On this date in 1943, pacifist novelist Erich Maria Remarque lost his youngest sister to the Nazi regime — beheaded because her “brother is beyond our reach.”
Actually, Elfriede Scholz was convicted (upon the denunciation of her landlady a few weeks before) by the kangaroo People’s Court for undermining the war effort. (“Wehrkraftzersetzung” — German has a word for everything.)
Like her brother, Elfriede was a staunch opponent of the Nazi government, and in 1943 that could certainly have sufficed to get her a one-way trip to Plotzensee Prison.
But Roland Freisler‘s verdict explicitly referenced (German link) her more famous brother — upon whom the Nazis would have poured out an interwar era’s worth of fury had they been able to get to him in America.
Ihr Bruder ist uns entwischt, aber Sie werden uns nicht entwischen! (Your brother is beyond our reach, but you will not escape us!
Remarque’s immortal anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front was banned and burned by war-glorifying Nazis (they also said Remarque was of Jewish descent, apparently without any factual basis).
Remarque left Germany, an intellectual celebrity and man-about-town who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Marlene Dietrich (with whom he had a passionate affair) and Ernest Hemingway (with whom he did not).
The Nazis stripped his citizenship, and fumed that they couldn’t get their jackboots on him. (At one point, Goebbels invited Remarque to return. Sly.)
But Elfriede, they could get. She had stayed in her native Germany with her husband and family.
Not content with taking her head off, Berlin added a particularly vicious twist by billing the expatriate author 90 marks for the executioner’s trouble.
The author never said or wrote much about Elfriede, even his diaries. But years later, Erich Remarque dedicated his novel about life in a concentration camp, Spark of Life, to his late sister. Today, there’s a street named for Elfriede in the Remarques’ native Osnabruck.
Better still, here’s the 1930 film version of All Quiet on the Western Front — that year’s Academy Award winner as Best Picture.