Ewers, Hanns Heinz

Ewers, Hanns Heinz (1872–1943)

(pop culture)

Hanns Heinz Ewers, an enigmatic German nationalist and writer of horror fiction, made several contributions to vampire fiction. He was born in Düsseldorf (where serial killer Peter Kürten would later commit his crimes) and educated for a legal career which he abandoned for writing. His first noteworthy success was his novel, Alraune (1911) which has been adapted as a movie on five occasions, the most recent being a sound version in 1952. Earlier, in the 1907 The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, he had introduced a character, Frank Braun, who was always getting himself involved in nefarious schemes with horrific and boomerang effects.

Alraune followed the further downward spiral of Frank Braun, who was in debt due to his gambling but had figured a way out. He suggested a project to his uncle (a biologist), hoping that the uncle would take care of his financial debt. The experiment involved the insemination of a young woman with the semen of a sex criminal. They carried out the process of going to the worst part of town, kidnapping a harlot, and artificially inseminating her. The product of the experiment was Alraune, who grew into a beautiful young woman. However, Alraune became a vampire who attacked men sexually and then took their blood and soul. Braun became her victim, but survived when she died before finishing him off. Braun became a continuing character for Ewers and reappeared in his 1922 novel Vampir. In the meantime, during World War I he operated as a German agent in the United States for which he was interned and deported. In the novel, Braun jumped ship in San Francisco during World War I and made his way to New York where he became a writer of propaganda aimed at shifting America’s loyalty to Germany. In the process he met up with an old acquaintance, Lotti Levi. The wealthy woman began to make contributions to the German cause, and also went above and beyond by contributing blood to Braun. He had become a vampire who, like Alraune before him, killed and drained the blood of his lovers. Afterward he had no memory of his actions, and the novel ends without his vampirism being resolved.

Ewers authored a number of horror (and gruesome) short stories, but is better known for ending his career as a Nazi sympathizer (though he was not an Anti-Semite). He wrote the official biography of storm trooper Horst Wessel. He also seems to have fallen from Hitler’s favor as his writings glamorized some of the older leaders who had also fallen from Hitler’s favor. He also was opposed to anti-Semitism (and had pictured Braun’s lover in Vampir as a pro-German Jew) and felt Jews were as good as Germans racially. After he fell from grace, his books were banned and burned. Even after WWII only a few of his texts have been reprinted.

Sources:

Ewers, Hanns Heinz. Der Zauberlehrling. 1907. English edition as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
———. Alraune. 1911.
———. Vampir. 1922. English edition as Vampire.
Frenschkowski, Marco. “Von Schemajah Hillel zu Aaron Wassertrum. Juden und Judentum in der deutschsprachigen phantastischen Literatur.” In Thomas Le Blanc and Bettina Twrsnick, Hrg. Traumreich und Nachtseite. Die deutschsprachige Phantastik zwischen Décadence und Faschismus. Schriftenreihe und Materialien der Phantastischen Bibliothek Wetzlar 15. Wetzlar: Phantastische Bibliothel, 1995. pp. 126–157.
Kugel, Wilfried. Der Unverantwortliche: Das Leben des Hanns Heinz Ewers. Düsseldorf: Grupello, 1992.