Josef Weinheber (9 March 1892 in Vienna – 8 April 1945 in Kirchstetten, Lower Austria by suicide) was an Austrian lyric poet, narrative writer and essayist.


Brought up in an orphanage, Weinheber was, before his authorial career, a casual labourer, and from 1911 to 1918 a postal service worker. In 1919 he made contributions to the newspaper The Musket. In 1918 he left the Roman Catholic Church, and became Protestant in 1927. In 1920 his first volume of lyric poetry appeared, Der einsame Mensch“ (The Solitary Man). Weinheber was principally under the literary influence of Rainer Maria Rilke Anton Wildgans Karl Kraus. He was on most friendly terms with his author-colleagues Mirko Jelusich and Robert Hohlbaum. From 1931 until 1933 and from 1944 Weinheber was a Member of the Nazi party. With the publication of his volume of poems "Adel und Untergang" (Nobility and Ruin) he became one of the most distinguished poets of his time. Especially admired was the volume "Wien wörtlich" (Vienna Verbatim), which is partially written in Viennese dialect. However the forty Odes comprising the Cycle "Zwischen Göttern und Dämonen" (Between Gods and Demons) of 1938 are considered his poetical masterpiece. Falling prey to alcohol during the later events of the War, he took his own life at the time of the advance march of the Red Army, leaving behind a clear-sighted parting letter. He was buried in the village of Kirchstetten, Austria, where he lived from 1936. Part of his house there, located on Josef Weinheber-Strasse, has been preserved as a museum in his honor. The English poet W.H. AudenW. H. Auden, who spent summers in Kirchstetten from 1958 through 1973, wrote a moving poem about Weinheber called "Josef Weinheber." Auden acknowledges Weinheber's support of Nazism but also records his reply to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels' offer to enrich Austrian culture: "in Ruah lossen" (leave us alone). Auden's poem appears in his Collected Poems.

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