This is the memoir of a militant and full-time party worker in the German Communist Party KPD and in the Comintern — the international organization of all the Communist parties in the world - in the twenties and thirties, this is a first-hand account of many of the dramatic events that shaped the future of Germany and the world between the two World Wars, this is an adventure story that has to be read to be believed, this is an autobiography that is so packed out with dialogues and conversations and interrogations that it can well be considered a novel, and a particularly well-paced and well-written one at that. Here you will live through the Spartacist revolutions of , the phenomenal monetary crisis of , and the ultra-violent Communist uprising in Hamburg that same year. And last but certainly not least you will see from the inside just how terrifying and inhuman and above all painful it was to be a political prisoner of the Nazi regime — or a person of Jewish extraction — right from the first days of total Gestapo control in early And then there is espionage and counter-espionage, there is resistance inside and outside the prisons, there are major uprisings and revolts all over the world, there are escapes, and there is more.
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This is the memoir of a militant and full-time party worker in the German Communist Party KPD and in the Comintern — the international organization of all the Communist parties in the world - in the twenties and thirties, this is a first-hand account of many of the dramatic events that shaped the future of Germany and the world between the two World Wars, this is an adventure story that has to be read to be believed, this is an autobiography that is so packed out with dialogues and conversations and interrogations that it can well be considered a novel, and a particularly well-paced and well-written one at that.
Here you will live through the Spartacist revolutions of , the phenomenal monetary crisis of , and the ultra-violent Communist uprising in Hamburg that same year.
And last but certainly not least you will see from the inside just how terrifying and inhuman and above all painful it was to be a political prisoner of the Nazi regime — or a person of Jewish extraction — right from the first days of total Gestapo control in early And then there is espionage and counter-espionage, there is resistance inside and outside the prisons, there are major uprisings and revolts all over the world, there are escapes, and there is more.
Written in English by its polyglot author, this big pages, , words book was first published in February in the USA — and had sold over a million hardcover copies in America alone by the end of that year! It is, in our considered opinion, one of the most important books of its time.
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. But the years of my childhood were scattered over places as far apart as the Rhine and the Yangtze-kiang. My voyage began at the point where the Rhine suddenly sweeps westward to bite its course through the mountains before it curves north again to flow, broad and swift, past the Lorelei and the towers of Cologne.
One day in my mother, then on the way from Genoa to Rotterdam to join her husband, who had come in from the sea, felt that her time was near at hand. She interrupted her journey and went to the home of people who knew her, in a little town near Mainz. There she gave birth to her first son. And before I was one month old, she carried me aboard a steamer, bound down the Rhine to Rotterdam.
My father had spent most of his life at sea. But despite his roamings, he had the devotion of a wanderer for the land of his birth, a devotion which I did not learn to share. In the face of the challenging bigotry of those who had taken root,—"This is my country; it is the best country,"—I felt a certain sad instability. Invincible wanderlust was another result of our life on the waterfronts. I ran off on hot afternoons to explore the harbors and to watch maneuvering ships and toiling stevedores.
I never played at being a soldier. I was either a skipper, a boss of longshoremen or a pirate. I liked to sail the little boat I had when I was twelve through squally weather in the estuaries of the rivers Weser and Elbe.
Like most German craftsmen of the period, he was conservatively class conscious. He belonged to the Social Democratic Party, was a loyal trade-unionist, and considered the Kaiser as a superfluous clown.
My courageous and deeply religious mother had a dream of her own: a house on some hill, with a garden and a sprinkling of birches around, a friendly anchorage to which her four sons, all of whom were destined to follow the sea, would flock for a holiday after every completed voyage.
The first school I attended was the German school of Buenos Aires. I remained there but a little over a year, and my memory of it is vague. Two years at a British school in Singapore followed. It was here, in an atmosphere of equatorial heat and British world domination, that I first became aware, shamefacedly, of the vast gulf which separated me, the child of a worker, from the sons and daughters of colonial officials and the white merchants of the East.
I had no access to their parties, and the bourgeois arrogance of their parents made them shun the humble home of my family. We had but two Chinese servants, while they had fifteen and twenty. Because my father saw no harm in my association with the offspring of his industrious Eurasian aides, the little "imperialist" snobs of my class coined a nickname for me which even made some of the grown-ups smile.
It was Lumpenhund which means "ragged dog. In all these travels his family went with him—traveling second or third class on chance steamers of the North German Lloyd. I well remember the officious deck steward of the liner Kleist who hustled me from the promenade deck to a deck considerably nearer the waterline.
The family grew larger from year to year. A sister was born in Hongkong. A brother was born in Singapore; it was he who later became an officer in the Nazi air force to find his death through an act of communist sabotage in It was in Genoa that the War overtook us.
German shipping came to a standstill. The intervening nine months savored of a protracted nightmare. They taught me what mass hatred and chauvinism in its ugliest forms could be. Every news kiosk was plastered with pamphlets and posters showing German soldiers nailing children to tables by their tongues, or tearing out the tongues of beautiful young women.
I could not go into the harbor, which held for me a fascination I am at a loss to explain, without being assaulted and trounced by bands of Italian hoodlums. On the way to and from school, and even in the garden adjoining our cottage on the slope of the Righi, I and other boys suspected of being German were bombarded with stones and manure of mules, beaten with sticks, spitten into our faces and hounded even through the broken windowpanes of our homes.
I had little respect for Italian boys as fighters. Banded together and armed with solid clubs, six Austrian, Swiss or German boys could easily, I believed, put ten times their number of youthful salita wolves to flight. All this left me puzzled, frightened, distrustful, and somewhat mutinous against the might-is-right slogans of the time. An official in a flaming uniform entered our home and demanded that we leave Italian soil within twelve hours, taking only such belongings as we could carry.
Abandoning by far the larger portion of our possessions, mother and children boarded the Milano express and crossed the Alps into Germany overnight. We entered the Fatherland like refugees from abroad. After all, to the older of us children Germany was like an alien land.
Beginning with the third year of the War we lived in Bremen. My father served in the Imperial fleet. My mother fought incredibly hard to keep her brood alive on the meager allowance allotted to families of men in the service. I wore clothes made of paper, my shoes were made of wood, in summer I went barefoot, and our staple food consisted of turnips and dismal bread, with potatoes rare and horse meat a luxury.
They were years in which we came to know the meaning of steady hunger, and in the winters, of fierce cold. We collected beech-nuts in the woods to have oil, and acorns to have coffee. Like a pack of wolves we boys would prowl at the edges of the estates and the fields and the army depots, stealing wood, potatoes and tinned food, and scavenging for precious coal in the vicinity of factories and railroad yards. Repeatedly I was caught by an elderly forest-keeper or gendarme. Since I saw nothing wrong in such petty depredations, I arrived at a point where I regarded everyone who wore a badge of authority as an overbearing foe.
In school my marks were below the average. The haphazard training I had received at the foreign schools did not enable me to meet the rigid requirements of the German educational system.
He reacted to his own misery by beginning and ending his days at school with most brutal beatings of his pupils. At the slightest provocation he used to haul them across his desk, in front of a class of fifty, and flog them with a cane until they were unconscious. I became his frequent victim because my personal heroes were neither Bismarck nor Ludendorff, but Magellan, Captain Cook, and J.
With the sons of other rebellious workers I sat in secret cellar gatherings and sang:. Death to hangmen, kings and traitors, Give the masses bread! In September, , when I was almost fourteen, an older friend who was a journeyman to a master chimney sweep brought me into one of the youth groups of the Independent Socialists.
A scraggy band of child rebels, we met secretly in attics, in abandoned houses and even on roofs. We were taught by men who claimed they were deserters from the navy to hate the rich, to tell the poor that they must rise in a body and fight, to disrupt patriotic school meetings with itching powder and stink bombs which were given to us packed in candy boxes, and to sabotage the war chest collections of old metal parts, bottles and felt hats which were conducted through the schools.
This we did, and more, acting out of our own zealous initiative. We drew caricatures of the Kaiser hanging from a gallows and passed them furtively from hand to hand. From my father and other sailors, when they came home for a monthly two-day leave, we heard much of what was going on in the fleet. Mutiny brewed. The men, crammed into narrow quarters a thousand and more on a single ship and ridden by hunger, hated the officers for their arrogance and the champagne and butter they consumed.
On several ships secret action committees of the sailors and stokers had been elected. The latrines in the shipyards became the centers for clandestine revolutionary meetings. Desertions increased; sailors sold their uniforms and decamped inshore. Several ringleaders from the warships had been court-martialed and executed by Imperial firing squads.
Usually they left at dawn, clad in civilian rags, on their way to Berlin or Munich and on to Saxony and Silesia. Most of them brought service pistols into the houses of workers.
My mother abhorred arms. People were silent and sullen. No one in our block or the next believed that the end of the war was near. Once a sailor returning from Petrograd was our guest. The room was full of people. They kept on coming and going. They asked questions, shook their heads, argued, and many eyes shone. When it was time to go to sleep he became afraid to stay; someone might have informed the police, he thought.
I led him to the family of a friend on the other side of the river. This sailor slunk into a doorway or into a side street whenever he saw a policeman under the street lights ahead. In the end I was a little disgusted.
I had a fairly low opinion of policemen. For two long hours we trudged through the night, the sailor and I, without exchanging a word. Toward the end of October, , my father wrote that the High Seas Fleet had received orders for a final attack against England. No secret was made of it. The officers, he reported in his blunt fashion, reveled all night.
They spoke of the death-ride of the Fleet.
Out of the Night: The Memoir of Richard Julius Herman Krebs alias Jan Valtin
The son of a seafaring father, Richard Julius Herman Krebs, a. Jan Valtin, came of age as a bicycle messenger during a maritime rebellion. His life as an intimate insider account of the dramatic The son of a merchant marine, Richard Julius Herman Krebs a.
Out Of the Night
Richard Julius Hermann Krebs December 17, - January 1, , better known by his alias Jan Valtin , was a German writer during the interwar period. He settled in the United States in , and in as Valtin wrote his bestselling book Out of the Night. Krebs became active in the Communist movement as a boy, when his father was involved in the naval mutiny that heralded the German Revolution of — In , he saw action in the failed Communist insurgency in Hamburg.