Famous 19th Century German Writers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Novelist
Birthdate: August 28, 1749
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Goethe House, Frankfurt, Germany
Died: March 22, 1832

Regarded as the greatest literary figure in Germany's modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a statesman and writer. Apart from writing poetry and prose, he also wrote treatises on color, anatomy, and botany. Thanks to his literary genius, Goethe was made part of the Duke's privy council in Weimar and he implemented several reforms at the University of Jena.

 2 Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov.
Famous As: Playwright, Short-story writer
Birthdate: January 29, 1860
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Taganrog, Russia
Died: July 15, 1904

Anton Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer and playwright. Widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of short fiction, Chekhov's works have influenced the progression of the modern short story. As a playwright, Anton Chekhov is credited with influencing the rise of modernism in theatre, along with August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen.

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 3 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht.
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: February 10, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg, German Empire
Died: August 14, 1956

German playwright, poet, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht, is best known for co-writing the play, The Threepenny Opera, with Kurt Weill. Growing up in war-torn Germany in the early 20th century, he had a difficult life. A hardcore Marxist, he lived in exile during the Nazi period. He returned to Germany after the war and established a theater company.

 4 Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse.
Famous As: Poet & Novelist
Birthdate: July 2, 1877
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Calw, Germany
Died: August 9, 1962

German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He explored individuals’ search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality in his works. An intense and headstrong person from childhood, he developed an early interest in reading. He started writing as a young man and became an influential author in the German-speaking world. 

 5 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller.
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: November 10, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: May 9, 1805

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.

 6 Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche.
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 15, 1844
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Röcken, Lützen, Germany
Died: August 25, 1900

German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, and poet Friedrich Nietzsche has had a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He held the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. His work spanned philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism, and fiction. He suffered from numerous health problems from a young age and died at the age of 55.

 7 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin.
Famous As: Philosopher, Cultural Critic, Essayist
Birthdate: July 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 27, 1940

Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish essayist, philosopher, and cultural critic. An eclectic thinker, Benjamin made significant contributions to literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and historical materialism. Although Benjamin's work did not earn much recognition during his lifetime, it continues to be revered by academics several years after his death.

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 8 Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque.
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 22, 1898
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Osnabrück, Saxony, Germany
Died: September 25, 1970

German novelist Erich Maria Remarque is best remembered for his landmark novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Born in the late 1890s, he was conscripted into the German Imperial Army during World War I. His wartime experiences later motivated him to write what would become his seminal work. He also authored many other poignant novels.

 9 Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann.
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 6, 1875
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lübeck, Germany
Died: August 12, 1955
German author Thomas Mann, known for his epic novels, was part of the Hanseatic Mann family of authors. He depicted his own family in his novel Buddenbrooks. He won the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature. During Hitler’s reign, he fled to Switzerland and then to the U.S.

 10 Heinrich Heine

Heinrich Heine.
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 13, 1797
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Düsseldorf, Germany
Died: February 17, 1856

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, literary critic, and writer. He is known internationally for his lyric poetry, which was popularized by composers like Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann who adapted Heine's lyric poetry into art songs. Heinrich Heine's radical political views forced the German authorities to ban his works, which only added to his popularity.

 11 Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
Famous As: Politician, Writer, Officer
Birthdate: March 20, 1870
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saarlouis
Died: March 9, 1964

 12 Georg Büchner

Georg Büchner
Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: October 17, 1813
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Riedstadt, Germany
Died: February 19, 1837

Part of the Young Germany movement, German dramatist and author Georg Büchner was a revolutionary and a master of Expressionist plays. Born to an army doctor, he studied medicine but also simultaneously participated in pamphleteering for social issues. He is remembered for works such as Danton’s Death and Woyzeck.

 13 Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder.
Famous As: General, Historian
Birthdate: October 26, 1800
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Died: April 24, 1891

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder was a Prussian field marshal who served as the chief of staff in the Royal Prussian Army for 30 years. Moltke, who commanded troops during Austro-Prussian War, Second Schleswig War, and the Franco-Prussian War, is credited with creating a new method of directing armies. He is also credited with pioneering the military usage of railways. 

 14 Franz Halder

Franz Halder
Famous As: Soldier, Writer, Diarist
Birthdate: June 30, 1884
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Würzburg
Died: April 2, 1972

Franz Halder, the son of an army officer, became the Chief of General Staff of the German army, replacing General Ludwig Beck. He later became the Commander in Chief but was replaced due to disagreements with Hitler. He later testified against major Nazi officials in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.

 15 E. T. A. Hoffmann

E. T. A. Hoffmann.
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 24, 1776
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Königsberg, Germany
Died: June 25, 1822

E. T. A. Hoffmann was a German author, jurist, artist, composer, and music critic. His stories served as an inspiration and laid the foundation for The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is also based on Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffmann is among the most influential authors of the Romantic Movement.

 16 Jacob Grimm

Jacob Grimm
Famous As: Philologist
Birthdate: January 4, 1785
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hanau, Germany
Died: September 20, 1863

Part of the legendary folklorist duo known as the Brothers Grimm, Jacob Grimm gave to the world Grimm’s Fairy Tales, along with his younger brother, Wilhelm Grimm. The son of a lawyer, he, too, had initially studied law. He also contributed immensely to Germanic linguistics, with his Grimm's law.

 17 Dietrich Eckart

Dietrich Eckart
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Germany
Died: December 26, 1923

German anti-Semitic völkisch poet, playwright, journalist, publicist, and political activist Dietrich Eckart, one of Adolf Hitler's earliest mentors who Hitler acknowledged as the spiritual co-founder of Nazism, founded German Workers' Party, the precursor of Nazi Party. Eckart was the original publisher of the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, and lyricist of Sturmlied, the de facto anthem of the Sturmabteilung.

 18 Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch
Famous As: Film director, Actor, Screenwriter, Film producer, Writer, Film editor
Birthdate: January 29, 1892
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: November 30, 1947

 19 Karl May

Karl May
Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Children's writer, Screenwriter
Birthdate: February 25, 1842
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hohenstein-Ernstthal
Died: March 30, 1912

German author Karl May is best remembered for his travel and adventure tales, which narrate stories set in the Middle East and other lands. His best-known works include The Treasure in the Silver Lake. He developed his love for literature after reading voraciously while in prison for fraud.

 20 Nelly Sachs

Nelly Sachs
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Writer
Birthdate: December 10, 1891
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Schöneberg
Died: May 12, 1970

Nelly Leonie Sachs, internationally noted German-Swedish poet and dramatist, wrote conventional romantic poems until the rise of Nazism brought about a drastic change in her life. Forced to flee to Sweden, she began writing about the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews, concurrently translating German works into Swedish and vice-versa. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.

 21 Otto Strasser

Otto Strasser
Famous As: Journalist, Politician, Writer
Birthdate: September 10, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bad Windsheim
Died: August 27, 1974

 22 Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters
Famous As: Painter, Artist, Sculptor, Graphic designer, Writer
Birthdate: June 20, 1887
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hanover
Died: January 8, 1948

German artist and poet Kurt Schwitters, known for collage, artist's book, installation, sculpture and poetry, is noted for his collages and relief-constructions. Schwitters planned a Dada section in Hanover and the Merz art-style traces back to him, which he found by chance while forming a collage with the German word Kommerz. One of his notable works is Das Undbild, 1919.

 23 Ernst Jünger

Ernst Jünger.
Famous As: Soldier, Author, Entomologist
Birthdate: March 29, 1895
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Heidelberg, Germany
Died: February 17, 1998

Though Ernst Jünger was part of the German Army in both the World Wars, he was against the Nazi dictatorship and was accused of being involved in a plot to kill Hitler. He authored the diary-novel The Storm of Steel and also made a mark as an entomologist.

 24 Lou Andreas-Salomé

Lou Andreas-Salomé
Famous As: Psychoanalyst
Birthdate: February 12, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: February 5, 1937

Russian-born German author Lou Andreas-Salomé apparently rejected renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s marriage proposal and then married a professor instead. A skilled psychoanalyst, she was also close to Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud. She was one of the first to offer a psychoanalytic perspective to female sexuality.

 25 Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld
Famous As: Physician, Writer, Psychologist, Screenwriter, Sexologist
Birthdate: May 14, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kołobrzeg
Died: May 15, 1935

Born in Prussia, Magnus Hirschfeld had initially studied languages and had then earned a medical degree. He grew up to be a prominent sexologist and gay rights activist who referred to the LGBT community as the “third sex.” His one-of-a-kind sexology institute was later destroyed by the Nazis.

 26 Ludwig Beck

Ludwig Beck
Famous As: Writer, Military personnel
Birthdate: June 29, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Wiesbaden-Biebrich
Died: July 20, 1944

Initially the head of the Truppenamt and then the Chief of Army General Staff, Ludwig Beck tried to influence Adolf Hitler’s foreign policy, although never an official Nazi Party member. He was part of a plot to assassinate Hitler and bring about an alternate power but was shot dead after it failed.

 27 Walther Rathenau

Walther Rathenau
Famous As: Politician, Engineer, Writer, Entrepreneur, Science fiction writer
Birthdate: September 29, 1867
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: June 24, 1922

 28 Cosima Wagner

Cosima Wagner
Famous As: Composer, Writer, Director
Birthdate: December 24, 1837
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bellagio
Died: April 1, 1930

 29 Theodor Storm

Theodor Storm
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 14, 1817
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Husum, Germany
Died: July 4, 1888

 30 Friedrich Hölderlin

Friedrich Hölderlin
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 20, 1770
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lauffen am Neckar, Germany
Died: June 7, 1843

German lyric poet and dramatist Friedrich Hölderlin was a significant figure of German Romanticism. Initially pushed to join a Christian ministry by his mother, he later ditched the idea and was inspired by Greek mythology. He later suffered from schizophrenia and spent 36 years in a tower, later named the Hölderlinturm.

 31 Eduard Bernstein

Eduard Bernstein
Famous As: Politician, Philosopher, Writer, Economist
Birthdate: January 6, 1850
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: December 18, 1932

 32 Ilse Pröhl

Ilse Pröhl
Famous As: Rudolf Hess' wife
Birthdate: June 22, 1900
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: September 7, 1995

 33 Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Famous As: Archivist
Birthdate: July 10, 1846
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Röcken
Died: November 8, 1935

 34 Karl Haushofer

Karl Haushofer
Famous As: Geopolitician, Political scientist, Educationist, Officer, University teacher, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: August 27, 1869
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Munich
Died: March 10, 1946

 35 Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann
Famous As: Painter, Sculptor, Draftsperson, Printmaker, Writer, University teacher, Graphic artist
Birthdate: February 12, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Leipzig
Died: December 27, 1950

Max Beckmann was a German painter, sculptor, draftsman, printmaker, and writer. Even though scholars classify him as an Expressionist artist, he personally never identified as one. He became involved with the New Objectivity movement in the 1920s. He taught at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University in his last years.

 36 B. Traven

B. Traven
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 23, 1882
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Swiebodzin, Poland
Died: March 26, 1969

 37 Wilhelm Grimm

Wilhelm Grimm
Famous As: Lexicographer, Anthropologist, Librarian, Writer, Law librarian, Children's writer, Educationist, Linguist, Specialist in literature, Germanist, Jurist, University teacher, Poet lawyer, Mythographer
Birthdate: February 24, 1786
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hanau
Died: December 16, 1859

 38 Victor Klemperer

Victor Klemperer
Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: October 9, 1881
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland
Died: February 11, 1960

 39 Thea von Harbou

Thea von Harbou
Famous As: Screenwriter
Birthdate: December 27, 1888
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tauperlitz, Döhlau, Germany
Died: July 1, 1954

 40 Ferdinand Lassalle

Ferdinand Lassalle
Famous As: Writer, Politician, Economist, Lawyer, Philosopher
Birthdate: April 11, 1825
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Wrocław
Died: August 31, 1864

 41 Ernst Toller

Ernst Toller
Famous As: Playwright, Politician, Writer, Screenwriter, Poet lawyer, Poet
Birthdate: December 1, 1893
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Szamocin
Died: May 22, 1939

German playwright and author Ernst Toller is best remembered for his Expressionist plays and his Marxism. Though he served the German Army initially, he suffered a physical breakdown soon and quit, propagating peace instead. His best-known play, Man and the Masses, was written in prison.

 42 Hugo Ball

Hugo Ball
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 22, 1886
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pirmasens, Germany
Died: September 14, 1927

Author, poet and dramatist Hugo Ball was also a harsh social critic and a staunch pacifist. Known for his works like Critique of German Intelligence and The Flight from Time, he left Germany during WWI to settle down in neutral Switzerland, eventually becoming famous as the founder of the Dada movement and a pioneer in the development of sound poetry.

 43 Arnold Ehret

Arnold Ehret
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: July 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Died: October 10, 1922

 44 Karl Mannheim

Karl Mannheim
Famous As: Sociologist, University teacher, Writer
Birthdate: March 27, 1893
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: January 9, 1947

 45 Philipp Mainlander

Philipp Mainlander
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1841
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Offenbach, Germany
Died: April 1, 1876

Philipp Mainlander was unfortunately born out of marital rape and was later forced by his father to train to be a merchant. However, while working in Italy, he devoted himself to writing. His works include the iconic The Philosophy of Redemption. He eventually committed suicide by hanging.

 46 Anita Berber

Anita Berber
Famous As: Dancer
Birthdate: June 10, 1899
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: November 10, 1928

 47 Else Lasker-Schüler

Else Lasker-Schüler
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 11, 1869
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Elberfeld, Wuppertal, Germany
Died: January 22, 1945

One of the rare female Expressionist authors, Else Lasker-Schüler is best remembered for plays such as Die Wupper. Known for her bohemian and eccentric lifestyle, she fled the Nazis and moved first to Switzerland and then to Jerusalem. Owing to her extravagant expenses, she died in poverty.

 48 Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs
Famous As: Jurist
Birthdate: August 28, 1825
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Aurich, Germany
Died: July 14, 1895

 49 Heinrich Mann

Heinrich Mann
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 27, 1871
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lübeck, Germany
Died: March 11, 1950

 50 Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Famous As: Sculptor, Writer, Painter, Model, Poet, Artist
Birthdate: July 12, 1874
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Świnoujście
Died: December 15, 1927

Part of the German avant-garde movement and a prominent Dadaist, poet and artist Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is best remembered for her sound poetry and her posthumously published book Body Sweats. It is believed the famous urinal Fountain sculpture thought to be a work of Marcel Duchamp was actually created by Elsa.