Remarque Center: Writer’s record collection

Exhibition of records by Erich Maria Remarque

Records by the writer Erich Maria Remarque are on display. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

The writer Erich Maria Remarque was a great music lover with a large record collection. Little by little, this can be heard in the truest sense of the word in Osnabrück – including the original clicks and crackles that old analog records often have.

Whether Fred Astaire, Johann Sebastian Bach, the Beatles or the violinist Helmut Zacharias – the record collection of the in Osnabruck born writer Erich Maria Remarque was mixed across genres and performers. The Erich Maria Remarque Peace Center in the hometown of the world-famous writer (“Nothing new in the West”), who died in 1970, now wants to gradually make this collection tangible for visitors. In addition, 647 shellac records, 99 vinyl long-playing records and 4 vinyl singles were digitized, said on Wednesday the head of the Remarque Peace Center, Thomas Schneider, and Claudia Junk, the employee responsible for inventorying the records.

music have played a major role for Remarque, who came from a culture-distant lower middle-class family, since his youth, said Schneider. Before he became a writer, he wrote smaller compositions. He collected records himself from the 1920s until his death. It is known from diary entries that he enjoyed listening to “gramophone”, even when accompanied by guests. “People ate and drank while listening to music,” said Schneider. Only which music has not been properly known up to now – therefore the now opened collection is important for future remarque research, even if it is certainly not complete.

Remarque’s musical interests were obviously broad. Many recordings are by Marlene Dietrich – both artists had a relationship in the 1930s. In addition to classical music, the writer liked to hear chansons, Edith Piaf for example, but also the singer Greta Keller or the Kammersänger Richard Tauber, who were very well known at the time, said Junk. But Spanish or South American music can also be found among the recordings. Remarque also had a lot of personal contact with musicians and conductors in exile, he said cutter.

Born in 1898, Remarque emigrated to Switzerland in the early 1930s and also lived in the USA. The record collection comes from New York City University, which was installed as sole heir by Remarque’s widow, Paulette Goddard. The university had already given the sound carriers to the Osnabrück research facility as a permanent loan in 2015. The Essen musician Stephan Schulte digitized the recordings. It took a year and a half, he said.

“I first had to remove a thick layer of dust, fingerprints and nicotine from many of the recordings,” he said. He put broken shellac records back together with adhesive tape to make them playable. He has digitally reduced crackling and crackling noises as much as possible – they are not completely gone.

Since the record sleeves were no longer available – Remarque had apparently thrown them away – she and a team of student assistants used the record labels to research details about the recordings, which label, which musicians were involved, when the recordings were made or what pressing it was acted, Junk said. Now it’s a matter of gradually entering the recordings from the listening stations, including all researched data, in the Remarque Center. She manages about ten titles a week, said Junk – a job for the next three to five years.

For copyright reasons, the digitized recordings, including background information, can only be heard in the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Center and are not available online.