Famous German Writers

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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.

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 1 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(Novelist Best Known for 'The Sorrows of Young Werther', the First Novel of The Sturm Und Drang Movement)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
18
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
(Diarist)
Anne Frank
16
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 
Friedrich Nietzsche
(German Philosopher, Cultural Critic and Philologist)
Friedrich Nietzsche
5
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.

 4 
Martin Luther
(German Theologian, Religious Reformer and Key Figure in Protestant Reformation)
Martin Luther
4
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.

 5 
Bertolt Brecht
(Theatre Practitioner, Playwright, and Poet Known for His Plays: ‘The Threepenny Opera’ and ‘Life of Galileo’)
Bertolt Brecht
8
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 
Richard Wagner
(Known for His Operas and Music Dramas ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ and ‘Tristan und Isolde’)
Richard Wagner
4
Birthdate: May 22, 1813
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: February 13, 1883
German composer and conductor Richard Wagner is best remembered for his operas and music dramas. He explored the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, which combined many forms of art, including the visual, poetic, and musical. He also established the opera house Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which hosted his works The Ring and Parsifal.
 7 
Hannah Arendt
(One of the Most Influential Political Theorists of the 20th Century)
Hannah Arendt
5
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.

 8 
Hermann Hesse
(Poet, Novelist & Painter Who Won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Hermann Hesse
6
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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 9 
Rainer Maria Rilke
(Austrian Poet and Novelist Known for His Poetry Collections ‘Duino Elegies’ and ‘Sonnets to Orpheus’)
Rainer Maria Rilke
5
Birthdate: December 4, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Prague, Czech Republic
Died: December 29, 1926

Bohemian-Austrian poet and author Rainer Maria Rilke is best remembered for his numerous poetry collections and his only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. His works contain metaphors, contradictions, and elements drawn from Greek mythology. Though most of his works were in German, he had also written in French.

 10 
Eckhart Tolle
(Spiritual Teacher and Self-Help Author Known for His Works ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘A New Earth’)
Eckhart Tolle
6
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.
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 11 
Thomas Mann
(German Novelist Who Won the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Thomas Mann
4
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.
 12 
Walter Benjamin
(German Jewish Philosopher, Cultural Critic and Essayist)
Walter Benjamin
4
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.

 13 
Friedrich Schiller
(Playwright and Poet Known for His Works 'The Robbers', 'Don Carlos' and 'Mary Stuart')
Friedrich Schiller
4
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.

 14 
Philipp Lahm
(Football player)
Philipp Lahm
5
Birthdate: November 11, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
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 15 
Friedrich Engels
(German Philosopher Who Developed 'Marxism' Together With Karl Max)
Friedrich Engels
4
Birthdate: November 28, 1820
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Barmen, Germany
Died: August 5, 1895

Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, political scientist, and revolutionary socialist. Along with Karl Marx, Engels helped develop Marxism, which has had a profound impact on fields like philosophy and anthropology. Engels is credited with helping Marx publish Das Kapital, a foundational theoretical work in politics, economics, and materialist philosophy. He also co-authored influential political documents like The Communist Manifesto.

 16 
Erich Maria Remarque
(German Writer Best Known for His Novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’)
Erich Maria Remarque
4
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.

 17 
Margot Frank
(Second World War victim)
Margot Frank
4
Birthdate: February 16, 1926
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany
Died: March 9, 1945
 18 
Max Ernst
(Primary Pioneer of the 'Dada Movement' and 'Surrealism' Known for His Work 'A Week of Kindness')
Max Ernst
5
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.

 19 
Baron Münchhausen
(Fiction writer)
Baron Münchhausen
4
Birthdate: May 11, 1720
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bodenwerder
Died: February 22, 1797
 20 
Michael Haneke
(Film director, Screenwriter, Writer, University teacher)
Michael Haneke
4
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.

 21 
Martin Niemöller
(German Theologian and Pastor Known for His Most Famous Poem 'First They Came...')
Martin Niemöller
4
Birthdate: January 14, 1892
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lippstadt, Germany
Died: March 6, 1984
Best remembered for the quote “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out...,” Martin Niemöller was a German pastor who tried to counter discrimination against Christian converts with Jewish heritage. His Confessing Church was perhaps his apology for initially being a Nazi sympathizer.
 22 
Heinrich Heine
(German Poet & Literary Critic Know for His Works 'Germany. A Winter's Tale' and 'Buch der Lieder')
Heinrich Heine
3
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.

 23 
Christine Kaufmann
(First German Actress to Win the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year)
Christine Kaufmann
3
Birthdate: January 11, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lengdorf, Styria, 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 
Lilli Palmer
(Actress)
Lilli Palmer
3
Birthdate: May 24, 1914
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Poznań, Poland
Died: January 27, 1986
 25 
Manfred Rommel
(Writer, Politician, Jurist)
Manfred Rommel
3
Birthdate: December 24, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Stuttgart
Died: November 7, 2013
 26 
Franz Halder
(Former general, chief of staff of the Army High Command (OKH) in Nazi Germany from 1938 until September 1942)
Franz Halder
3
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 
E. T. A. Hoffmann
4
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.

 28 
Günter Grass
(German Novelist & Nobel Prize Laureate, Best Known for His 1959 Novel, 'The Tin Drum')
Günter Grass
3
Birthdate: October 16, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Free City of Danzig, Poland
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.

 29 
Lina Heydrich
(Former Writer, Reinhard Heydrich's wife)
Lina Heydrich
3
Birthdate: June 14, 1911
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fehmarn, Germany
Died: August 14, 1985
 30 
Martin Schulz
(Politician, Bookseller, Non-fiction writer)
Martin Schulz
3
Birthdate: December 20, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Eschweiler
 31 
Jacob Grimm
(Discoverer of ‘Grimm’s Law of Linguistics' and Co-author of the Largest German Dictionary 'Deutsches Wörterbuch')
Jacob Grimm
3
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.

 32 
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
(German Polymath and Occult Writer Known for His Book 'Three Books of Occult Philosophy')
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
3
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.

 33 
Gyles Brandreth
4
Birthdate: March 8, 1948
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wuppertal, Germany
 34 
Johann Gottfried Herder
(Philosopher, Theologian, Poet, and Literary Critic)
Johann Gottfried Herder
3
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.

 35 
Judith Kerr
(Writer and illustrator whose books sold more than 10 million copies around the world)
Judith Kerr
3
Birthdate: June 14, 1923
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: May 22, 2019
 36 
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
(Prominent Figure and Catalyst of the New German Cinema Movement)
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
4
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. 

 37 
Gerhard Schröder
(Politician)
Gerhard Schröder
6
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. 

 38 
Traudl Junge
(Former editor who worked as Adolf Hitler's last private secretary from December 1942 to April 1945)
Traudl Junge
4
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.

 39 
Georg Büchner
(German Dramatist and Writer of Prose and Poetry)
Georg Büchner
3
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.

 40 
Edgar Rosenberg
(Film producer)
Edgar Rosenberg
3
Birthdate: 1925 AD
Birthplace: Bremerhaven
Died: August 14, 1987
 41 
Novalis
(German Romantic Poet and Philosopher Known for His Poems ‘Hymns to the Night’ and ‘Spiritual Songs’)
Novalis
3
Birthdate: May 2, 1772
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wiederstedt, Germany
Died: March 25, 1801

Poet and philosopher Friedrich Leopold, better known as Novalis, was a significant figure of German Romanticism. He narrated the loss of his 15-year-old fiancé to tuberculosis in his Hymns to the Night. He himself died of the disease a few years later. He was also well-versed in natural sciences.

 42 
George Nader
4
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.

 43 
Karl May
(Former Writer known for his adventure novels set in the Old American West and featuring the characters of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand)
Karl May
3
Birthdate: February 25, 1842
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany
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.

 44 
Michael Ende
(Writer)
Michael Ende
3
Birthdate: November 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Died: August 28, 1995
 45 
Dietrich Eckart
4
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.

 46 
Götz von Berlichingen
(Imperial Knight, Mercenary, Poet)
Götz von Berlichingen
4
Birthdate: 1480 AD
Birthplace: Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Died: July 23, 1562
Also known as Götz of the Iron Hand, German knight Götz von Berlichingen had begun fighting for the Holy Roman Empire even before coming of age. A cannon-fire injury led to his right hand and wrist to be amputated, but he continued fighting with a prosthetic arm.
 47 
Otto Strasser
(Journalist, Politician, Writer)
Otto Strasser
3
Birthdate: September 10, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bad Windsheim
Died: August 27, 1974
 48 
Hans Morgenthau
(Judge, Political scientist, Writer, Philosopher, University teacher)
Hans Morgenthau
3
Birthdate: February 17, 1904
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Coburg
Died: July 19, 1980

German-born American political scientist and historian Hans Morgenthau, a leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international relations, is noted for his contributions in international relations theory and the study of international law. His book Politics Among Nations introduced the concept of political realism that played an instrumental role in the foreign policy of the US.

 49 
Gunnar Kaiser
3
Birthdate: 1976 AD
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
 50 
Blixa Bargeld
(Musician who has been a member of the groups Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and ANBB)
Blixa Bargeld
3
Birthdate: January 12, 1959
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany