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German History in Documents and Images
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Ernst Toller in Nieder-Schönfeld Prison (1919-24)
Playwright Ernst Toller (1893-1939) was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the Bavarian Soviet Republic [Bayerische Räterepublik]. While in prison he wrote many of the works that would establish his literary reputation. Several of his plays were premiered while he was still in prison, most famously, “The Machine Wreckers” [Die Machinenstürmer], which opened days after the murder of Walter Rathenau and turned into a political demonstration against enemies of the Republic. Toller aspired to what he called a “revolutionary dramatic and epic art.” His work was strident, confrontational and deliberately offensive. After leaving Germany in 1933, he maintained ties to other émigré German artists including Klaus and Erika Mann. He committed suicide in a New York City hotel on May 22, 1939.