“Between Utopia and Counter-Revolution – the Lifes of Werner and Emmy Scholem” (documentary by Niels Bolbrinker, Germany 2014, English subtitles, 17minutes)
Walter Benjamin derided him as a “rogue” in 1924. Josef Stalin described him as a “splendid man”, though soon changed his mind, referring to him an “imbecile”. Ernst Thälmann, chairman of the German Communist Party, took a similar stance, warning his fellow comrades against the dangers of “Scholemism”. For the philosopher Gershom Scholem, however, Werner was first and foremost his older brother.
Werner and Gerhard, later Gershom, had rebelled together against their authoritarian father and the atmosphere of national chauvinism that permeated Germany during the first world war. Inspiring his younger brother to take up the Zionist cause, Werner himself underwent a long personal journey before deciding to join the struggle for Communism. Werner Scholem climbed the party ladder in both parliament and party headquarters quickly. He pushed forward the “Bolshevisatin” of the KPD while serving as leader of its apparatus, only to be expelled as an opponent of Stalin in 1926.
Werner Scholem was arrested in 1933 under mysterious circumstances. To great surprise he was declared innocent by a Nazi court in 1935 but never released from prison, and was ultimately murdered in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1940.
The filmmaker Niels Bolbrinker has portrayed Werner Scholem´s life in the short documentary “Between Utopia and Counter Revolution”. It features an impressive Interview with Scholem´s daugther Renee Goddard (*1923) who talks about her family and the tragic arrest of her parents after the Nazis took power in 1933.
The film is based on a recent biography written Ralf Hoffrogge, published in 2014: Werner Scholem – eine Politische Biographie, UVK Publishers, Konstanz. The work is about to be translated from German into English and will be published as part of the “Historical Materialism” book series with Brill Publishers.
Full documentary on youtube: