: "The angel was silent". Heinrich Böll's first novel as a preprint in the FAZ In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . May 29, 1992.
  • Stefan Koldehoff: The angel was silent for 43 years. Heinrich Böll's first novel will appear in August of this year . In: the daily newspaper (Berlin). May 27, 1992, p. 15.
Secondary literature
  • Beate Schnepp: The writer's job. Böll's artistic self-image as reflected in unknown evidence. In: Werner Bellmann (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1995, ISBN 3-531-12694-6
  • Werner Bellmann: From “The angel was silent” to “And didn't say a single word” . In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations . Edited by WB Reclam, Stuttgart 2000, pp. 82-108.
  • Kálmán Kovács: “The angel was silent”. Heinrich Böll's novel from the estate . In: University of Dayton Review. Volume 23, 1995, No. 2, pp. 15-27.
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German Authors A-Z . Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8 , p. 68

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Böll 1992, pp. 198-204
  2. Bellmann in: Böll 1992, p. 211, 8. Zvo
  3. Böll 1992, p. 196, 4. Zvo
  4. Bellmann in: Böll 1992, p. 202
  5. Léon Bloy: The Blood of the Poor . Salzburg and Leipzig 1936
  6. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz:  Bloy, Léon. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 1, Bautz, Hamm 1975. 2nd, unchanged edition Hamm 1990, ISBN 3-88309-013-1 , Sp. 626-628.
  7. Bellmann in: Böll 1992, p. 212, 1. Zvo
  8. Böll 1992, p. 7, 3rd Zvu
  9. Böll 1992, p. 196, 6th Zvu
  10. Böll 1992, pp. 190, 191: The last sentence of the novel
  11. Bellmann in: Böll 1992, p. 6, 204-207
  12. From Bellmann quoted in Boell 1992, p 198, 14. ZVO
  13. footnote 40 in Schnepp, p. 59, 10th Zvu
  14. Footnote 41 in Schnepp, p. 59, 9. Zvu
  15. Bellmann in: Böll 1992, p. 211
  16. Schnepp, p. 58, 18. Zvo
  17. footnote 38 in Schnepp, p. 59, 4. Zvo
  18. Schnepp, p. 49, 24. Zvo
  19. Schnepp, p. 56 above
  20. Sebald, Luftkrieg und Literatur, Munich / Vienna 1995, pp. 18f.