Famous German Writers

Literature has always been considered the escape route for the emotionally exhausted. Germany, characterized by extreme political turmoil, has produced literature par excellence, over the years. German literature has undergone transformation along with the changes in their social, political, economic and religious situations. It has seen its highs and lows, and has produced some of the finest writers ever born. Be it 1999 Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass, or the famous Jean Paul of ‘Titan’ fame, works by German writers have always fascinated the world. They have been translated in all languages, English being the most preferred. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose work ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ every fairy tale book swears by, is probably the most famous German author, to be the inspiration behind many literary works in English. Germany, most known for its lyrical poetry, didactic poetry, epopees, use of irony and drama, modern German literature has also given us the likes of Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka. We bring to you a collection of biographies of some of the most popular German writers. Read on and find out all about their life stories, timelines and also some interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

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 Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Famous As: Diarist
Birthdate: June 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany
Died: March 12, 1945

One of the numerous Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Anne Frank gained recognition posthumously after her diary Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was published. The diary, which has been widely read and translated into numerous other languages, details the lives of Anne Frank and her family when they went into hiding for two years, after Germany occupied Netherlands.

 3 Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Andernach, Germany
Died: March 9, 1994

German-American poet and short story writer ,Charles Bukowski, addressed the ordinary lives of poor Americans in most of his works. Since his death, he has been the subject of many critical books and articles. His stories have inspired several films like Tales of Ordinary Madness, Crazy Love, and Factotum.

 4 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.

 5 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht
Famous As: Theatre practitioner
Birthdate: February 10, 1898
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Augsburg, Germany
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.

 6 Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 14, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Linden - Mitte, Hanover, Germany
Died: December 4, 1975

Hannah Arendt was a political theorist. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent political thinkers, Hannah Arendt's articles and books have had a significant influence on philosophy and political theory. Her life and work inspired the 2012 biographical drama film, Hannah Arendt. Her work has also inspired several biographies written by popular authors.

 7 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. 

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 8 Till Lindemann

Till Lindemann
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 4, 1963
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany

German singer-songwriter and poet Till Lindemann is best-recognised as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the German heavy-metal band Rammstein and for the musical project Lindemann that he fronted. Roadrunner Records listed him among "50 Greatest Metal Frontmen of All Time". He has also published two books of poetry, In stillen Nächten and Messer, and featured in minor roles in movies.

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 9 Philipp Lahm

Philipp Lahm
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: November 11, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Munich, Germany

 10 Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: November 30, 1098
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bermersheim vor der Höhe, Germany
Died: September 17, 1179

Hildegard of Bingen was a German writer, composer, Christian mystic, visionary, philosopher, polymath, and Benedictine abbess of the High Middle Ages. Apart from being the most-recorded composers of sacred monophony in modern history, Hildegard of Bingen is also widely regarded as the founder of scientific natural history.

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 11 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.

 12 Martin Luther

Martin Luther
Famous As: Father of Protestantism and Church Reformer
Birthdate: November 10, 1483
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Eisleben, Germany
Died: February 18, 1546

German monk Martin Luther challenged the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the authority of the pope, in his Ninety-five Theses, and was thus excommunicated. His German translation of the Bible enriched the German culture, and his marriage set an example for clerical marriage. His teachings are now known as Lutherans.

 13 Ruth Westheimer

Ruth Westheimer
Famous As: Media Personality
Birthdate: June 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Karlstadt am Main, Germany
German-American sex therapist Ruth Westheimer, also known as Dr. Ruth, soared to fame with the radio show Sexually Speaking and later hosted many sexuality-related shows and wrote many books, too. She is also an ethnographer and a Holocaust survivor. Her life inspired the documentary Ask Dr. Ruth.

 14 Margot Frank

Margot Frank
Famous As: Second World War victim
Birthdate: February 16, 1926
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany
Died: March 9, 1945
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 15 Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke
Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Writer, University teacher
Birthdate: March 23, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Munich

Award-winning Austrian film director and screenwriter Michael Haneke, who teaches film direction at the Film Academy Vienna, is best-known for films like The Piano Teacher, Caché, The White Ribbon and Amour. Haneke has made films in English, French and German, and mostly deals with subjects that examine social issues and portrays feelings of individuals facing social alienation in modern society.

 16 Max Ernst

Max Ernst
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: April 2, 1891
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brühl, Germany
Died: April 1, 1976

Max Ernst was a German painter, graphic artist, sculptor, and poet. A pioneer of the Dada movement, Ernst played an important role in popularizing surrealism during the early-20th century. He is also credited with inventing a couple of techniques, namely frottage and grattage. In 2005, the Max Ernst Museum was opened in his honor in Brühl, Germany.

 17 Baron Münchhausen

Baron Münchhausen
Famous As: Fiction writer
Birthdate: May 11, 1720
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bodenwerder
Died: February 22, 1797

 18 Assia Wevill

Assia Wevill
Famous As: Poet mainly remembered in the context of her relationships with and influences on Sylvia Plath and Hughes
Birthdate: May 15, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: March 23, 1969

Assia Wevill was an aspiring German poet and domestic-partner of English poet Ted Hughes. She escaped the Nazis at the start of the Second World War and eventually settled in the UK, where she got romantically involved with Hughes. She killed herself and her daughter the same way Hughes's first wife, Sylvia Plath, had killed herself six years earlier.

 19 Maria Riva

Maria Riva
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 13, 1924
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

Born to actor Marlene Dietrich, Maria Riva started her career as a child actor, working in films such as The Scarlet Empress. The Emmy-nominated actor had also been part of CBS teleplays such as The Milton Berle Show. She had penned a bestselling memoir on her mother, too.

 20 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.

 21 Lina Heydrich

Lina Heydrich
Famous As: Former Writer, Reinhard Heydrich's wife
Birthdate: June 14, 1911
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fehmarn, Germany
Died: August 14, 1985

 22 Lilli Palmer

Lilli Palmer
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 24, 1914
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Poznań, Poland
Died: January 27, 1986

 23 Christine Kaufmann

Christine Kaufmann
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 11, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mitterberg-Sankt Martin, Austria
Died: March 28, 2017

German-Austrian actress, author, and businesswoman Christine Kaufmann gained attention of post-war German movie audiences with her performances in films like Rosen-Resli, Der schweigende Engel and Ein Herz schlägt für Erika. She became the first German to be honoured with Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress for her performance in the drama film Town Without Pity.

 24 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.

 25 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 26, 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.

 26 Franz Halder

Franz Halder
Famous As: Former general, chief of staff of the Army High Command (OKH) in Nazi Germany from 1938 until September 1942
Birthdate: June 30, 1884
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Würzburg, Germany
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.

 27 Günter Grass

Günter Grass
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 16, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Free City of Danzig
Died: April 13, 2015

Günter Grass was a German novelist, illustrator, graphic artist, poet, playwright, and sculptor. A much revered and decorated writer, Grass was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999. Over the course of his illustrious career, Günter Grass won many other awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize and the Hermann Kesten Prize.

 28 Senta Berger

Senta Berger
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria

It is believed Austrian actor Senta Berger was suspended by the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar, where she studied drama, after she bagged her first movie role. The three-time Bambi Award winner is known for her roles in films such as The Quiller Memorandum. She is also involved with peace and environmental activism.

 29 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.

 30 Manfred Rommel

Manfred Rommel
Famous As: Writer, Politician, Jurist
Birthdate: December 24, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Stuttgart
Died: November 7, 2013

 31 Martin Schulz

Martin Schulz
Famous As: Politician, Bookseller, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: December 20, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Eschweiler

 32 Angela Gossow

Angela Gossow
Famous As: Vocalist
Birthdate: November 5, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany

German singer Angela Gossow is best known to fans as the lead vocalist of the Swedish death metal band Arch Enemy. She is one of the few female singers who use death grunts as part of their performances. An atheist and a vegan, she is quite vocal about her opinions.

 33 Clement Freud

Clement Freud
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 24, 1924
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: April 15, 2009

Better known as the grandson of Sigmund Freud, Clement Freud was a broadcaster who made a name as a panelist on the BBC Radio 4 show Just a Minute. He was also a Liberal MP. His reputation was tainted later, after he was accused of molesting several underage girls.

 34 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.

 35 Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle
Famous As: Spiritual teacher and self-help author
Birthdate: February 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lünen, Germany
Spiritual and self-help writer Eckhart Tolle is best known for his bestselling books The Power of Now and A New Earth. He collaborated with Oprah Winfrey, appearing in 10 live webinars and was also named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100. He also launched Eckhart Teachings and the website Eckhart Tolle TV.

 36 Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 22, 1898
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Osnabrück, 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.

 37 Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 17, 1930
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sovetsk, Russia

German film and stage actor, director, painter and author Armin Mueller-Stahl is best-known for playing the abusive father of pianist David Helfgott in the 1996 Australian biographical drama film Shine. The role earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He also featured in other films like Utz and made his directorial debut with Conversation with the Beast.

 38 Klaus Schwab

Klaus Schwab
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: March 30, 1938
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ravensburg, Germany

World-class economist Klaus Schwab, who established the World Economic Forum and is also its executive chairman, also has a mechanical engineering degree, along with a doctorate in engineering. He has been a University of Geneva professor and has been awarded a host of honorary doctorates and a French knighthood.

 39 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: September 14, 1486
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
Died: February 18, 1535

Sixteenth-century German scholar Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa was known for his expertise in philosophy and the occult. He also taught at the universities of Pavia and Dôle. His De occulta philosophia suggested magic as a way to reach God. He was eventually branded a heretic and imprisoned.

 40 Edgar Rosenberg

Edgar Rosenberg
Famous As: Film producer
Birthdate: 1925 AD
Birthplace: Bremerhaven
Died: August 14, 1987

 41 Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 8, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wuppertal, Germany

 42 Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried Herder
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.

 43 Judith Kerr

Judith Kerr
Famous As: Writer and illustrator whose books sold more than 10 million copies around the world
Birthdate: June 14, 1923
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: May 22, 2019

 44 Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Famous As: Film maker
Birthdate: May 31, 1945
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bad Wörishofen, Germany
Died: June 10, 1982

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a German actor, filmmaker, and playwright. He grew up in the aftermath of World War II and had a tough childhood. He sought solace by watching films and took acting lessons. He began his career in theater and eventually entered films as well. He is considered a prominent figure of the New German Cinema movement. 

 45 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.

 46 Gerhard Schröder

Gerhard Schröder
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Blomberg, Free State of Lippe, Nazi Germany

Gerhard Schröder is a German retired lawyer, politician, lobbyist, and consultant. From 1998 to 2005, Schröder served as the chancellor of Germany. He is currently serving as chairman of the popular energy company Rosneft. An influential figure, Gerhard Schröder has represented Germany on a couple of occasions, including the funeral services for Fidel Castro and Boris Yeltsin. 

 47 Traudl Junge

Traudl Junge
Famous As: Former editor who worked as Adolf Hitler's last private secretary from December 1942 to April 1945
Birthdate: March 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
Died: February 10, 2002

After being rejected by a dance school, Traudl Junge ditched her plan of becoming a ballerina and mastered typing instead. She later served as Adolf Hitler’s typist and was the youngest of his secretaries. After staying silent for years, she eventually revealed her experience to Austrian filmmaker Andre Heller.

 48 Gunnar Kaiser

Gunnar Kaiser
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1976 AD
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany

 49 Otto Strasser

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

 50 George Nader

George Nader
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 19, 1921
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pasadena, California, United States
Died: February 4, 2002

American actor/writer George Nader is best known for his iconic films such as Sins of Jezebel and Congo Crossing. With his 6’1” frame, the actor mostly earned "beefcake" roles. Though not openly gay, he lived with his partner Mark Miller. An eye injury later forced him to retire from acting.