A Youth in Germany
  • Publication Date: February 16, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781554816170 / 1554816173
  • 300 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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A Youth in Germany

  • Publication Date: February 16, 2024
  • ISBN: 9781554816170 / 1554816173
  • 300 pages; 5½" x 8½"

This is the first critical, contextualized edition in English of Eine Jugend in Deutschland (1933), the remarkable autobiographical account of Ernst Toller (1893–1939), one of the most important German writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Toller was a celebrated poet and, along with Bertolt Brecht, the most significant and innovative playwright of the Weimar Republic. Completed at the beginning of Toller’s exile from Nazi Germany, Eine Jugend in Deutschland gives a remarkable account of his childhood as the son of Jewish merchants in Eastern Prussia under Kaiser Wilhelm II, his studies in France, his eager service at the Western Front during World War I, his conversion to pacifism, his activism in the German Revolution of 1918–19 and leadership in the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, his trial for high treason, and his incarceration as a political prisoner of the Weimar Republic. Toller’s work, both acclaimed and controversial, left its mark on his contemporaries and is still inspiring writers today.

Featuring a vibrant new translation, thorough annotation, and appendix materials on the literary, political, and biographical contexts of the work, this edition will make Toller’s great work of autofiction accessible to contemporary readers.


A Youth in Germany was first published in 1933 in Amsterdam, shortly after Hitler came to power. Its author, the politically committed Jewish poet and dramatist Ernst Toller, had already left Germany, never to return. More than simply an autobiography or a moving picture of the early twentieth century, the book is a masterwork of German literature that centers on one of the most prominent cultural protagonists of the Weimar Republic. The translators and editors have made it available again in an excellent translation and rich edition.” — Liliane Weissberg, University of Pennsylvania

“This wonderful new translation restores both the original text and the rich historical, social, and cultural contexts that inform the work of a writer and activist who was as polarizing as he was inspiring. Nationalist then socialist and pacifist, politically engaged and then viciously persecuted for his politics, Toller writes of his experiences in World War I, in the Weimar Republic, and as an exile in the United States. These make for gripping reading indeed. As Christiane Schönfeld and Lisa Marie Anderson note in their engaging introduction to this work of stubborn remembrance, Toller’s A Youth in Germany cannot help but resonate with contemporary culture wars and what now passes for politics.” — Neil Christian Pages, Binghamton University

List of Images
Ernst Toller: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

A Youth in Germany

Appendix A: Literary Contexts

  • 1. Franz Werfel: Selected Poems
    • a. “Lächeln Atmen Schreiten” (“Smile Breathe Stride”)
    • b. “Der Krieg” (“War”)
  • 2. Richard Dehmel: Selected Poems
    • a. “Deutsches Lied” (“German Song”)
    • b. “Der Dichtergeist” (“The Poetic Spirit”)
    • c. “An mein Volk” (“To My People”)
  • 3. Ernst Toller: Selected Poems
    • a. From Das Schwalbenbuch (The Swallow Book)
    • b. From Vormorgen (Before Tomorrow)
      • i. “Schlaflose Nacht” (“Sleepless Night”)
      • ii. “Wälder” (“Forests”)
  • 4. Ernst Toller, Review of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Literarische Welt (22 February 1929)
  • 5. The Writer’s Mission: Responses by Ernst Toller, Arnold Zweig, Bertolt Brecht, and Joseph Roth, Pariser Tageblatt (1934)
  • 6. Two Reviews of A Youth in Germany
    • a. From Henry Baerlein, “‘I Was a German.’ Ernst Toller’s Autobiography,” Manchester Guardian (23 February 1934)
    • b. From Margaret Wallace, “Ernst Toller’s Striking Autobiography,” New York Times (1 April 1934)
  • 7. W.H. Auden, “In Memory of Ernst Toller” (1939)

Appendix B: Socio-Political Contexts

  • 1. From Rosa Luxemburg, Letters to Luise Kautsky (1975 [1917–18])
  • 2. From Gustav Landauer, An Appeal to Writers (1918)
  • 3. Walter Rathenau, “A Dark Day [Ein dunkler Tag],” Vossische Zeitung (7 October 1918)
  • 4. From Max Weber, Science as a Vocation / Politics as a Vocation (1917/19)
  • 5. “Eisner Murdered”: Proclamation issued by the Bavarian Soldiers’ Council, the Ministry for Military Affairs, and the Office of the Munich City Commander (21 February 1919)
  • 6. Declaration of the Munich Soviet Republic (7 April 1919)

Appendix C: Biographical Contexts

  • 1. Hugo Haase, Address to the Munich Summary Court-Martial (15 July 1919)
  • 2. Character References (1919)
    • a. Thomas Mann
    • b. Max Weber
  • 3. From Ernst Toller, Justiz-Erlebnisse/Experiences with the Judicial System (1927)
  • 4. Ernst Toller, Speech to the PEN Club, Edinburgh (June 1934)

Appendix D: Images

  • 1. Former home of the Toller family in Szamocin, Poland
  • 2. Memorial plaque in Szamocin, Poland
  • 3. Young Ernst Toller as war volunteer, August 1914
  • 4. Toller in uniform, 1915
  • 5. Max Weber among students (including Ernst Toller) in Lauenstein, 1917
  • 6. Wanted poster (offering a 10,000 Mark reward for Toller’s capture), Munich, 15 May 1919
  • 7. Toller in the courtyard of Niederschönenfeld prison
  • 8. Toller in his cell in Niederschönenfeld prison

Index of Names

Eoin Bourke (1939–2017) was Professor of German and Head of Department, National University of Ireland, Galway (now University of Galway). Eva Bourke is a German-Irish poet and translator. She has taught in creative writing programs at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and at the MFA program at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Christiane Schönfeld is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of German Studies, Mary Immaculate College (University of Limerick), Ireland. Lisa Marie Anderson is Professor and Chair of German, Hunter College, City University of New York.