Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Sonnenschein, Hugo mss., 1945-1946, consist of four bound manuscripts of poetry and memoirs by Hugo Sonnenschein (1889-1953), a German-language writer born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who often wrote under the pseudonym "Sonka." He published his first book of poetry in 1907 as a student in Vienna, and served as editor of the Czech Academic Club's almanac. After completing his military service in 1911, he wandered through Europe as a vagabond poet, continuing to write and publish while living in Paris, London and Berlin. During World War I he served on the Balkan front and was taken into custody several times for pacifist activities. After the war he turned to politics and helped found the Red Guard. In Prague he edited a communist weekly, and founded the Genossenschaftsverlag (Cooperative Publishing House) with Franz Werfel, Albert Ehrenstein and Alfred Adler. Die Legende vom weltverkommenen Sonka appeared in 1920 and is still considered his major work. Although he was a co-founder of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, he was expelled from the Party in 1927 for protesting against the persecution of Leo Trotzki. In 1939, as German troops entered Czechoslovakia, he was arrested by the secret police, and in 1943 deported to Auschwitz, along with his wife Rose, who was killed there. He was freed from the camp by the Red Army in 1945, taken to Moscow, and then returned to Prague, where he was imprisoned again and sentenced to twenty years on a charge of having collaborated with the State Police during the Second World War. He died on July 20th, 1953, while still in prison.

The manuscripts in the collection include his poems written in Auschwitz (Schritte des Todes: Traumworte, 1945; Death's Tread: Dreamwords), his personal political history, bound in two volumes and dated "14. IV. 1945," and a typescript with corrections of a Czech translation of Slowakische Heimat (Slovakian Homeland), translated by Emil Dvorak. An inventory is available.

Additional materials, including a Xeroxed copy of his birth certificate, and reprints of German periodical and newspaper articles about Hugo Sonnenschein-Sonka, can be found in the collection's vertical file.

Acquired: 2006

Collection size: 4 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.