Unruh, Fritz von

(1885-1970)
   poet and playwright; erstwhile Prus-sian officer who became a pacifist during World War I. He was born in Koblenz to an aristocratic family; his ancestors had served the Prussian electors and kings for three hundred years. Conforming to family tradition, he entered the military academy at Ploïn in Schleswig-Holstein. In 1905 he settled in Berlin* to begin broad university studies. His Offiziere, a 1911 Expressionist play, reflected the era's influence—he was hailed as the successor of Heinrich von Kleist—but generated sufficient resentment that he resigned his commission in 1912. When Max Reinhardt* produced Offiziere in 1911, Unruh's reputation was fixed. His 1913 drama Louis Ferdinand, Prinz von Preussen, while securing the Kleist Prize in 1915, was banned and not performed until 1920. Prophetically, a char-acter in the play remarks, upon hearing a compatriot urge war on the king, "War tears holes into which even crowns may fall."
   Unruh did not succumb to the exuberance of August 1914. Nevertheless, regaining his commission, he was wounded in the advance into France. During convalescence he wrote Vor der Entscheidung (Before the decision), an antiwar poem. A symbolic work that provoked a court-martial and was censored until 1919, it featured the horrors of the battlefield. In 1916, while at Verdun, he wrote the prose poem Opfergang (Road to Calvary). Verdun deepened his pac-ifism and changed his life. His mixture of torment and compassion was next reflected in Ein Geschlecht (A family), a one-act tragedy also based on Verdun; judged both his best work and a landmark of Expressionism,* it gained a private performance in 1917 at Frankfurt's Stadttheater.
   Acclaimed after the war, Unruh was among Weimar's most performed dram-atists. In 1920 he completed Platz, a play focused on revolution, as part two of a trilogy begun with Ein Geschlecht. But already sensing the impotence of ide-alism, he failed to finish part three. Although several plays followed, Unruh lost his audience, as did most Expressionists. Yet he became a champion of the Republic and spoke repeatedly on behalf of pacifism and international causes. In 1924 he and Carl von Ossietzky* founded the Republican Party, a forlorn attempt at political persuasion. The winner of Vienna's Grillparzer Prize in 1923, he entered the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1927, the year he received the Schiller Prize and wrote Bonaparte, a portent of approaching dictatorship. In 1932, soon after his antifascist play Phaea was denounced by the NSDAP, Unruh moved to France. The Nazis removed him in 1933 from the Academy of Arts and burned his books; later they revoked his citizenship. In 1940 he escaped French internment and fled to the United States, where he maintained himself with difficulty as both writer and painter.
   REFERENCES:Kronacher, Fritz von Unruh; Mainland, "Fritz von Unruh"; Sokel, Writer in Extremis; Ronald Taylor, Literature and Society.

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

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  • Unruh, Fritz von — ▪ German author born May 10, 1885, Koblenz, Germany died November 28, 1970, Diez, West Germany  dramatist, poet, and novelist, one of the most poetically gifted of the younger German Expressionist (Expressionism) writers.       The son of a… …   Universalium

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  • Fritz von Unruh — (May 10, 1885 November 28, 1970) was a German Expressionist dramatist, poet, and novelist.Unruh was born in Koblenz, Germany. A general s son, he was an officer in the German army until 1912, when he left to pursue his writing career. Two of his… …   Wikipedia

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