New Book

New from Brill’s Historical Materialism series: A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany

26th Dec 2017

A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany: The Life of Werner Scholem (1895 – 1940)

Ralf Hoffrogge

Walter Benjamin derided Werner Scholem as a ‘rogue’ in 1924. Josef Stalin referred him as a ‘splendid man’, but soon backtracked and labeled him an ‘imbecile’, while Ernst Thälmann, chairman of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), warned his followers against the dangers of ‘Scholemism’. For the philosopher and historian Gershom Scholem, however, Werner was first and foremost his older brother. The life of German-Jewish Communist Werner Scholem (1895–1940) had many facets. Werner and Gerhard, later Gershom, rebelled together against their authoritarian father and the atmosphere of national chauvinism engulfing Germany during World War I. After inspiring his younger brother to take up the Zionist cause, Werner himself underwent a long personal journey before deciding to join the Communist struggle. Scholem climbed the party ladder and orchestrated the KPD’s ‘Bolshevisation’ campaign, only to be expelled as one of Stalin’s opponents in 1926. He was arrested in 1933, and ultimately murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp seven years later. This first biography of Werner Scholem tells his life story by drawing on a wide range of original sources and archive material long hidden beyond the Iron Curtain of the Cold War era.

First published in German by UVK Verlagsgesellschaft as Werner Scholem – eine politische Biographie (1895-1940), Konstanz, 2014.

Ralf Hoffrogge, Dr. phil. (2013), University of Potsdam, is Postdoctoral Researcher at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany) and has published widely on German labour history. His latest publication is Working-Class Politics in the German Revolution: Richard Müller, the Revolutionary Shop Stewards and the Origins of the Council Movement (Brill, 2014).