Ruth von Mayenburg
Ruth von Mayenburg was an Austrian journalist, writer and translator. In her earlier years, she was politically active in the Communist Party of Austria
Communist Party of Austria
The Communist Party of Austria is a communist party based in Austria. Established in 1918, it was banned between 1933 and 1945 under both the Austrofascist regime, and German control of Austria during World War II...

 (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs, or KPÖ). Fleeing the Nazis, she lived in exile in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 at Moscow's Hotel Lux
Hotel Lux
Hotel Lux was a hotel in Moscow that, during the early years of the Soviet Union, housed many leading exiled Communists. During the Nazi era, exiles from all over Europe went there, particularly from Germany. A number of them became leading figures in German politics in the postwar era...

, afterwards writing several books about her experiences there.

Early years

Ruth von Mayenburg was born in Srbice
Srbice (Teplice District)
Srbice is a village and municipality in Teplice District in the Ústí nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic.The municipality covers an area of , and has a population of 273 ....

, then in Bohemia, in the Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

, now in the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

. She was the younger daughter of a mine
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 director and grew up in a cosmopolitan, aristocratic family in the Bohemian city of Teplitz-Schönau. Her uncle was Ottomar Heinsius von Mayenburg, a pharmacist who became a millionaire with his invention of a brand of toothpaste, Chlorodont. At the age of 13, she became secretly engaged to Hansi von Herder at the wedding of her sister, Fely. Von Herder later became an SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 leader and lost his life in the Night of Long Knives.

She began studying architecture at the Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 technical school. At the age of 23, she had a relationship with Alexander-Edzard von Asseburg-Neindorf, but broke it off on the objection of General Freiherr Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord. She became involved with von Hammerstein-Equord, then head of the Army Command (Heeresleitung). In 1930, she moved to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, Austria and lived with a friend of her mother, Baroness Netka Latscher-Lauendorf, who was the companion of Theodor Körner, later president of Austria. Through them, von Mayenburg was introduced to a circle of young socialists
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and became friends with intellectuals such as the writer Elias Canetti
Elias Canetti
Elias Canetti was a Bulgarian-born modernist novelist, playwright, memoirist, and non-fiction writer. He wrote in German and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981, "for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power".-Life:...

 and Ernst Fischer, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung
Arbeiter-Zeitung (Vienna)
For the Chicago anarchist newspaper, see Arbeiter-Zeitung The Arbeiter-Zeitung was started as a Socialist newspaper on July 12, 1889 by Victor Adler. The paper was banned in 1934 after the Feb. 13 issue , but reappeared on Aug...

, who influenced her political views. She and Fischer were married in 1932.

In 1934, she and her husband took an active part against Engelbert Dollfuss
Engelbert Dollfuss
Engelbert Dollfuss was an Austrian Christian Social and Patriotic Front statesman. Serving previously as Minister for Forest and Agriculture, he ascended to Federal Chancellor in 1932 in the midst of a crisis for the conservative government...

 in the Austrian Civil War
Austrian Civil War
The Austrian Civil War , also known as the February Uprising , is a term sometimes used for a few days of skirmishes between socialist and conservative-fascist forces between 12 February and 16 February 1934, in Austria...

, forcing them to flee Austria. They first went to Czechoslovakia, where her husband got a job working for the press office of the Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

. While in exile, she became a member of the KPÖ, then outlawed. Von Mayenburg joined the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 and became a spy, traveling all over Germany and at one point sought out von Hammerstein-Equord to spy on him for the Soviet secret service. On one spy mission, she bumped into Lion Feuchtwanger
Lion Feuchtwanger
Lion Feuchtwanger was a German-Jewish novelist and playwright. A prominent figure in the literary world of Weimar Germany, he influenced contemporaries including playwright Bertolt Brecht....

 on a train. When the Stalinist purges
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 removed the leadership of von Mayenburg's division, her assignments stopped coming. She was a major, but unemployed.

In 1938, she and her husband went to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and lived in Room 271 on the fifth floor of Moscow's Hotel Lux, an international exile hotel during the Nazi era. They lived there until 1945. Fischer continued working for the Comintern.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, she served in the propaganda division of the Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...


Postwar years

After von Mayenburg's return to Austria in 1945, she became general secretary of the Austrian-Soviet Society. She worked as a film dramaturge
A dramaturge or dramaturg is a professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals mainly with research and development of plays or operas...

 at Vienna Film, working on the Willi Forst
Willi Forst
Willi Forst, born Wilhelm Anton Frohs was an Austrian actor, screenwriter, film director, film producer and singer...

 film, Wiener Mädeln. She and Fischer were divorced in 1954.

In 1966, she resigned from the KPÖ and worked as a translator, while concentrating on her writing. She wrote several books about her experiences at the Hotel Lux and about the others, some of them, future heads of state, who lived there. She wrote about her own experiences there between 1938 and 1945, as well as the period before. Her book, Hotel Lux, which she spent five years researching and writing, was the very first history ever written about the hotel. Her book is not a deep analysis of Stalinism or the Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

, rather it shows life at the hotel with anecdotes and details of the terror and betrayal experienced by the exile community during most of the 1930s, and of their sexual mores and secrets, especially during the earlier years.

Von Mayenburg's second marriage was to the conservative journalist Kurt Dieman-Dichtl.


  • Blaues Blut und rote Fahnen. Revolutionäres Frauenleben zwischen Wien, Berlin und Moskau. (1969) ISBN 3900478724, Promedia Verlag (1993)
  • Hotel Lux. Bertelsmann Verlag (1978) ISBN 3570022714
  • Hotel Lux. Das Absteigequartier der Weltrevolution. (1979) ISBN 3492113559 (Piper Verlag GmbH 1991)
  • Hotel Lux – die Menschenfalle. Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag GmbH (2011) ISBN 3938045604


  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger
    Hans Magnus Enzensberger
    Hans Magnus Enzensberger , is a German author, poet, translator, and editor. He has also written under the pseudonym Andreas Thalmayr. He lives in Munich.- Life :...

    : Hammerstein oder der Eigensinn. Eine deutsche Geschichte. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (2008). ISBN 978-3-518-41960-1
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