Toller, Ernst

Toller, Ernst

(ĕrnst tôl`ər), 1893–1939, German dramatist and poet of the expressionist school. He was imprisoned (1919–24) for participating in the Communist Bavarian revolution. In 1932 he left Germany, and in 1936 he went to New York City, where he later committed suicide. His plays of social protest include Die Wandlung (1919, tr. Transfiguration, 1935); Masse Mensch (1920, tr. Man and the Masses, 1924); Die Maschinen-stürmer (1922, tr. The Machine-Wreckers, 1923), based on the Luddite riots in England; Hinkeman (1924, tr. Brokenbow, 1926); and Pastor Hall (tr. 1939), about Martin Niemoeller. Schwalbenbuch [swallow book] (1923), a collection of lyric verse, and Briefe aus dem Gefängnis [letters from prison] (1935), an account of his imprisonment, appeared together in English translation as Look Through the Bars (1937).


See his autobiography, Eine Jugend in Deutschland (1933, tr. I Was a German, 1934); study by J. M. Spalek (1968).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Toller, Ernst


Born Dec. 1, 1893, in Samotschin (present-day Szamocin, near the city of Bydgoszcz, Poland); died May 22, 1939, in New York. German writer.

Toller studied in Grenoble until 1914 and then in Heidelberg and Munich. He was one of the leading figures of expressionism. He joined the government of the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919. After the republic’s defeat he was imprisoned, and while in prison wrote Requiem to Murdered Brothers (1920) and Prisoners’ Poems (1921). He also wrote several plays, including Man and the Masses (1921, banned after the first performance; Russian translation, 1923); the central theme of the play is the problem of correlating the aim and the means of revolutionary struggle. Toller was also the author of the play Hoppla! (1927; translated into Russian as We Are Living, We Are Living!, 1928).

In 1933, Toller emigrated to the USA, where he published the collection of autobiographical sketches / Was a German (1933; Russian translation, 1935) and a play about life in a concentration camp, Pastor Hall (1939). Toller committed suicide while in a state of depression.


Prosa, Briefe, Dramen, Gedichte. Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1961.


Ekspressionizm. (Collection of articles.) Moscow, 1966.
Willibrand, W. A. Ernst Toller: Product of Two Revolutions. Norman, Okla. 1941.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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