Erwin Strittmatter

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Erwin Strittmatter
Erwin Strittmatter (1992) by Guenter Prust.jpg
Strittmatter in 1992
Born(1912-08-14)14 August 1912
Spremberg, Germany
Died31 January 1994(1994-01-31) (aged 81)
Stechlin, Germany
Notable workDer Laden
Political partySED
SpouseEva Braun (1956–1994; his death)

Erwin Strittmatter (14 August 1912 – 31 January 1994) was a German writer. Strittmatter was one of the most famous writers in the GDR.


Strittmatter was born the son of a baker and foods wholesaler.[1] Between 1924 and 1930 he attended the secondary school in Spremberg which has subsequently been named after him. His left his school early due to shortage of money, and at the age of 17 he started an apprenticeship as a baker. Later Strittmatter worked as baker, waiter, chauffeur, zookeeper and unskilled laborer.

In 1940 he volunteered to the Waffen-SS but was rejected.[2] Instead, in March 1941 he was drafted into the Ordnungspolizei in the SS-Polizei-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 18,[3] which operated under the control of the Waffen-SS[2] and which was involved in the deportation of Jews from Athens.[4] In October till December 1941 his unit was stationed at Cracow, probably as guards of the Krakau Ghetto.[2] Later Strittmatter completed courses in anti-partisan warfare and was deployed in Slovenia, Finland und Greece.[2]

Erwin Strittmatter (1959), speaking at the Authors’ Conference of
the Mitteldeutscher Verlag

Strittmatter deserted in March 1945[5] and lived (without documentation) in Wallern/Volary (south-west Bohemia) for a few months.[1] He was interrogated by the US Military in May 1945, but they released him, thinking him a civilian.[1] By June 1945 he was back in what remained of Germany, working for a fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Saalfeld and also for his father as a baker[1] while also working as a correspondent and later as an editor for a newspaper. In 1947, he became head official of seven municipalities. In 1954 Strittmatter began working as a freelance writer.[5] Strittmatter married Eva Strittmatter, who went on to become one of the most successful poets of East Germany, in 1956.[6]

In 1955 he was awarded the National Prize of the GDR for his novel Tinko, in 1961 he received the Lessing award of the GDR. He was a Stasi informer from 1958 to 1964.[7] His 1963 novel "Ole Bienkopp" was the first widely read work of literature in East Germany to break the constraints of Socialist Realism and offer a tragic hero who criticized representatives of the ruling Socialist Unity Party in the course of the novel.[8]

On 31 January 1994, Strittmatter died after a long illness.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Bernd-Rainer Barth. "Strittmatter, Erwin * 14.8.1912, † 31.1.1994 Schriftsteller". Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur: Biographische Datenbanken. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Erwin Strittmatter: Das unbefragte Schweigen
  3. ^ Die Partisanenkämpfe eines poetischen Menschen
  4. ^ Ralph Klein: Das Polizei-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 18: Massaker, Deportation, Traditionspflege. Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft Nr. 1/2007, 18 January 2007
  5. ^ a b Biography on German publisher's website. Archived 15 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Christian Eger, Tischgespräche in Schulzenhof, article on website of German newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.
  7. ^ Joachim Walther (23 September 1996). "Petzen und Plaudern. Die Stasi-Kontakte des ostdeutschen Erfolgsautors Erwin Strittmatter". Der Spiegel. No. 39. pp. 226–227.
  8. ^ Gregory D. Hanners, Erwin Strittmatter's 'Ole Bienkopp" and the Original of Political Criticism in GDR Literature scholarly article on Strittmatter's work.
  9. ^ Christel Berger, Der Poet und Verzauberer aus Schulzenhof, obituary on website of German newspaper Berliner Zeitung.

External links[edit]

Media related to Erwin Strittmatter at Wikimedia Commons