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The Oskar Maria Graf Papers consist primarily of photocopies of Graf's works. This includes correspondence; writing; newspaper clippings about Graf; exhibitions about Graf; numerous photographs of Graf, his family and acquaintances; and subject files.
9 cubic ft.
English , German .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Oskar Maria Graf Papers, 1891-1967. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Graf Papers).


Scope and Content:

Included in collection is correspondence with noted figures such as Heinrich Boll, Gunter Grass, Rainer Maria Rilke, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann and others of Graf's contemporaries, such as Albert Einstein, Otto Preminger, and His Holiness, Pope Paul VI; and correspondence also with family, friends, colleagues, compatriots in exile, newspapers, publishers, PhD candidates, and others. Includes also are copies of all Graf's published literary works; his unpublished novels, essays, aphorisms, poems, political writings, fragments, critiques of other authors; speeches; radio plays; critiques of Graf; loose pages of writing. Also included are articles, books, and material about exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the USA; and materials from various Goethe institutions.

The Oskar Maria Graf Papers consist primarily of photocopies of Graf's works (originals at the Staatsbibliothek, Munich); correspondence (primarily copies, some originals); large collection of newspaper clippings about Graf; numerous photographs of Graf, his family and acquaintances. The collection also contains correspondence of Gisela Graf, much of it concerning the collection of materials pertaining to her late husband and exhibitions of Graf materials after his death. The collection is divided into 8 series: Biographical materials and documents; Correspondence of Oskar Maria Graf; Correspondence of Gisela Graf; Writings of Graf; Newspaper and magazine articles (clippings), 1930-1988, about all aspects of Graf's life and death, including birthday celebrations, obituaries, burial site, commemorations of the day of his death, etc.; Exhibition materials; Miscellaneous materials collected by Gisela Graf; Photographs and drawings.

Biographical / Historical:

Oskar Maria Graf was born on July 22, 1894 in Berg on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria, Germany. He was the youngest son of the eight surviving children of baker Max Graf and Therese Heimrath. Graf's father was successful as a baker, providing a comfortable home and surroundings for the Graf family. Oskar entered elementary school in Berg in 1900, however shortly after his father's death in 1905, he began an apprenticeship in the family bakery under his older brother Max. Although Oskar endured nearly five years under the strict supervision of his brother, in 1911, to escape the beatings of his brother, he ran away to Munich where he joined a Bohemian group. He made connections with the anarchist circle "Die Tat" and in 1912 tramped to the Tessin region in southern Switzerland to join an anarchist colony. He became disillusioned with the colony and returned to Munich. During this time, supporting himself with odd jobs, he began to write poems and short stories. It wasn't until 1914, however, that he was able to get several of his poems published in the expressionist periodical Die Aktion (Berlin).

Graf was drafted into the German army in 1915 to serve on the Eastern Front. Graf went on a hunger strike, feigning insanity until he was finally committed to a mental institution. By 1916, he was both released from the mental institution and discharged from military service. Graf returned to Munich where he worked in a factory and wrote reviews for the Munich newspaper München-Augsburg Abendzeitung. In 1918, Graf published his first significant work, Wir sind Revolutionäre, married his first wife, Karoline Bretting, with whom he had a daughter, his only child, Annemarie, a year later. In 1918, he also met Mirjam Sachs, the cousin of poetess Nelly Sachs, who would later become his second wife. Later in the same year, he took part in anti-war demonstrations, and in 1919 participated in a revolution which resulted in the short-lived Soviet Bavarian Republic, and, after its defeat, was imprisoned for his participation.

In 1920 Graf became the dramatic producer of the Socialist worker's theater "Die neue Bühne" in Munich, and in 1922, published both Frühzeit and Zur freundlichen Erinnerung, with his Bayrisches Lesebücherl following in 1924. It wasn't until 1927, however, that Graf gained international recognition with the publication Wir sind Gefangene. Graf continued to write, publishing Das bayrische Dekameron in 1928 and Kalender-Geschichten in 1929, followed by of Bolwieser: Roman eines Ehemanns in 1931 and Notizbuch des Provinzschriftstellers Oskar Maria Graf in 1932.

In the early months of 1933 Graf was on a lecture tour in Austria. It was during this time, shortly after Hitler's rise to power, that the Nazis ordered the first of the book burnings. With the exception of Prisoner's All, Graf's books were recommended rather than burned by the Nazi regime. This prompted Graf to write his famous "Verbrennt mich!" ("Burn me too"), perhaps one of the most famous anti-Nazi statements, which was published in the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung on May 22, 1933. Graf remained in Austria in exile, where he lived until 1934, working as co-editor of the German expatriate journal Neue deutsche Blätter. In 1934, after having participated in a political uprising of Austrian workers against the Engelbert Dollfuss regime, Graf escaped to (Brno) Czechoslovakia, where he remained until 1938. He left for a short period to attend the First Congress of Socialist Writers in Moscow but returned to Brno where he continued to write. Graf's novel Anton Sittinger was published in 1937 by the German exile publishing company Malik in London.

In 1938, Graf left Europe without his wife and child and fled to New York City. Mirjam Sachs followed Graf to New York, however it wasn't until 1944 that Karoline agreed to a divorce and the couple finally married. Graf's only daughter, Annemarie, remained in Germany to be raised by his mother, and eventually joined a German Youth organization under Hitler called the Bund Deutscher Mädchen (BDM). Graf, who was vehemently opposed to Hitler, was never close to his daughter and there are no letters in the collection between Graf and his daughter. While in New York, Graf made speeches before German-American groups and wrote regularly for the New York City German-language newspaper Aufbau, edited by his wife's brother, Manfred George. He also became president of the German-American Writers' Association during this period.

For a short time Graf lived in the artist colony Yaddo, near Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, where he completed work on the German version of his novel The Life of My Mother (Das Leben meiner Mutter), which portrayed life in Germany from the Bismarck era to the time of Hitler. He followed this with the publication of Unruhe um einen Friedfertigen, the story of a Jewish cobbler killed by the Nazis after having lived for many years fully integrated into the life of a Bavarian village.

Graf was unable to return to Germany immediately following the war. Not only had the Hitler regime revoked his German citizenship, but he was also unwilling to sign American citizenship papers because it would require him to bear arms. Finally in 1958, after the removal of the clause on bearing arms, Graf became an American citizen, and with his American passport, he was able to revisit Germany, and did so four times before his death.

Graf's second wife, Mirjam, died in 1959 after a long battle with breast cancer. He never wished to return permanently to Germany, claiming he did not like the "New Germany" and having become extremely comfortable in his exile home of New York. He never mastered the English language, primarily because as a writer he wanted his German to remain "pure". He established a regular German "Stammtisch" called "Die blaue Donau" in New York, and in 1962, married fellow exile Gisela Blauner, who had earned her Ph.D. in jurisprudence in Germany before being exiled. In 1964 Graf became corresponding member of the German Akademie der Künste (Academy for Arts) in Berlin.

Oskar Maria Graf died on June 25, 1967 in New York City of complications arising from pneumonia. His ashes were buried a year later in Munich, June 28, 1968. Graf was survived by his third wife, Gisela, who assisted in publishing new editions of his works and organized exhibitions devoted to displaying his life and works. His daughter, Annemarie Koch (1919-2008), and granddaughter Ricarda Glas (born 1943) continued to reside in Germany.

Date Event 1891
Born on July 22 in Berg on Lark Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany.
Entered elementary school in Berg.
Began apprenticeship in the bakery of his oldest brother, Max.
Ran away from home with the intention of becoming a free-lance writer in Munich; worked at different odd jobs, making connections with the anarchist circle "Die Tat".
Traveled to the Tessin region of southern Switzerland with friend, the painter Georg Schrimpf, to join an anarchist colony; returned to Munich after becoming disillusioned with the anarchists.
Publication of poems in the Expressionist periodical Die Aktion (Berlin). Drafted to military service after the outbreak of World War I.
Served as a soldier on the Eastern front; after a hunger strike and feigned insanity, is placed in mental institution.
Discharged from mental institution and also from military service (September).
Worked in a factory in Munich, while writing reviews for the München-Augsburger Abendzeitung.
First marriage to Karoline Bretting; publication of Die Revolutionäre; participation in anti-war demonstrations in Munich; meets Mirjam Sachs.
Birth of daughter Annemarie; participation in the "Soviet Bavarian Republic" and temporary imprisonment after its defeat.
Publication of Frühzeit: Jugenderlebnisse and Zur freundlichen Erinnerung.
Publication of Bayrisches Lesebücherl: Weissblaue Kulturbilder.
Publication of Wir sind Gefangene.
Publication of Das bayrische Dekameron.
Publication of Kalender-Geschichten.
Publication of Bolwieser: Roman eines Ehemanns.
Publication of Notizbuch des Provinzschriftstellers Oskar Maria Graf.
Feb. 17, 1933
begins lecture tour to Vienna, Austria; publication of anti-Nazi article "Verbrennt mich!" in the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung on May 11; books are banned in Germany shortly thereafter; co-editor of Neue Deutsche Blätter (Prague).
Participation in the political uprising of Austrian workers and escape to Brno, Czechoslovakia; attends the first Congress of Socialist Writers in Moscow, Aug.-Sept.; returns to Brno.
Publication of Der harte Handel: Ein bayrischer Bauernroman.
Publication of Der Abgrund: Ein Zeitroman.
January 1937
Co-signer of the appeal to form the German popular front; publication of novel Anton Sittinger.
June, attends International P.E.N. Congress in Prague as representative in exile of the German P.E.N. Club; emigrates to the U.S. (New York); becomes President of the German-American Writers' Association (G.A.W.A.).
Publication of The Life of My Mother; conducts political speeches before German-American organizations and contributes regularly to the New York German-Jewish newspaper Aufbau.
Co-founder of the exile publishing house Aurora with Wieland Herzfelde and others; marriage to Mirjam Sachs.
First German edition of Das Leben meiner Mutter.
Publication of the novel Unruhe um einen Friedfertigen.
Publication of Die Eroberung der Welt: Roman einer Zukunft.
Becomes an American citizen and returns to Germany for the first time.
Death of Mirjam Sachs Graf; publication of Die Flucht ins Mittelmässige: Ein New Yorker Roman.
Receives honorary doctorate degree from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; second visit to Germany.
Publication of An manchen Tagen: Reden, Gedanken und Zeitbetrachtungen.
Marriage to Gisela Blauner.
Third visit to Germany; becomes a corresponding member of the German Academy of Arts in East Berlin.
Last visit to Germany.
Publication of Gelächter von aussen: Aus meinem Leben 1918-33.
Death on June 25.
Burial of Graf's ashes on June 28 in Munich, Germany.
Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives by Gisela Blauner-Graf in December 1991.
Processing information:

Processed in 1992 by Martha R. von der Gathen. Revised by Sandra Hunt Hawrylchak in July 2005 and February 2006.


The collection is organized as follows:

  1. Series 1: Biographical materials, documents, 1934-1989
  2. Series 2: Correspondence of Oskar Maria Graf, 1920-1985
  3. Series 3: Correspondence of Gisela Blauner Graf, 1967-1987
  4. Series 4: Published and unpublished writings of Oskar Maria Graf, 1919-1967
  5. Series 5: Adaptations, secondary materials about Oskar Maria Graf, 1920-1990
  6. Series 6: Oskar Maria Graf Exhibitions, 1972-1988
  7. Series 7: Miscellaneous materials on organizations, topics
  8. Series 8: Photographs and drawings, 1911-1984
Physical location:
The materials are located onsite in the department.



Using These Materials

The archives are open to the public and anyone is welcome to visit and view the collections.

Access to this record group is unrestricted.


Per the donor agreement, copyright to unpublished materials created by Oskar Maria Graf passed to his heirs. Rights to any materials in the collection created by Gisela Graf, widow of Oskar Maria Graf, are now held by the University Libraries of the University at Albany.

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.


Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Oskar Maria Graf Papers, 1891-1967. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Graf Papers).

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