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 Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski.
15
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Andernach
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.

 2 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
8
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.

 3 Anne Frank

Anne Frank.
14
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.

 4 Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov.
7
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.

 5 Martin Luther

Martin Luther.
4
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.

 6 Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht.
7
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.

 7 Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse.
6
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 Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt.
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 14, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: 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.

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 9 Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle.
6
Famous As: Spiritual Speaker & Author
Birthdate: February 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lünen
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.

 10 Till Lindemann

Till Lindemann
6
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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 11 Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich.
4
Famous As: Film Director, Screenwriter
Birthdate: November 10, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
German director/producer Roland Emmerich is best known for his blockbuster disaster/war films such as The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Patriot. The LGBT activist is also openly gay. He is also an avid art collector. He has also worked for women’s rights and environmental causes.

 12 Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen.
4
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.

 13 Philipp Lahm

Philipp Lahm
4
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: November 11, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Munich, Germany

 14 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller.
4
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.

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 15 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin.
4
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.

 16 Ruth Westheimer

Ruth Westheimer.
4
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.

 17 Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
6
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: February 4, 1906
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: April 9, 1945
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer is remembered for his anti-Nazi stance, for establishing the Confessing Church, and for authoring the book The Cost of Discipleship. He was sent to the Flossenbürg concentration camp after being imprisoned for a year. He was eventually hanged after being charged of plotting to assassinate Hitler.

 18 Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque.
4
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.

 19 Margot Frank

Margot Frank
4
Famous As: Second World War victim
Birthdate: February 16, 1926
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, Germany
Died: March 9, 1945

 20 Baron Münchhausen

Baron Münchhausen
4
Famous As: Fiction writer
Birthdate: May 11, 1720
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bodenwerder
Died: February 22, 1797

 21 Emilie Schindler

Emilie Schindler
4
Famous As: Writer, Autobiographer
Birthdate: October 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Maletín
Died: October 5, 2001

Emilie Schindler is best remembered as the wife of Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved over a thousand Jews from the Nazis by employing them at his factory and later inspired the iconic Steven Spielberg movie Schindler's List. She later fled to Argentina with Oskar but was abandoned by him.

 22 Assia Wevill

Assia Wevill
4
Famous As: Socialite, Poet
Birthdate: May 15, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Berlin
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.

 23 Heinrich Heine

Heinrich Heine.
3
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.

 24 Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
4
Famous As: Politician, Writer, Officer
Birthdate: March 20, 1870
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saarlouis
Died: March 9, 1964

 25 Lina Heydrich

Lina Heydrich
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 14, 1911
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fehmarn
Died: August 14, 1985

 26 Martin Schulz

Martin Schulz
3
Famous As: Politician, Bookseller, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: December 20, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Eschweiler

 27 Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann.
4
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.

 28 Lilli Palmer

Lilli Palmer
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 24, 1914
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Poznań, Poland
Died: January 27, 1986

 29 Manfred Rommel

Manfred Rommel
3
Famous As: Writer, Politician, Jurist
Birthdate: December 24, 1928
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Stuttgart
Died: November 7, 2013

 30 Günter Grass

Günter Grass.
3
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.

 31 Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder.
3
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. 

 32 Ulrike Meinhof

Ulrike Meinhof
3
Famous As: Journalist, Writer, Sociologist
Birthdate: October 7, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oldenburg
Died: May 9, 1976

 33 Angela Gossow

Angela Gossow
3
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.

 34 Franz Halder

Franz Halder
3
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.

 35 E. T. A. Hoffmann

E. T. A. Hoffmann.
3
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.

 36 Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl
3
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.

 37 Gunnar Kaiser

Gunnar Kaiser
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1976 AD
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany

 38 Edgar Rosenberg

Edgar Rosenberg
3
Famous As: Film producer
Birthdate: 1925 AD
Birthplace: Bremerhaven
Died: August 14, 1987

 39 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
3
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 Traudl Junge

Traudl Junge
4
Famous As: Memoirist, Painter, Secretary, Writer
Birthdate: March 16, 1920
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Munich
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.

 41 Jacob Grimm

Jacob Grimm
3
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.

 42 Georg Büchner

Georg Büchner
3
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.

 43 Dietrich Eckart

Dietrich Eckart
3
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.

 44 Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Rainer Werner Fassbinder
4
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 Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch
3
Famous As: Film director, Actor, Screenwriter, Film producer, Writer, Film editor
Birthdate: January 29, 1892
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: November 30, 1947

 46 Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried Herder
3
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.

 47 Hans Morgenthau

Hans Morgenthau
3
Famous As: Judge, Political scientist, Writer, Philosopher, University teacher
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.

 48 Gerhard Schröder

Gerhard Schröder
6
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. 

 49 Götz von Berlichingen

Götz von Berlichingen.
4
Famous As: Imperial Knight, Mercenary, Poet
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.

 50 Blixa Bargeld

Blixa Bargeld
3
Famous As: Actor, Composer, Experimental musician, Singer, Writer, Guitarist
Birthdate: January 12, 1959
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: West Berlin