Ernst Weiss (writer)

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Ernst knows
Ernst Weiss Autograph.jpg

Ernst White (born August 28, 1882 in Brno , † June 15, 1940 in Paris ) was an Austrian doctor , writer and literary translator.


Weiß, who came from a Jewish family, was the son of the cloth merchant Gustav Weiß and his wife Berta Weinberg. The father died on November 24, 1886. Despite financial problems and multiple changes of school (among other things, he attended high schools in Leitmeritz and Arnau ), Weiss successfully passed the Matura (Abitur) in 1902. He then began to study medicine in Prague and Vienna . He finished his studies in 1908 with a doctorate in Brno and then worked as a surgeon in Bern with Emil Theodor Kocher and in Berlin with August Bier .

In 1911 Weiss returned to Vienna and found a job at the Wiedner Hospital . His correspondence with Martin Buber also dates from this time . After suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis , he worked as a ship's doctor at the Austrian Lloyd in 1912 and 1913 and came to India, Japan and the Caribbean with the steamer Austria .

In June 1913, Weiß made the acquaintance of Franz Kafka . This confirmed his work as a writer, and white made his debut in the same year with his novel The Galley .

In 1914, Weiß was drafted into the military and took part in the First World War as a regimental doctor in Hungary and Volhynia . After the end of the war he settled as a doctor in Prague and worked there in the general hospital in 1919 and 1920.

Berlin memorial plaque on the house at Luitpoldstrasse 34, in Berlin-Schöneberg

After a short stay in Munich, Weiss settled in Berlin in early 1921. There he worked as a freelance writer, a. a. as an employee at the Berlin stock exchange courier . From 1926 to 1931, Weiß lived and worked in Berlin-Schöneberg . A plaque commemorates this at Luitpoldstrasse 34. The writer Ödön von Horváth , with whom Weiss was close friends, lived in the same house for a while .

In 1928, Weiß was awarded the Adalbert Stifter Prize by the State of Upper Austria . In the same year he also won a silver medal in the art competition at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam .

Shortly after the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933, he left Berlin forever and returned to Prague. He looked after his mother there until her death in January 1934. Four weeks later, Weiss emigrated to Paris. Since he did not get a work permit there as a doctor, he began to write for various émigré magazines, including a. for The Collection , The New Day Book and Measure and Value . Since he could not make a living with this work, the writers Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig supported him .

Ernst Weiß 'last novel The Eyewitness was written in 1939. In the form of a fictitious medical autobiography, the "healing" of the hysterical war blind AH after his military defeat in a Reichswehr hospital at the end of 1918 is reported. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, the doctor was taken to a concentration camp because he was an eyewitness: His knowledge of AH's illness could be dangerous to the Nazis. At the cost of handing over the documents, “the eyewitness” is released and expelled from Germany. Now he no longer just wants to be an eyewitness, but rather practically organized fighting and decides to fight on the side of the Republicans for the liberation of Spain and against Franquism, which is politically allied with Nazi Germany .

When Weiss witnessed the invasion of the German troops in Paris from his hotel on June 14, 1940, he committed suicide by cutting open his wrists in the bathtub of his hotel room after taking poison. Ernst Weiß died in the nearby hospital on June 15, 1940 at the age of 57.

His suicide is processed literarily in the novel Transit by Anna Seghers . Since his death, a large suitcase with unpublished manuscripts has disappeared. The location of his grave is unclear.

White translated the works of French authors into German, such as Honoré de Balzac (e.g. Farewell! And Colonel Chabert ), Guy de Maupassant ( Pierre and Jean ), Marcel Proust ( e.g. Freuden und Tage ), Alphonse Daudet ( Tartarin from Tarascon ). Some of these translations are still in print today. From the English he translated z. B. James Mallahan Cain .


  • The galley , Roman, S. Fischer, Berlin 1913
  • Der Kampf , Roman, S. Fischer, Berlin 1916 (since 1919 Franziska )
  • Animals in chains , novel. S. Fischer, Berlin 1918
  • The Feast of Atonement, a seal in four circles . In: Der Mensch (magazine), 1918
  • Man against man , novel. Georg Müller Publishing House, Munich, 1919
  • Tanja , drama in 3 acts, premiered in Prague in 1919
  • Star of Demons , narrative. Cooperative publisher, Vienna 1920
  • Nahar , novel. Kurt Wolff Verlag, Munich 1922
  • Hodin , narration. Publisher H. Tillgner, Berlin 1923
  • The ordeal by fire , novel. Die Schmiede publishing house, Berlin 1923
  • Atua , stories. Kurt Wolff Verlag, Munich 1923
  • The Vukobrankovics case , crime report . The forge, Berlin 1924
  • Men in the night , Roman (around Balzac). Propylaea Verlag, Berlin 1925
  • Demon train , stories. Ullstein, Berlin 1928
  • Boëtius of Orlamünde , Roman. S. Fischer, Berlin 1928 (Adalbert Stifter Prize, silver medal at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam (misinterpretation as a sports novel)) (since 1930 The Aristocrat )
  • The Captive, Essays - Ernst Rowohlt Verlag, Berlin 1928. New edition ed. Carsten Schmidt, Lexikus Verlag 2011, ISBN 978-3-940206-30-5
  • Georg Letham. Doctor and murderer , Roman. Zsolnay, Vienna 1931
  • The prison doctor or the fatherless , Roman. Julius Kittls Nachf., Mährisch-Ostrau, 1934
  • The poor spendthrift , novel (dedicated to Stefan Zweig). Querido Verlag , Amsterdam 1936
  • Jarmila . Novella. Suhrkamp, ​​1998 et al. (written 1937)
  • The seducer, novel (dedicated to Thomas Mann). Humanitas Verlag, Zurich 1938
  • I, the eyewitness , Roman. Kreißelmeier publishing house, Icking 1963
  • The second eyewitness and other selected works , 1978
  • The art of storytelling, essays, essays, writings on literature , 1982 (Under the title The calm in art. Selected essays, literary reviews and personal testimonies 1918–1940 in Aufbau-Verlag, Weimar 1987)
  • Collected works , 16 volumes. suhrkamp paperback 1982 (st 798)

Film adaptations

  • 1988: Franta
  • 2004: my father, my wife and my lover


  • Thomas Diecks:  White, Ernst. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 27, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2020, ISBN 978-3-428-11208-1 , p. 688 f. (not yet available online).
  • Know, Ernst. In: Lexicon of German-Jewish Authors . Volume 20: Susm – Two. Edited by the Bibliographia Judaica archive. De Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 2012 ISBN 978-3-598-22700-4 pp. 273-284
  • Mona Wollheim: meeting with Ernst Weiss. Paris 1936-40 . Kreisselmeier, Icking 1970, ISBN 3-87446-032-0
  • Klaus-Peter Hinze: Ernst Weiss; Bibliography of primary and secondary literature. Weiss-Blaetter publishing house, Hamburg 1977
  • Peter Engel (Ed.): Ernst Weiß . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1982 ISBN 3-518-38520-8
  • Margarete Pazi: Ernst Weiss. Fate and Work of a Jewish Central European Author in the First Half of the 20th Century . Peter Lang, Frankfurt 1993 ISBN 3-631-45475-9
  • Tom Kindt: Unreliable storytelling and literary modernity. An examination of Ernst Weiss' novels . Studies on German Literature, 184. Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 2008 ISBN 978-3-484-18184-7
  • Christiane Dätsch: Existential problems and narrative strategy. Studies on parabolic narration by Ernst Weiß . (Studies on German Literature, 186) Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 2009 ISBN 978-3-484-18186-1
  • Ingrid Kästner: Medicine and Judaism in the life and work of the writer Ernst Weiß . In: Caris-Petra Heidel (Ed.): Jewish Medicine - Jewish in Medicine - Medicine of the Jews? Series: Medicine and Judaism , 10. Mabuse, Frankfurt 2010 ISBN 3-940529-85-0 pp. 149–160

Web links

Commons : Ernst Weiß  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ernst Weiß  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Traugott Krischke: Ödön von Horváth . Munich 1980, p. 84. Horváth dedicated his novel The eternal philistine to Weiss .
  2. Daudet, the two Balzac texts and Freuden und Tage , filed there under Days of Freedom according to the Ullstein edition in 1960, can be read in the Gutenberg-DE project .
  3. Contents
  4. Original title: The eyewitness ; In 1963 the title had to be temporarily changed due to legal disputes. In the GDR, Weiss' novel was published as Der Augenzeuge by Aufbau-Verlag (2nd edition Weimar, 1986); The Frankfurt Suhrkamp-Verlag also published the Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch 2000 Weiß 'novel under the original title Der Augenzeuge , ISBN 3-518-39622-6
  5. A folder with correspondence about Ernst Weiß, written by contemporary writers; List of references in English, the papers mostly in German