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Ferdinand von Schirach

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Ferdinand von Schirach
Von Schirach in 2009
Born (1964-05-12) May 12, 1964 (age 60)
Occupation(s)Lawyer, writer

Ferdinand Benedikt von Schirach[citation needed] (born 12 May 1964[citation needed]) is a German lawyer and writer. He published his first short stories at the age of forty-five. Shortly thereafter he became one of Germany's most successful authors. His books, which have been translated into more than 35 languages, have sold millions of copies worldwide and have made him "an internationally celebrated star of German literature."[1]

Life and work[edit]

Schirach was born in Munich. A member of the noble Sorbian (West Slavic) Schirach family, he is the son of Munich businessman Robert Benedict Wolf von Schirach[2] (1938–1980) and his wife Elke (née Fähndrich, born 1942/1943, married 1962, divorced 1970).[3][4] His father's parents were National Socialist youth leader Baldur von Schirach, and Henriette von Schirach née Hoffmann. His American great-grandmother was a descendant of Henry Middleton and John Parker. His mother Elke was the daughter of Ernst Fähndrich (died April 1945), who had worked for Heinrich Himmler, and Gretl Wieshofer-Kiehn, from her first marriage. Gretl was daughter of Fritz Kiehn [de] (1885–1980), a former member of the Reichstag and owner of Efka-Werke [de].[5]

He grew up in Munich and Trossingen and was educated at the Jesuit college Kolleg St. Blasien, about which he wrote in connection with sexual harassment in the Catholic Church in Der Spiegel.[6] After studies in Bonn and his Referendariat in Aachen and in Berlin he became an attorney in 1994, specialised in criminal law. Von Schirach is considered a prominent attorney and represented, among others, the BND spy Norbert Juretzko, and, in the so-called "Politbüro trial", Günter Schabowski. He attracted attention in connection with the "Liechtenstein Tax Affair", in which charges were brought against the German Federal Intelligence Service Bundesnachrichtendienst and when he complained to the Berlin data protection agency on behalf of the family of actor Klaus Kinski, when it allowed the publication of Kinski's medical file. Schirach is active exclusively in the domain of criminal law.

In August 2009, Schirach published the book Verbrechen ("Crime") with the publisher Piper Verlag. The book remained on Der Spiegel's bestseller list for 54 weeks. The collection of stories is based on cases from his chambers. Rights to the book were sold in more than 30 countries.

In August 2010, his second book, Schuld ("Guilt") appeared, again with Piper Verlag, and again it contains short stories drawing on von Schirach's everyday experience as an attorney.[7][8]

In September 2011, Piper Verlag published Schirach's third book, Der Fall Collini ("The Collini Case"), which reached no. 2 on the bestseller list of Der Spiegel. The book features a character based on Schirach's grandfather.[9] It tells of the murder of the industrialist Hans Meyer, who had been a Nazi officer in Italy. It deals, controversially, with the sometimes excessively mild ways in which the post-World War II justice system in Germany dealt with former Nazis. It was adapted into a film in 2019.

He has since published another collection of three short stories Carl Tohrbergs Weihnachten ("Carl Tohrberg's Christmas"), a second Novel Tabu ("The Girl Who Wasn't There"), a collection of the essays he wrote for Der Spiegel titled Die Würde ist antastbar ("Dignity is violable", alluding to the first sentence of the German Constitution) and the theater play Terror. The play stages the court trial of an air force pilot accused of mass murder after having shot down a hijacked civil plane which was intended to crash into a soccer stadium. The audience gets to act as a jury and votes on the verdict on which the sentence at the end of the play is then based.

In 2018, he published another collection of twelve short stories, titled Strafe (Punishment). As explained in an interview with Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Strafe completes the trilogy he began with Verbrechen and Schuld; he had always planned it to take this form. Each of the volumes corresponds to the examination order of an indictment in a criminal court of law.[10]

Selected works[edit]

  • „Kaffee und Zigaretten“, 2019
  • „Trotzdem“, 2020
  • „Jeder Mensch“, 2021
  • „Nachmittage“, 2022


  • Terror, 2015
  • Gott, 2020

Film adaptations[edit]

  • Glück, 2012
  • Verbrechen, 2013
  • Schuld, 2014–2019
  • The Verdict [de], 2016
  • Der weiße Äthiopier, 2016
  • Asphaltgorillas, 2018
  • The Collini Case, 2019
  • Gott, 2020
  • Feinde, 2021
  • Glauben, 2021


  1. ^ Uwe Wittstock (9 September 2013). "Was ist Schuld?". Focus. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Marriage notice, Robert Benedict Wolf von Schirach and Elke Fähndrich". Der Spiegel (in German). 31 July 1962. Retrieved 16 January 2024.
  3. ^ SPIEGEL, DER (31 July 1962). "Baldur Benedict von Schirach". Der Spiegel.
  4. ^ Berghoff, Hartmut; Rauh, Cornelia (1 May 2015). The Respectable Career of Fritz K.: The Making and Remaking of a Provincial Nazi Leader. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-78238-594-3.
  5. ^ "ZDF-Krimi-Autor hat Wurzeln in Trossingen". www.schwaebische.de (in German). 16 February 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2023.
  6. ^ SPIEGEL, Ferdinand von Schirach, DER (7 February 2010). "WAS ÜBRIG BLEIBT". Der Spiegel.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Georg Oswald (25 July 2010). "Aller Abgrund ist schwarz". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  8. ^ Uwe Wittstock (31 July 2010). "Weisheit und Blindheit der Gesetze". Die Welt. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  9. ^ Pidd, Helen (7 September 2011). "Top German author confronts his grandfather's Nazi past in new book". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2023.
  10. ^ "Schriftsteller Ferdinand von Schirach – "Das Leben wird eng, wenn Sie alles nur zynisch beurteilen."". Deutschlandfunk Kultur. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

External links[edit]