Ernst von Salomon
He was born in Kiel, in the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein, the son of a criminal investigation officer. His ancestors had been members of the French Nobles of the Robe in Alsace about 1700; according to tradition, the dynasty originally came from the Venice aristocracy.
Salomon attended the Musterschule gymnasium in Frankfurt. From 1913 Salomon was raised as a cadet in Karlsruhe and in Lichterfelde near Berlin; during the German Revolution of 1918–19, he joined the paramilitary Freikorps ("Free-Corps") unit under Georg Ludwig Rudolf Maercker suppressing the Spartacist Uprising. Later in 1919, he fought in the Baltic against the Bolsheviks and the Latvian army. With his unit he took part in the Kapp-Putsch in March 1920. He also fought against Polish insurgents in the Third Silesian Uprising of 1921.
After the Freikorps units had been officially dissolved in 1920, Salomon joined the Organisation Consul and received a five-year prison sentence in 1922 for his part in the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau – he provided a car for the assassins. In 1927, he received another prison sentence for an attempted Feme murder (paramilitary "self-justice"), and was pardoned by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg after a few months – he had not killed the severely wounded victim, Wagner, when he pleaded for his life, which was noted by the court.
After his release from prison, Salomon committed himself to the support of Feme murder convicts and began to publish feuilleton articles in the national conservative Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, which earned him the attention of Conservative Revolutionary and National Bolshevist circles around Friedrich Hielscher and Arnolt Bronnen. In 1929 he backed his elder brother Bruno in his struggle for the Schleswig-Holstein Rural People's Movement by simulating a bomb attack on the Reichstag building in Berlin. He had to spend three months in investigative custody, whereby he finished his first novel The Outlaws (Die Geächteten), published by Ernst Rowohlt.
After 1933, Salomon said, he did not support Nazism. Unlike many other German writers and poets, he did not sign the Gelöbnis treuester Gefolgschaft proclamation of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. He had been arrested after the Nazi Machtergreifung, together with Hans Fallada, but was released after a few days. Suspiciously eyed by the authorities, who suspected him to be an adherent of Otto Strasser's "Third Position", he earned his living by writing film scripts. He supported Ernst Rowohlt after he had received a publishing ban for employing Jewish personnel and temporarily corresponded with conservative resistance circles around Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen. His lover, Ille Gotthelft, was Jewish but he was able to protect her from persecution by passing her off as his spouse. In his autobiography The Answers of Ernst von Salomon he described how both were mistreated by American soldiers when they were arrested, and called "Nazi swine."
Salomon was imprisoned by the Americans as POW from 1945–1946. The 1940 colonial film Carl Peters, for which Salomon wrote the screenplay, was forbidden by British occupation authorities for its claimed Anglophobia.
In 1951 he published the book The Questionnaire (Der Fragebogen), in which he gave his rather ironic answers to the 131 point questionnaire concerning their activities under Nazism. A famous public discussion of the book took place in the main train station of Cologne, organised by bookseller Gerhard Ludwig. In 1960, Salomon was among the founders of the German Peace Union (DFU).
Salomon died in Stöckte near Winsen.
(Note: this bibliography is incomplete.)
- Die Geächteten (translated as The Outlaws) (1930), a fictionalized account of Ernst von Salomon's adventures as a Freikorps fighter.
- Die Stadt ("The City" – translated as It Cannot Be Stormed) (1932)
- Die Kadetten ("The Cadets") (1933)
- Putsch ("Coup d'État") (1933)
- Der Fragebogen (The Questionnaire or Answers to the 131 Questions of the Allied Military Government “Fragebogen”) (1951).
- Die schöne Wilhelmine ("The Beautiful Wilhelmine") (1965)
- Der tote Preuße ("The Dead Prussian") (1973)