Erich Maria Remarque (born Erich Paul Remark; 1898–1970) was a German author, most famous today for his anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front.
Erich Maria Remarque was born on 22 June 1898 in a working-class family in the German city of Osnabrück, the son of Peter Franz Remark (b. 14 June 1867, Kaiserswerth) and Anna Maria Remark, nee Stallknecht (b. 21 November 1871, Katernberg). At the age of sixteen or seventeen he made his first attempts at writing: essays, poems, and the beginnings of a novel that was finished later and published in 1920 as The Dream Room (Die Traumbude).
At eighteen Remarque was conscripted into the army. On 12 June 1917 he was transferred to the Western Front, 2nd Company, Reserves, Field Depot of the 2nd Reserves Guards Division at Hem-Lenglet. On 26 June he was posted to the 15th Reserve Infantry Regiment, 2nd Company of Trench Battalion Bethe, and was stationed between Torhout and Houthulst. On 31 July he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck, and was repatriated to an army hospital in Germany where he spent the rest of the war.
In 1927 Remarque made a second literary start with the novel Station at the Horizon (Station am Horizont), which was serialized in the sports journal "Sport im Bild" for which Remarque was working. It was published in book form only in 1998. His most famous book, All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues) was written in a few months in 1927, but Remarque was not immediately able to find a publisher. The novel, published in 1929, described the experiences of German soldiers during World War I. A number of similar works followed; in simple, emotive language they described wartime and the postwar years.
In 1931, after finishing The Road Back (Der Weg zurück) Remarque left Germany. He bought a villa in Porto Ronco in Switzerland and lived both there and in France until 1939, when he left Europe for the United States of America with his wife and they became naturalized citizens of the United States in 1947.
In 1933, the Nazis banned and publicly burned Remarque's works and issued propaganda stating that he was a descendant of French Jews and that his real last name was Kramer, a Jewish-sounding name, and his original name spelled backwards. This is still claimed in some biographies despite the complete lack of evidence. Furthermore, despite contrary evidence, the Nazis claimed that he had never seen active service during WWI. In 1943 the Nazis arrested his sister Elfriede Scholz, who had stayed behind in Germany with her husband and two children. After a short trial in the "Volksgerichtshof" (Hitler's extra-constitutional "People's Court") she was found guilty of "undermining morale" for remarking that the war was lost. Evidence supports the contention that the verdict and the associated death sentence were issued to punish her brother: Court President Roland Freisler declared, "Ihr Bruder ist uns leider entwischt - Sie aber werden uns nicht entwischen." ("Your brother has unfortunately escaped us - you, however, will not escape us"). Elfriede Scholz was decapitated by guillotine on 16 December 1943.
Remarque's next novel, Three Comrades (Drei Kameraden) spans the years of the Weimar Republic, from the hyperinflation of 1923 to the end of the decade. Remarque's fourth novel, Flotsam (Liebe deinen Nächsten), first appeared in a serial version in English translation in Collier's magazine in 1939, and Remarque spent another year revising the text for its book publication in 1941 both in English and German. His next novel Arch of Triumph, first published in 1945 in English translation, and published in German as Arc de Triomphe in 1946, was another instant best-seller and reached worldwide sales of nearly five million.
In 1948 Remarque went back to Switzerland, where he spent the rest of his life. There was a gap of seven years—a long silence for Remarque—between Arch of Triumph and his next work, The Spark of Life (Der Funke Leben), which appeared both in German and in English in 1952. While he was writing The Spark of Life Remarque was also working on a novel, Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben (Time to Live and Time to Die). It was published first in English translation in 1954 with the not-quite-literal title A Time to Love and a Time to Die. In 1958, Douglas Sirk directed the film A Time to Love and a Time to Die in Germany, based on Remarque's novel. Remarque makes a cameo appearance in this film in the role of the Professor.
In 1955 Remarque wrote the screenplay for an Austrian movie, The Last Act (Der letzte Akt), about Hitler's final days in the bunker of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, which was based on the book Ten Days to Die (1950) by Michael Musmanno. In 1956 Remarque wrote a drama for the stage, Full Circle (Die letzte Station), which played successfully both in Germany and on Broadway. An English translation was published in 1974. Heaven Has No Favorites was serialized (as Borrowed Life) in 1959 before appearing as a book in 1961 and was made into the 1977 movie Bobby Deerfield. The Night in Lisbon (Die Nacht von Lissabon), published in 1962 is the last work Remarque finished. The novel sold some 900,000 copies in Germany and was a modest best-seller abroad as well.
Remarque married the Hollywood actress Paulette Goddard in 1958 and they remained married until his death in a hospital at Locarno on 25 September 1970 at the age of 72. He was interred in the Ronco cemetery in Ronco, Ticino, Switzerland after a Catholic funeral. Goddard is also interred there. Goddard left a bequest of $20 million to New York University to fund an institute for European studies which is named after Remarque. The first Director of The Remarque Institute was Professor Tony Judt. The Erich Maria Remarque Papers are housed in the Fales Library at NYU.