Edgar Hilsenrath

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Edgar Hilsenrath
Hilsenrath signing books at his 80th birthday celebration (Berlin 2006)
Hilsenrath signing books at his 80th birthday celebration (Berlin 2006)
Born (1926-04-02) April 2, 1926 (age 92)
Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
Notable awardsState Award in Literature of the Republic of Armenia, Alfred Döblin Prize, Heinz Galinski Prize, Hans Erich Nossack Prize, Jakob Wassermann Literature Prize, Hans Sahl Prize, Lion Feuchtwanger Prize

Edgar Hilsenrath (born 1926) is a German-Jewish writer living in Berlin. His main works are Night, The Nazi and the Barber, and The Story of the Last Thought.


Hilsenrath was born in Leipzig. In 1938 his mother escaped with her two children to Siret (Sereth), in Romanian Bukovina, where they enjoyed a respite from persecution. At the time that he should have received an entrance card to higher education, he and his mother were interned in the ghetto of Cernăuţi (Czernowitz).

He began to write about the Holocaust after his liberation when he moved to Paris. Hilsenrath also lived in Palestine, Israel, and New York City.

According to Dagmar C. G. Lorenz, Simon Wiesenthal Center,

Hilsenrath calls things by their proper names and portrays life first and foremost as physical existence, of whose details the reader is constantly made aware: birth, nursing, feeding, sex, and excretion accompanied by feelings of pleasure and pain. The rhetoric of politicians and political theory are shown to be the schemes of beings ultimately dependent on these bodily processes and subject to physical desires. Hilsenrath's very approach is a protest against disrespect toward the mortal body, against the tyranny of the mind over matter.[1]


Night describes life and survival in a Jewish ghetto in the Ukraine. In the novel The Nazi and the Barber, published in 1971 in the U.S., a German SS mass murderer, who later assumes a Jewish identity and escapes to Israel, describes the atrocities he committed.


Hilsenrath has received many prizes for his works. For his novel The Story of the Last Thought on the Armenian Genocide, Hilsenrath received the State Award in Literature of the Republic of Armenia from its president.


  • Edgar Hilsenrath, The Nazi and The Barber, Barber Press 2013. (Hardcover ISBN 978-3-9816092-0-2, Paperback ISBN 978-3-9816092-1-9, doi:10.4444/10.2).
  • Edgar Hilsenrath, The Story of the Last Thought, London: Scribners 1990. (ISBN 0-356-19515-5)

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