Monthly Fragebogen: The National Movement Swallowed Whole

Nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s account of the Third Reich’s absorption of the National Movement, from his 1951 memoir Der Fragebogen


This is the first entry in a new ARPLAN series: The Monthly Fragebogen. Over the next year I intend to post, once a month, an excerpt from Ernst von Salomon’s famous novel Der Fragebogen (in English ‘The Questionnaire’ or ‘The Answers’). Der Fragebogen was first published in 1951 by the Rowohlt Verlag publishing house and instantly became a huge success. Using the US Military Government’s de-nazification questionnaire for its structure, the autobiographical novel was the first major best-seller in West Germany and sold in large numbers both inside Germany and out, helping to cement Ernst von Salomon’s place in German literature. von Salomon, a Freikorps veteran and a member of the Weimar-era Conservative Revolutionary literary milieu, had been a successful novelist before the War, but it was Der Fragebogen which really made his name. It is an excellent book, one of my personal favorites, and as well as being a stirringly-written novel it provides an unparalleled introduction into the chaotic tumult that was German life and politics from the early 1900s until the collapse of the Reich in 1945. von Salomon rubbed shoulders with countless people of historical importance at one point or another, many of them members of the National Movement – Adolf Hitler, Ernst Röhm, Hans Zehrer, Ernst Jünger, Claus Heim, Bodo Uhse, Othmar Spann, Hans Grimm, Martha Dodd, Otto Meissner, Konrad Henlein, Hans Fallada, Hanns Ludin… He lived quite a life, and Der Fragebogen is quite a book. 

The excerpt below is taken from Section E. of Der Fragebogen, ‘Membership in Organisations’. This long passage provides an on-the-ground view of the complicated relationship which the new National Socialist government had with other members of the National Movement during the regime’s early years. Although they were all ostensibly on the same side, the National Socialists and nationalist paramilitaries like the Stahlhelm, Wehrwolf, Kampfring, etc. had competed and occasionally fought against one another during the ‘time of struggle’, and the peace between them after 1933 was uneasy. In this excerpt von Salomon describes how the paramilitary he was associated with – the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt, headed by the eponymous, infamous nationalist revolutionary Captain Hermann Ehrhardt (“the Kapitän”) – was swallowed whole by the National Socialists like the Stahlhelm and all the others. The Ehrhardt Brigade had taken part in the Kapp Putsch; it had provided training to the SA when it was first being established; its members (as the ‘Organization Consul’) had been responsible for the assassination of government ministers Erzberger and Rathenau; under the name Bund Wiking it had dabbled in plotting revolution; and yet now it could no longer independently exist in the Third Reich it had longed to bring to power. On 17th July, 1933, as von Salomon describes below, the Brigade took part in a ceremony at Saaleck to both honor its fallen martyrs and to finally publicly commit its loyalty to Hitler’s government. A month later the Marinebrigade was incorporated as an independent unit of the SS. Less than a year after that, in February 1934, its independence was annulled, it was dissolved, and its members expelled or absorbed. Four months on and Kapitän Ehrhardt was forced to flee his fatherland lest he meet the same fate as Röhm or Schleicher. von Salomon’s description of these events is bitter; a man who fought and yearned for a nationalist Germany, yet was appalled at the betrayals this resulted in. 

The nationalist militant organisations had ‘profited’ by the National-Socialists’ seizure of power. As the result of a compromise within the ‘national government,’ which had included such non-National-Socialist ministers as Hugenberg, Seldte and Papen, they had been placed on an equal footing with the Party’s organisations – which meant that they might do part of the latters’ dirty work. The SA and they received a sort of authority to act as police.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” I remarked to the Kapitän. “Just what we always wanted!”

The Kapitän said angrily:

“God knows, I don’t wish to see you in a spot where you’ll be glad I kept the Brigade together.”

The Kapitän had appointed Walther Muthmann commandant of the Berlin division of the Brigade, a force of some fifty unemployed seamen whom the Kapitän had set up in a home and who wore the old, grey uniform of the navy with the imperial crown on their buttons and the Viking ship on their sleeve. They did nothing but sit about in the home and cost the Kapitän a considerable amount of money. But there they were, and Muthmann, also dressed in uniform and wearing the long loose officer’s cape, the spanier of the old navy, appeared everywhere as though behind him reverberated the tramp of a hundred thousand marching feet.

“Have you got guns?” I asked him.

“Not many,” he said. “A couple of pistols – but,” he added emphatically, “we clean them every day.”

At that time we were all living on the cheap fame of time passed, the Kapitän at our head. There was a splinter-group called, officially, the German National Youth League, and popularly the ‘green boys’ because they walked about in green shirts. This group had long been a thorn in the eye of the SA, and one day the SA fell upon them, and among the men arrested and lugged off to the SA headquarters in the Pape Straße was a member of the Brigade. Muthmann, in all the glory of his cloak, went there at once to demand the man’s release. But the SA just locked up Muthmann too. He was put in the cellar with the other arrested men and, like them, he was beaten up. But in contrast to the others this was no novelty for Muthmann, and he managed to fight his way through the SA men until he got to Group Leader Ernst. Bloody and bruised, he shouted in Ernst’s face:

“And you pretend to be soldiers!”

He had instinctively struck exactly the right note. These people had proclaimed the ‘soldierly virtues’ as the essence of education. If they were capable of feeling anything they felt the slur that it never occurred to anybody to mistake them for real soldiers. Muthmann, incidentally, had never been a soldier himself. The Group Leader set Muthmann free, together with the member of the Brigade. Muthmann immediately informed the Kapitän, who went at once to see Vice-Chancellor Papen. It was never quite clear what exactly Papen had said, but when the Kapitän came out his face was flushed with rage. He had a furious telephone conversation with the chief of the Berlin police, the former Admiral von Levetzow. The Kapitän could be uncommonly insulting when he chose, and he chose now. At last he banged down the receiver and shouted to Muthmann:

“Write a letter! Send copies to all units of my Brigade! To all officers of the Party, the police, the SA! And to the Government!” He strode up and down in a fury, dictating:

“Should armed and uniformed bodies of men approach the Brigade Home they must be, according to repeated assurances given me by the government and by the police authorities, Communists in disguise. I am therefore ordering that, should this happen, fire will be opened upon them at once.”

And indeed no armed and uniformed bodies of men approached the Brigade Home from then on – but it was situated in a quiet locality. One by one the militant organisations gave up. Seldte, now a minister, handed over his Stahlhelm for incorporation in Roehm’s SA. The little Werewolf, a splinter group of the Stahlhelm’s youth organisation, was swallowed piecemeal. Everyone believed that the Kapitän was ready to open fire, and he hesitated before making contact with Roehm; besides, there remained an old hostility from the days of the Hitler Putsch. But there was also an old enmity between the Kapitän and Hitler himself. Papen and Seldte did their best to create concord. One day during this period the Kapitän received an invitation to visit Seldte. Plaas described to me the awkward atmosphere that the Kapitän’s entry into the reception hall created. Hitler saw him, pushed his way through the people gathered about him, walked up to the Kapitän smiling, and held out his hand. The Kapitän was completely taken by surprise, since he had no idea that Hitler would be present. He was just about to take Hitler’s hand when suddenly he stopped and withdrew his own. Hitler continued to smile as though nothing had happened. The Kapitän and Plaas left at once.

“Good God!” he said, “for a moment I’d actually forgotten that I’d sworn never to shake that fellow’s hand again. Thank God I remembered in time!”

“That was the old Kapitän!” said Plaas, but in reality he was the old Kapitän no longer. Why did he not take a step back, he and his fossilised Brigade? Could the old bluffer no longer do so? Or did he think there were still trumps to be picked up? There was the Wehrmacht, still waiting, and everybody asked: “What is the Wehrmacht doing?” There was Papen with his mysterious Catholic Action. And there, not least of all, was the navy, with which the Kapitän preserved the most intimate relations. And an admiral was chief of the intelligence services. “Why doesn’t the Kapitän take a step back?” I asked Plaas, and he replied, in a melancholy voice: “He can’t. He’s sworn to stand fast. It would seem to him desertion.”

As every year on the anniversary of the death of Kern and Fischer, I wished to go to Saaleck to visit their grave. I telephoned Plaas to ask him if he wished to come too. He replied in a rather stilted voice that the Kapitän had invited me to drive out with him in his car. When I came round to Plaas’s house he was in uniform. Soon the Kapitän arrived, likewise in uniform. He looked at me, with evident surprise, and asked:

“Why aren’t you in uniform?”

I said I had none. Plaas said:

“He’s still never been enrolled in the Brigade.”

The Kapitän was furious.

“Good God!” he said, “you’ve always got to be something special, haven’t you?”

I clicked my heels and boomed:

“Right, Herr Kapitän!”

In the car the Kapitän said:

“Doesn’t he know what’s going to happen then, Plaas?”

“No, Herr Kapitän!”

The Kapitän grinned and said:

“Well, it’ll be a surprise for him.”

It was a surprise. The Brigade was being incorporated. A reconciliation had taken place between the Kapitän and Hitler. During a steamer trip on the Starnberger Lake they had come to an agreement. Papen had acted as intermediary. The Kapitän had complained of the behaviour of the SA, and Hitler had recommended to him that he join the SS. The SA was supposed to be the army’s dangerous competitor, while the SS was envisaged as possibly taking over the functions of the police. The Kapitän had no wish to find himself in any sort of opposition to the army. Hitler told him that his Brigade would be incorporated as a unit into the SS and would remain under the Kapitän’s command. The members of the Brigade were even to keep their grey uniforms and were to act as a sort of liaison unit between army and police. The Kapitän would be appointed to the rank of Brigade Leader, and his people would keep the ranks they already held.

“Plaas,” the Kapitän asked, “what will your rank be?”

Plaas had not given the matter any thought. The Kapitän said:

“As my adjutant you have the rank of captain. So you can work it out for yourself.”

Plaas worked it out and said:


The Kapitän said:

“Is that what they call it? Devilish funny ranks they’ve thought up for themselves.”

We sat in silence, but the Kapitän could not stop talking. He asked me:

“And you? What rank do you want?”

I said:

“None, Herr Kapitän!”

“The devil you don’t,” said he, “if I’m not too good to join this circus what makes you think you are?”

After a while he said, with a grin:

“I’ll appoint you the critical officer on my staff.”

I did not know what that was. He said:

“I just invented it. The very thing for you, and a pleasant sort of job. Whenever I make a decision you’ll criticise it. That’s all.”

I said:

“And then the Herr Kapitän will act as the Herr Kapitän had planned!”

He said:

“Plaas, I think he’s too intelligent for the job after all.”

The Kapitän was driving the car himself. I sat beside him. After a while he said:

“Ask your damn fool question if you want to.”

I said:

“Herr Kapitän . . . was this inevitable?”

The Kapitän said:

“It was inevitable.”

In Saaleck I left the Kapitän and Plaas. The Brigade was drawn up in a field, units from all parts of Germany amounting in all to some four hundred men. They stood in a solid square. SA and SS columns were marching along the road towards them. I went to the cemetery. But at the gate there was posted an SS sentry, with steel helmet and rifle. I wished to enter the cemetery. He stopped me and asked to see my pass. I had no pass. I said I wanted to visit the grave of good friends, but he would not let me through. So I went back into the village. After a while I met Ernst-Werner Techow. He too was in civilian clothes. He too had been turned back by the sentry, but he had scaled the wall further on and had visited the grave. It was marked by a new, large, square block of stone which bore the names of Kern and Fischer and the inscription: “Do what you must, conquer or die, and leave the decision to God.” This inscription had been chosen by the Kapitän.

Techow and I made our way to the garden of an inn whither it was our custom to go each year. Tillessen was already seated there, and he too was not in uniform. Then while a roll of drums reverberated from the field where the parade was taking place, Fischer’s brother arrived, dressed as a naval captain, with Ditmar, the ‘war criminal’ whom we had once upon a time rescued from Naumburg prison and hidden in Saaleck castle. Ditmar wore the uniform of a lieutenant-commander. He was once again on the navy’s active list. Then came Kurt Wende, Kern’s brother-in-law, dressed as a leader of the National Labour Service. Cars drove past along the street, and we recognised Roehm, Himmler, Sauckel, each with his own big entourage. Groups of Hitler Youth and of the League of German Maidens came by.

Techow asked the old waiter for news of a master baker with whom he had always stayed in previous years when visiting the tomb.

“He’s in a concentration camp,” said the waiter.

Techow told us that the master baker was a fine, very patriotic man. The waiter said that he had spoken against the National-Socialists.

“I know you,” said the waiter. “Do you remember the man, the union secretary, who called out the workers at the time the castle was surrounded…?” “What about him?” “There he is now,” said the waiter. And there he came, wearing the uniform of a Party dignitary. Techow pointed out the man to the others. He said:

“It fits them all now. All those others.”

Wende became uncomfortable. He said:

“Don’t start bitching. I’m in uniform.”

But Ditmar said good-naturedly:

“I’m in uniform too, and as far as I’m concerned you can bitch all you like. During the whole of the Weimar period I never had any trouble. But nowadays they grub about in my mail and they tap my telephone. They’re a constant pest to me, this gang!”

Techow said a great deal that was on his mind. Ditmar listened with a worried expression on his face. He had only recently returned from Spain, where he had been in hiding. He said:

“It all looked so different from abroad!”

Then Plaas arrived.

“Here you are,” he said. “I might have guessed it. The Kapitän wants you to come on down.”

Techow was against this idea:

“Why do they want us? What have we got to do with this nautical jamboree?” None of them wished to go. “What’s it got to do with us?”

Plaas turned to me:

“The Kapitän definitely wishes to have a word with you.”

I went with him. I’ve never been a spoilsport.

The Kapitän stood alone in front of the little green square which was his Brigade. To either side stood the deep columns of the SS and the SA, with banners, standards and brass bands. In front of the ranks of the SS stood high Party leaders in all their splendour. When the Kapitän saw us coming he walked across.

“You, Plaas,” he said, “will stand behind me and to my right.” He turned to me. “And you will be so good as to stand behind me and to my left. And pay attention, because I’m going to make a speech.”

Then he turned on his heel and with Plaas and myself following re-entered the hollow square. He took up his position in front of the Brigade.

I felt very uncomfortable. For so far as the eye could see I was the only civilian present. My only consolation was the thought that I should doubtless have felt even more uncomfortable had I been standing there in uniform. The group of distinguished guests stared at me. Now the Kapitän began to speak, in short, clipped sentences as was his custom. He said:

“Men of my Brigade – you know that it was only after a very long time – and after many and fierce struggles – that we felt ourselves ready – to join a formation – of the new Germany. – And I’m glad of that – because it’s only by fighting – that you come to know – your enemy – to respect him – or to despise him – as the case may be. – And in the future – we shall continue to behave – as we have done in the past.”

I looked at the group of Party leaders. The gentry stood motionless. There was an expression of bewilderment on Roehm’s face. I let my eyes travel back to the Kapitän’s neck. It was a very stiff neck indeed.

“We shall no longer engage – in politics. – We shall leave politics – to the new Chancellor – that’s what he’s for – but we shall keep our rifles ready – as we are accustomed to do – being soldiers – and we shall be prepared – in case of war – which even the new Chancellor cannot prevent–”

I glanced at Plaas, who gave me a side-long look in return.

“Men of my Brigade – have asked me about – the so-called – German greeting. – I have arranged – that we shall greet one another – in the manner to which – as soldiers – we are accustomed – that is to say – by raising the right hand – to the headpiece – if we are wearing a headpiece. – Should we be bare-headed – we shall give the German greeting. – I hereby order the men of my Brigade – whether on or off duty – at all times – to wear a headpiece –”

Now the banners rustled in the wind.

“That is all. – One other thing. – No hurrahs! – No ahoys! – Our cheer will no more be used. – Instead the cheer – is Heil! – To the Chancellor – and to our fatherland – for which we are ready to undertake any duty – Heil! Heil! Heil!

The Kapitän turned about. He walked up to me and took me by the sleeve. Plaas had stepped forward and was giving the words of command that would enable the Brigade to stand easy. The Kapitän said to me:

“You’re a writer. Damn it, you must know something about these things. Tell me honestly – did I kowtow to those fellows too much?”

I said laboriously that on this particular point the Herr Kapitän could set his mind completely at rest.

We were able to visit the grave after the festivities were over. The Kapitän and Plaas still had a certain amount to discuss with the local SS leader concerning the handing over of the Brigade, and I saw to it that they were not interrupted by our comrades, to whom I repeated the Kapitän’s speech word for word. This speech was received with great approbation. I was frequently asked to repeat it and it became, indeed, my star turn. But I was not the only person present at the ceremony who had memorised it. Neither Roehm nor Himmler nor Sauckel had bidden the Kapitän good-bye.

When, two weeks later, the Kapitän and Plaas returned to Berlin from a voyage, they found both their office and the Brigade Home closed and sealed. Enquiries revealed that, despite the agreement made, the Brigade as a unified formation had been dissolved and its members had been summoned individually by their local SS units and asked whether or not they wished to remain in that organisation as ordinary SS men. The great majority had refused this offer. Those who turned it down were beaten and sent home; those who accepted were incorporated as individuals into the SS.

The Kapitän informed all former members of his Brigade that he was resigning his SS commission, nor did the circular letter which he sent out omit the phrase about the road of the national movement being paved with the Party’s broken promises. Only of Plaas did the Kapitän demand that he stay in the SS, for he wished to maintain at least one reliable listening post within that organisation of the Party. I asked the Kapitän what his plans were now. He said that he was contemplating, for the first time, making use of his wife’s family connections abroad. His wife had been born a Princess Hohenlohe-Oeringen. I was startled and I asked him whether he really planned to emigrate. But that was not his intention. He said he only envisaged one remaining political task; by means of his wife’s high social connections in England he intended to make it quite clear to the English politicians that whatever should happen in Germany would be the inevitable and direct consequence of the Versailles Treaty.

“There’ll be a war, that’s certain. And we’ll lose this war too, that’s also certain. And I shall do everything in my power to make it plain to the English that after the next war they mustn’t repeat the lunacy of Versailles.”

The Brigade was smashed. Such was the last act in the history of the German national movement. Whenever I thought back over it all I was filled with wretchedness. What a wealth of spirit had been senselessly squandered! What eager devotion had been criminally wasted! I could not help recalling Gerhart Hauptmann’s phrase in Florian Geyer: “The finest action, the noblest cause, the most sacred cause . . . a cause that God once placed in your hands, in your hands it was pearls before swine.”

* * *

[A year later] I had no idea what was going on in Munich. During the course of the night Muthmann telephoned me. Muthmann, an agricultural expert by profession, had not joined the SS. He worked for an agricultural corporation, but he remained in touch with his former comrades. He had set up a sort of private intelligence service, and he was always well informed. I was accustomed to these nocturnal calls of his; he would say what he had to say in a few brief words that would mean little, if anything, to anyone tapping the wire, and what he had to say was always of interest. Now he said: “It stinks in Munich.” I replied that it stank everywhere. He said: “Chief’s in danger.” I told him that he could get me all next day at Rowohlt’s in Grünheide. He hung up.

The next morning when I arrived at Rowohlt’s I found him glued to his radio. With an agitated wave of the hand he signalled me to be quiet when I tried to wish him good morning. The radio was announcing the news of the shooting of Roehm and the other senior SA leaders. Rowohlt was not alone. Also present were a man and his young wife who had shortly before come to see Rowohlt on Roehm’s behalf. Roehm had suggested to Rowohlt that he publish his book, The History of a Traitor. Roehm had quarreled with the official Party publishing house. Rowohlt had given me Roehm’s book to read, and by the expression on his face I could see that he had got a whiff of something into which he would very much like to dig his teeth. To do the Eher-Verlag in the eye in this fashion was just the sort of prospect that appealed to the old Rowohlt. But the whiff was deceptive, the dish no good. I knew what sort of arguments made the strongest impression on Rowohlt. I flayed the book from the literary point of view, which was not difficult. I read him a few sentences aloud. Bad German was only tolerable to Rowohlt if something of factual importance emerged from the inferior prose. There was nothing of factual importance in this book. Roehm’s representative had now come to Grünheide to hear Rowohlt’s decision. Meanwhile another had decided.

The young man’s wife sat beside the radio with tears pouring down her cheeks. “Spreti too!” she sobbed. Count Spreti was a young SA officer and, I think, Roehm’s adjutant. The young woman wept uncontrollably; Spreti had been such an enchanting person, she said. After the announcement Rowohlt wished to turn off the radio, but I stopped him. There was a brief pause and then the same announcement was repeated; at short intervals it was given over and over again. But I would not turn it off. Rowohlt cried: “Switch it off!” when once again the unbearable announcer’s voice began the same unbearable announcement. I said to the young woman:

“You must listen to this, you must listen to it over and over again! Never in your lifetime must you be able to forget it. Now listen!”

Later Lucie Höflich, the great German actress, came to Rowohlt’s house. She sat with the others and listened to the news that every few minutes the appalling machine spouted forth into the room. She asked me what it all meant. I said:

“It is no concern of ours. Let them devour one another!”

But Frau Höflich shook her head. In her trained, clear and uncommonly human voice she said:

“I think it’s the concern of all of us. Here are men being murdered without trial or sentence, murdered by murderers who were their victim’s friends and who hold the highest appointments at the head of our nation. I think it certainly concerns us all.”

Then Muthmann telephoned. I drove into the city, and we met beside the car that belonged to my brother Horst. We were stopped three times by SS patrols. But the car was a small one and old, and our identity cards showed that we were not Party members. There were advantages, at times, in not belonging to the Party.

“What’s actually the matter with you people?” Muthmann asked. The patrolman replied:

“There’s nothing the matter with the SS! It’s those SA swine that are getting it in the neck.”

We were allowed to drive on. Outside Friesack we picked up Plaas. Informed by Muthmann, he had come here from Finkenkrug by motorcycle.

The Kapitän still knew nothing of what was going on. He never listened to the radio. “Roehm?” he said: “Never could stand the fellow!” In a few brief words Plaas and Muthmann told him what must have happened. The Kapitän said: “But that’s got nothing to do with us!” Plaas and Muthmann tried to make him see that this was very probably a nicely calculated excuse for a ‘major house-cleaning.’ The Kapitän pointed to his dog, a gigantic Newfoundland, which had rested its chin on the table and was staring at us with pendulous dewlaps and blood-shot eyes. “Trained to go for men,” he said: “Bought the creature especially for just such an occasion as this.” He said: “I have absolutely no intention of budging from my own house.” He said: “Let them come!” He said: “Devil take it, I’ve absolutely no connection with this sort of thing any more.”

Suddenly the Kapitän’s wife said:

“The diary!”

We set about hunting for the diary. We searched the whole house, while the Kapitän remained sitting over his schnaps and laughing. But we were in no mood for laughter. We did not find the diary, but we did find some hard words to describe half-baked conspirators who keep diaries filled with treasonable remarks and then mislay them in their own homes. Finally we succeeded in persuading the Kapitän that he could at least go and hunt the wild boars which were plundering his potato fields near the forest’s edge. We all accompanied him, with guns in our hands and pistols in our pockets. We felt no anxiety in leaving the Kapitän’s wife in her home. We did not yet know about the murder of General von Schleicher’s wife.

They arrived, fourteen of them, about an hour after we had left the house with the Kapitän. The Newfoundland gave the intruders his paw. After having searched the house they lolled about in the Kapitän’s armchairs, smoking his cigars. The Kapitän’s wife could be very much the princess when she chose. She said that she was accustomed to see her guests stand up when she, their hostess, entered the room – and the guests rose sheepishly to their feet. They asked:

“Why has the Kapitän fled?”

The princess was quite astonished. He had not fled, he was out boar hunting. Where did he do that? The princess showed them a map of the estate. The gentlemen would have to take the path along the edge of the lake until they reached the woods.

“Through that clearing there?” they asked.

“Through that clearing there,” said the princess.

If he’d gone hunting, one of them said, then he must have taken a gun with him.

“Two,” said the princess.

The men looked at one another.

“In that case we must first telephone.”

“Please do.”

They went into the next room and telephoned. Then they finished the Kapitän’s bottle of schnaps and left. They had found the Kapitän’s diary. He had used it to prop up a loose table leg in his smoking room.

The Kapitän would have to leave, there could be no question about it. At last he saw this himself. We set about the business in our usual fashion. He would have to travel separately from his wife but shadowed by us and handed on from one of us to the next. We knew the border near Lorrach intimately. I did not go with the Kapitän, but I accompanied his wife to the train. Muthmann was already seated in the compartment, wearing an unusually fetching Scotch travelling cap and behaving in a very foreign sort of way.

I stood outside the window of the compartment so that I might say goodbye to the princess as the train pulled out. I felt insanely furious. I thought I should say something to the princess, some last remark that she could take with her on her travels. I could think of nothing. She had always been so very much the princess, and had a manner of raising her eyebrows if anything at all crude were said . . . we were all a little frightened of her. There she stood at the window of her compartment, her hands in their pearl grey gloves resting on the sill, gazing at me silently, a princess of the house of Hohenlohe-Oeringen, the wife of our Kapitän, of the man who had once been known in the Imperial Navy as “Red Ehrhardt,” the man who had led the torpedo attack at Jutland, the man who had marched at the head of his Brigade through the Brandenburg Gate, the man who had sat in prison . . . I was in a frightful rage. Did such a man really have to flee in secret from his country, a country for which, during twenty years, he had lived and fought and made mistakes – did his wife need to. . .? The train began to pull out, and still I had nothing. The train gathered speed and I ran along beside it, and at last I banged my fist against her window and roared:

“Oh, shit – ahoy!”

The princess carefully took off her glove, banged with her bare fist on the sill and cried in her clear voice:

“Shit! Ahoy!”


Excerpted from Ernst von Salomon’s The Answers of Ernst von Salomon, translated by Constantine Fitzgibbon (1954), Putnam


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