Rowohlt, Ernst

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Rowohlt, Ernst Gender: M
Ernst Hermann Heinrich Rowohlt
born on 23 June 1887 at 19:45 (= 7:45 PM )
Place Bremen, Germany, 53n04, 8e49
Timezone LMT m8e49 (is local mean time)
Data source
Orig source not known
Rodden Rating C
Collector: Koppejan
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_cancol.18.gif 01°56' s_mo.18.gif s_leocol.18.gif 01°30 Asc.s_sagcol.18.gif 23°31'


German publisher of modern authors. Founder of three generations (1908-1912, 1919-1943 and 1946-1960) of the Rowohlt publishing company, that sold books that reflected the Zeitgeist of their time.

He was the son of the stockbroker Heinrich Rowohlt and Anna Dorothea von Hunteln, born 1887. On his father's wish, he initially learned for banking, but after some years, he left the Bremer Bankhaus Carl F. Plump & Co. in Bremen, to learn all aspects of the book trade. He volunteered between 1905 and 1908 in the printing company Breitkopf und Härtel, the eldest Classical Music Publisher of the world, and the royal book store A. Ackermann in München. He started as a typesetter, worked as a book-binder, and engraver before he started selling books. Anton Kippenberg of Insel Verlag (Verlag: publishing company) helped him to this apprenticeship.

His first publication was "Lieder der Sommernächte", poetry of Gustav C. Edzard (1908). On 30 July 1910 he founded the Rowohlt Verlag Paris-Leipzig in Leipzig. July 1911 Kurt Wolff (1887–1963) joined him. Rowohlt introduced then unknown writers like Kafka, Hugo Ball, Georg Heym, Carl Hauptmann, Max Brod, Mechtilde Lichnowsky, Stefan and Arnold Zweig in Germany. February 1913, Kurt Wolff started his own publishing company having sold the rights of Johannes R. Becher, Max Brod, Georg Heym, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig and others for some 15,000 D-Mark. The Kurt Wolff Verlag (1913-1940) was the major publisher of expressionistic literature in Germany. Meanwhile, Rowohlt started to work as a solicitor and manager for S. Fischer Verlag and Hyperion-Verlag, Berlin.

From 1914 to 1918 Rowohlt volunteered in the German Army and became a military lieutenant-pilot. After the Great War, he founded the second Rowohlt publishing company (19 Jan 1919 - ca June 1943) in Berlin, that published again modern German language writing authors like Arnolt Bronnen, Walter Hasen-clever, Walter Mehring, Robert Musil, Kurt Pinthus (his chief scout), Ernst von Salomon, Kurt Tucholsky, Emil Ludwig, Hans Fallada and translations of amongst others Honoré de Balzac, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. In 1928, he discovered the richness of the American literature. He sponsored the translations of the work of Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner. Fallada's novel Kleiner Mann – was nun? brought him much profit (June 1932 and June 1950).

Much of his success was the result of an outgoing social life: he frequented well-known Berlin establishments like the Romanische Cafe, Bierhaus Pschorr and the bar at the Hotel Adlon, where he met writers, poets and artists. The Amazon profile of his proof reader, biographer and post-war Sartre translator Paul Mayer describes him as: "Ernst Rowohlt (1887-1960) war eine Legende schon zu Lebzeiten: ein lebensfroher, kunstbesessener Verleger, der es wie nur wenige verstand, Bücher von hoher Qualität herauszubringen und dabei ein erfolgreicher Geschäftsmann zu sein. Seine Ideen haben immer wieder neue Maßstäbe gesetzt, und die Anekdoten über seinen Umgang mit Autoren und Buchhändlern sind Legion."

But, when in 1933, the Nazi's came to power, 46 of his circa 100 books published were forbidden. He had to fear for the prediction of the poet Heinrich Heine in the play Almansor (1821): "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.” (That was but a prelude; but where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well). In 1936 was banned from the Reichskulturkammer by the Nazi's (Berufsverbot) for having published the biography of Adalbert Stifter by the Jewish-German art historian Bruno Adler. The work of Stifter was admired by Thomas Mann, Rilke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and W. H. Auden, but unknown to the German censors. See "Underground Humour In Nazi Germany, 1933-1945" by Dr F K M Hillenbrand,F. K. M. Hillenbrand [1]: About the authors "Jakob Grimm (1785-1863: of fairy-tale fame) and Adelbert Stifter (1805-88) the novelist, the (Nazi) Censor enquired whether the two authors were members of the Reichskulturkammer!"

His Jewish proof readers Paul Mayer (1889–1970) and Franz Hessel decided to emigrate. In 1940 Rowohlt fled with his Brazilian wife via Zürich, Paris, London and Rotterdam to Rio Grande in Brasil. His son Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt took over the business via a daughter company, the Deutschen Verlags-Anstalt. End December 1940 Rowohlt safely returned to Germany and on 10 February 1941 he became a captain of the Wehrmacht in a propaganda battalion. End June 1943 he was fired as politically seen unreliable and the Deutschen Verlags-Anstalt of his son Ledig became forbidden. Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt was sent to the Eastern front and returned severely injured.

After the WW2 he obtained on 27 March 1946 a license from the British Zone Authorities to publish books in Hamburg. His son Heinrich Maria Ledig got on 9 November 1945 a license from the Americans to publish books in Stuttgart. Authors of Ledig were Erich Kästner, Joachim Ringelnatz and Kurt Tucholsky. Ernst Rowohlt published the work of Wolfgang Borchert, Walter Jens, Dieter Meichsner, Gregor von Rezzori, Arno Schmidt, Ernest Hemingway and Ernst von Salomon. In 1950 the Hamburg and Stuttgart companies united in Hamburg. He and his son became famous for their cheap Ro-Ro-Ro paperbacks (Rowohlt-Rotations-Romane, June 1950), spreading the work of major writers. Some 16,000 books were published, of which they sold some 600,000,000 copies.


Ernst Rowohlt was a heavy social drinker, who enjoyed "Wein, Weib und Gesang". In 1951 he got his first heart attack. At age 70 (23 June 1957) he got the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He died 1 December 1960 of an heart attack in Hamburg.

Rowohlt married four times and had three illegitimate children. In 1912 he married the actress Emmy Reye, in 1921 Hilda Pangust, in 1933 the Brazilian Elli Engelhardt and in 1957 his mistress Maria Pierenkämper. From the actress Maria Ledig he got his son Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt (12 March 1908, Leipzig - 28 Feb 1992, New Delhi), who became a publisher. He had a daughter Anna Elisabeth (1930) and another son Harry Rowohlt (born 27 March 1945 in Hamburg as Harry Rupp) from Maria Pierenkämper when she was married with the painter Max Rupp.

Link to German Wikipedia


  • business associate/partner relationship with Fallada, Hans (born 21 July 1893). Notes: Publisher of Hanas Fallada
  • business associate/partner relationship with Hemingway, Ernest (born 21 July 1899). Notes: Publisher of Hemingway
  • business associate/partner relationship with Kafka, Franz (born 3 July 1883). Notes: Publisher of Kafka
  • business associate/partner relationship with Tucholsky, Kurt (born 9 January 1890). Notes: Publisher of Tucholsky both before and after the war.
  • (has as) recipient relationship with Musil, Robert (born 6 November 1880). Notes: gave him from 1924-1937 a monthly stipend to work on "Der mann ohne Eigenschaften"


  • Family : Adopted a child 12 March 1908 in Leipzig (Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Begin Major Project 30 July 1910 in Leipzig (Rowohlt Verlag Paris-Leipzig)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Begin Major Project 19 January 1919 in Berlin (Second Rowohlt Verlag)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : New Job 10 February 1941 (captain of the Wehrmacht)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Family : Adopted a child 27 March 1945 in Hamburg (Harry Rupp)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Begin Major Project 27 March 1946 in Hamburg (Third Rowohlt Verlag)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Begin Major Project June 1950 in Hamburg (Rowohlt-Rotations-Romane, cheap paperbacks with World Literature)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Prize 23 June 1957 (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Death by Heart Attack 1 December 1960 in Hamburg (1 December 1960)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Koppejan gives Bremen 23 June 1887 at 19h45 in Beeldgids van de Dierenriem. Ebertin might be his source.

Rowohlt, Ernst Hermann Heinrich - Deutsche Biographie


  • Diagnoses : Major Diseases : Heart disease/attack
  • Diagnoses : Psychological : Abuse Alcohol
  • Family : Relationship : Number of Marriages (4)
  • Family : Relationship : Stress - Extramarital affairs (three illegitimate children)
  • Lifestyle : Social Life : Friends (seldom at home)
  • Vocation : Military : Military service (WO1 volunteer and WO2 more or less forced)
  • Vocation : Writers : Publisher/ Editor (Three generations of Rowohlt Verlag)
  • Notable : Awards : Other Awards (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.)
  • Notable : Famous : Top 5% of Profession