Graf, Oskar Maria

(1894-1967)
   writer; on learning of the NSDAP's intention to spare his books in the May 1933 book burning, he wrote an open letter entitled "Verbrennt mich ("burn me ). Born in the village of Berg in Upper Bavaria to a baker, Graf apprenticed as a baker before fleeing provincial Bavaria.* While he was always more than a specialist on rural subjects—this was how he identified himself—it was as a folk writer, adept with colloquial-isms, that he excelled; this is evident in the 1924 work Chronik von Flechting (Chronicle of Flechting), the 1928 collection of stories Das bayerische Deka-meron, and his 1929 book Kalender-Geschichten (Calendar stories). He was a champion of the oppressed and exploited, and his life was given to resistance: against the tyranny of an older brother, from whom he escaped to Munich; against militarism and war, in opposition to which he risked consignment to an asylum during World War I; and against Nazism, in resistance to which he uttered the famous words "burn me. Without ever leaving Catholic* Bavaria, he became an international socialist. His politics are best expressed in books deemed autobiographical self-confessions. At their core are his denunciation of individual greed and his tribute to community solidarity.
   Graf's acclaimed Wir sind Gefangene (translated as Prisoners All) appeared in 1927. A blend of merciless self-appraisal and social criticism, it was enthu-siastically greeted by Maxim Gorki, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Thomas Mann.* The book recounts his emancipation from provincial life, his literary beginnings as an Expressionist* poet, his troubled existence as an itinerant worker and anarchist, his relationship with the circle around Kurt Eisner,* and his participation in Munich's abortive Raterepublik.
   Despite Graf s politics, the Nazis fancied his peasant appearance and dialect. Berating their efforts to entice him into accepting Hitler s* new regime, he wrote his open letter on the day of the book burning (10 May 1933), expressing his sense of insult at having been excluded from the distinguished company of Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht.* The letter, which appeared in the Saar-brücken newspaper* Volksstimme, forced him to emigrate. After he briefly edited Prague's Neue Deutsche Blatter, he made his way to New York. Although it was emotionally painful to be separated from Bavaria—he never learned En-glish—he refused to return to Germany after 1945.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Berman, Rise ofthe Modern German Novel; Pachter, Weimar Etudes.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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