State University of New York at Albany
9 cubic ft.
Germany-born writer who joined anarchist and socialist organizations, lived and traveled in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Russia, and who eventually, upon the rise of Nazism, emigrated to the United States where he lived in New York City until his death in 1967.
Processed in 1992 by Martha R. von der Gathen, October 15, 1992; Revised by Sandra Hunt Hawrylchak, July 2005, February 2006.
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by Gisela Blauner-Graf in December 1991.
The materials are located onsite in the department.
Oskar Maria Graf was born on July 22, 1894 in Berg on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria, Germany. He was the youngest son of the eight surviving children of baker Max Graf and Therese Heimrath. Graf's father was successful as a baker, providing a comfortable home and surroundings for the Graf family. Oskar entered elementary school in Berg in 1900, however shortly after his father's death in 1905, he began an apprenticeship in the family bakery under his older brother Max. Although Oskar endured nearly five years under the strict supervision of his brother, in 1911, to escape the beatings of his brother, he ran away to Munich where he joined a Bohemian group. He made connections with the anarchist circle "Die Tat" and in 1912 tramped to the Tessin region in southern Switzerland to join an anarchist colony. He became disillusioned with the colony and returned to Munich. During this time, supporting himself with odd jobs, he began to write poems and short stories. It wasn't until 1914, however, that he was able to get several of his poems published in the expressionist periodical Die Aktion (Berlin).
Graf was drafted into the German army in 1915 to serve on the Eastern Front. Graf went on a hunger strike, feigning insanity, until he was finally committed to a mental institution. By 1916, he was both released from the mental institution and discharged from military service. Graf returned to Munich where he worked in a factory and wrote reviews for the Munich newspaper München-Augsburg Abendzeitung. In 1918, Graf published his first major work, Wir sind Revolutionäre, married his first wife, Karoline Bretting, with whom he had a daughter, his only child, Annemarie, a year later. In 1918, he also met Mirjam Sachs, the cousin of poetess Nelly Sachs, who would later become his second wife. Later in the same year, he took part in anti-war demonstrations, and in 1919 participated in a revolution which resulted in the short-lived Soviet Bavarian Republic, and, after its defeat, was imprisoned for his participation.
In 1920 Graf became the dramatic producer of the Socialist worker's theater "Die neue Bühne" in Munich, and in 1922, published both Frühzeit and Zur freundlichen Erinnerung, with his Bayrisches Lesebücherl following in 1924. It wasn't until 1927, however, that Graf gained international recognition with the publication Wir sind Gefangene. Graf continued to write, publishing Das bayrische Dekameron in 1928 and Kalender-Geschichten in 1929, followed by of Bolwieser: Roman eines Ehemanns in 1931 and Notizbuch des Provinzschriftstellers Oskar Maria Graf in 1932.
In the early months of 1933 Graf was on a lecture tour in Austria. It was during this time, shortly after Hitler's rise to power, that the Nazis ordered the first of the book burnings. With the exception of Prisoner's All, however, Graf's books were recommended rather than burned by the Nazi regime. This prompted Graf to write his famous "Verbrennt mich!" ("Burn me too"), perhaps one of the most famous anti-Nazi statements, which was published in the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung on May 22, 1933. Graf remained in Austria in exile, where he lived until 1934, working as co-editor of the German expatriate journal Neue deutsche Blätter. In 1934, after having participated in a political uprising of Austrian workers against the Engelbert Dollfuss regime, Graf escaped to (Brno) Czechoslovakia, where he remained until 1938. He left for a short period to attend the First Congress of Socialist Writers in Moscow, but returned to Brno where he continued to write. Graf's novel Anton Sittinger was published in 1937 by the German exile publishing company Malik in London.
In 1938, Graf left Europe without his wife and child and fled to New York City. Mirjam Sachs followed Graf to New York, however it wasn't until 1944 that Karoline agreed to a divorce and the couple finally married. Graf's only daughter, Annemarie, remained in Germany to be raised by his mother, and eventually joined a German Youth organization under Hitler called the Bund Deutscher Mädchen (BDM). Graf, who was vehemently opposed to Hitler, was never close to his daughter and there are no letters in the collection between Graf and his daughter. While in New York, Graf made speeches before German-American groups and wrote regularly for the New York City German-language newspaper Aufbau, edited by his wife's brother, Manfred George. He also became president of the German-American Writer's Association during this period.
For a short time Graf lived in the artist colony Yaddo, near Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, where he completed work on the German version of his novel The Life of My Mother (Das Leben meiner Mutter), which portrayed life in Germany from the Bismarck era to the time of Hitler. He followed this with the publication of Unruhe um einen Friedfertigen, the story of a Jewish cobbler killed by the Nazis after having lived for many years fully integrated into the life of a Bavarian village.
Graf was unable to return to Germany immediately following the war. Not only had the Hitler regime revoked his German citizenship, but he was also unwilling to sign American citizenship papers because it would require him to bear arms. Finally in 1958, after the removal of the clause on bearing arms, Graf became an American citizen, and with his American passport, he was able to revisit Germany, and did so four times before his death.
Graf's second wife, Mirjam, died in 1959 after a long battle with breast cancer. He never wished to return permanently to Germany, claiming he did not like the "New Germany" and having become extremely comfortable in his exile home of New York. He never mastered the English language, primarily because as a writer he wanted his German to remain "pure". He established a regular German "Stammtisch" called "Die blaue Donau" in New York, and in 1962, married fellow exile Gisela Blauner, who had earned her Ph.D. in jurisprudence in Germany before being exiled. In 1964 Graf became corresponding member of the German Akademie der Künste (Academy for Arts) in Berlin.
Oskar Maria Graf died on June 25, 1967 in New York City of complications arising from pneumonia. His ashes were buried a year later in Munich, June 28, 1968. Graf was survived by his third wife, Gisela, who assisted in publishing new editions of his works and organized exhibitions devoted to displaying his life and works. His daughter, Annemarie Koch, and granddaughter Ricarda reside in Germany.
Chronology of Events : 1891 Born on July 22 in Berg on Lark Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany. 1900 Entered elementary school in Berg. 1906 Began apprenticeship in the bakery of his oldest brother, Max. 1911 Ran away from home with the intention of becoming a free-lance writer in Munich; worked at different odd jobs, making connections with the anarchist circle "Die Tat". 1912 Traveled to the Tessin region of southern Switzerland with friend, the painter Georg Schrimpf, to join an anarchist colony; returned to Munich after becoming disillusioned with the anarchists. 1914 Publication of poems in the Expressionist periodical Die Aktion (Berlin). Drafted to military service after the outbreak of World War I. 1915 Served as a soldier on the Eastern front; after a hunger strike and feigned insanity, is placed in mental institution. 1916 Discharged from mental institution and also from military service (September). 1917 Worked in a factory in Munich, while writing reviews for the München-Augsburger Abendzeitung. 1918 First marriage to Karoline Bretting; publication of Die Revolutionäre; participation in anti-war demonstrations in Munich; meets Mirjam Sachs. 1919 Birth of daughter Annemarie; participation in the "Soviet Bavarian Republic" and temporary imprisonment after its defeat. 1922 Publication of Frühzeit: Jugenderlebnisse and Zur freundlichen Erinnerung. 1924 Publication of Bayrisches Lesebücherl: Weissblaue Kulturbilder. 1927 Publication of Wir sind Gefangene. 1928 Publication of Das bayrische Dekameron. 1929 Publication of Kalender-Geschichten. 1931 Publication of Bolwieser: Roman eines Ehemanns. 1932 Publication of Notizbuch des Provinzschriftstellers Oskar Maria Graf. Feb. 17, 1933 begins lecture tour to Vienna, Austria; publication of anti-Nazi article "Verbrennt mich!" in the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung on May 11; books are banned in Germany shortly thereafter; co-editor of Neue Deutsche Blätter (Prague). 1934 Participation in the political uprising of Austrian workers and escape to Brno, Czechoslovakia; attends the first Congress of Socialist Writers in Moscow, Aug.-Sept.; returns to Brno. 1935 Publication of Der harte Handel: Ein bayrischer Bauernroman. 1936 Publication of Der Abgrund: Ein Zeitroman. January 1937 Co-signer of the appeal to form the German popular front; publication of novel Anton Sittinger. 1938 June, attends International P.E.N. Congress in Prague as representative in exile of the German P.E.N. Club; emigrates to the U.S. (New York); becomes President of the German-American Writers Association (G.A.W.A.). 1940 Publication of The Life of My Mother; conducts political speeches before German-American organizations and contributes regularly to the New York German-Jewish newspaper Aufbau. 1944 Co-founder of the exile publishing house Aurora with Wieland Herzfelde and others; marriage to Mirjam Sachs. 1946 First German edition of Das Leben meiner Mutter. 1947 Publication of the novel Unruhe um einen Friedfertigen. 1949 Publication of Die Eroberung der Welt: Roman einer Zukunft. 1958 Becomes an American citizen and returns to Germany for the first time. 1959 Death of Mirjam Sachs Graf; publication of Die Flucht ins Mittelmässige: Ein New Yorker Roman. 1960 Receives honorary doctorate degree from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; second visit to Germany. 1961 Publication of An manchen Tagen: Reden, Gedanken und Zeitbetrachtungen. 1962 Marriage to Gisela Blauner. 1964 Third visit to Germany; becomes a corresponding member of the German Academy of Arts in East Berlin. 1965 Last visit to Germany. 1966 Publication of Gelächter von aussen: Aus meinem Leben 1918-33. 1967 Death on June 25. 1968 Burial of Graf's ashes on June 28 in Munich, Germany.
Included in collection is correspondence with noted figures such as Heinrich Boll, Gunter Grass, Rainer Maria Rilke, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann and others of Graf's contemporaries, such as Albert Einstein, Otto Preminger, and His Holiness, Pope Paul VI; and correspondence also with family, friends, colleagues, compatriots in exile, newspapers, publishers, PhD candidates, and others. Includes also are copies of all Graf's published literary works; his unpublished novels, essays, aphorisms, poems, political writings, fragments, critiques of other authors; speeches; radio plays; critiques of Graf; loose pages of writing. Also included are articles, books, and material about exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the USA; and materials from various Goethe institutions.
The Oskar Maria Graf Papers consist primarily of photocopies of Graf's works (originals at the Staatsbibliothek, Munich); correspondence (primarily copies, some originals); large collection of newspaper clippings about Graf; numerous photographs of Graf, his family and acquaintances. The collection also contains correspondence of Gisela Graf, much of it concerning the collection of materials pertaining to her late husband and exhibitions of Graf materials after his death. The collection is divided into 8 series: Biographical materials and documents; Correspondence of Oskar Maria Graf; Correspondence of Gisela Graf; Writings of Graf; Newspaper and magazine articles (clippings), 1930-1988, about all aspects of Graf's life and death, including birthday celebrations, obituaries, burial site, commemorations of the day of his death, etc.; Exhibition materials; Miscellaneous materials collected by Gisela Graf; Photographs and drawings.
The collection is organized as follows:
Series arrangement statement: SUNY will complete.
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Oskar Maria Graf Papers, 1891-1967. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Inclusive Date: 1934-1989
The biographical materials in this series are a mixture of items from Graf's own files as well as materials were collected by Gisela Graf after his death. Included in the series are a large number of address files, citizenship materials, biographical and autobiographical statements by Oskar Maria and Gisela Graf, two scrapbooks of clippings by other authors collected by Graf, Graf's American passport, and miscellaneous financial documents.
Inclusive Date: 1920-1985
The correspondence in this series consists almost exclusively of photocopies of Graf's letters to and from prominent individuals collected by Mrs. Graf after his death. (Letters of Gisela Graf which continue Graf's correspondence after his death are also included in this series.) Included is a small amount of correspondence with family members, as well as correspondence with: Johannes R. and Lilly Becher, Siegfried Bernfeld, Heinrich Böll, Hermann Broch, Ferdinand Bruckner, Albert Ehrenstein, Albert Einstein, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger, Gustav and Else Fischer, Bruno Frank, Leonhard Frank, Günter Grass, Hugo Hartung, Th. Th. Heine, Hermann Hesse, Franz Jung, Prinz Hubertus zu Löwenstein, Erika, Heinrich, Katja, Klaus and Thomas Mann, Robert Neumann, Rudolf Olden, Rolf Recknagel, Erich Maria Remarque, Will Schaber, Dorothy Thompson, Sergei Tretiakov, Fritz von Unruh, Berthold Viertel, Ernst Waldinger, Wendell L. Wilkie.
Inclusive Date: 1967-1987
The Gisela Graf correspondence files date predominately from the time of her husband's death until 1986. It is a mixture of originals, carbons and photocopies; much of the correspondence deals with the posthumous publication of her husband's works and exhibitions concerning his life and career. Correspondents include: Jean Améry, Günther Anders, Eric Bentley, Ernst Bloch, Hilde Domin, Walter and Anne-Marie Fabian, Erich Fromm, Helmut Hirsch, Uwe Johnson, Mascha Kaléko, Alfred Kantorowicz, Hermann Kesten, Annemarie Koch (Graf's daughter by his first marriage), Ernst Lothar, Helmut Pfanner and the University of New Hampshire, Johannes and Gertrude Urzidil, Walter Wicclair, and Carl Zuckmayer.
Inclusive Date: 1919-1967
This series contains copies of Graf's published and unpublished writings, either in typescript or published form. The novels and story collections are listed first, followed by unpublished longer works, essays and short stories, and miscellaneous other pieces last. The series contains a mixture of original and carbon typescripts, clippings of published writings, and reviews of the individual works.
Inclusive Date: 1919-1989
Inclusive Date: 1913-1935
Inclusive Date: Undated
Inclusive Date: 1919-1978
Dates reflect publication date of clipping.
Inclusive Date: Undated
Inclusive Date: Undated
Inclusive Date: 1920-1990
This series consists primarily of clippings of articles about Graf over eight decades, including general articles, as well as numerous commemorative articles on birthdays and anniversaries of his death. Also included are typescripts of a number of articles discussing Graf and his works.
Inclusive Date: 1972-1988
This series consists of materials pertaining to exhibits of Graf and his work, and includes materials from the exhibits themselves, as well as notes and ideas by Gisela Graf in her efforts to assist with the exhibitions.
This series contains materials pertaining to the organizations in which Graf was involved, primarily during his years in the United States.
Inclusive Date: 1911-1984
This series contains hundreds of photographs, drawings and reproductions of paintings, which document all aspects of Graf's life, his family, his colleagues and friends, and exhibitions of his works.