Nelly Sachs Prize

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The Nelly Sachs Prize (German: Nelly Sachs Preis) is a literary prize given every two years by the German city of Dortmund. Named after the Jewish poet Nelly Sachs, the prize includes a cash award of 15,000. It honours authors for outstanding literary contributions to the promotion of understanding between peoples.[1][2]

Because there were not enough funds to honour an awardee in 2009, the prize was awarded in 2010. This was the first time that a year was skipped in the biennial schedule.[3]

In 2019, the judges for the 2019 award reversed their decision to give the prize to Kamila Shamsie, after the German website Ruhrbarone pointed out her long-standing public support for the BDS movement.[4][5][6] The Dortmund City Council, the hosts of the award stated "Shamsie's political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott as part of the BDS (Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions) campaign against the Israeli government is clearly in contradiction to the statutory objectives of the award and the spirit of the Nelly Sachs Prize,".[7]

In response to the withdrawal, Shamsie said "In the just-concluded Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex up to one third of the West Bank, in contravention of international law and his political opponent Benny Gantz’s objection to this was that Netanyahu had stolen his idea; this closely followed the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces – which was condemned as ‘appalling’ by the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. In this political context, the jury has chosen to withdraw the award from me on the basis of my support for a non-violent campaign to bring pressure on the Israeli government.”[4]


Year Awardee Country
1961 Nelly Sachs Sweden
1963 Johanna Moosdorf Germany
1965 Max Tau Norway
1967 Alfred Andersch Switzerland
1969 Giorgio Bassani Italy
1971 Ilse Aichinger Austria
1973 Paul Schallück Germany
1975 Elias Canetti England
1977 Hermann Kesten United States
1979 Erich Fromm Germany
1981 Horst Bienek Germany
1983 Hilde Domin Germany
1985 Nadine Gordimer South Africa
1987 Milan Kundera France
1989 Andrzej Szczypiorski Poland
1991 David Grossman Israel
1993 Juan Goytisolo Spain
1995 Michael Ondaatje Canada
1997 Javier Marías Spain
1999 Christa Wolf Germany
2001 Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt France
2003 Per Olov Enquist Sweden
2005 Aharon Appelfeld Israel
2007 Rafik Schami Syria/Germany
2010 Margaret Atwood Canada
2011 Norman Manea Romania[8]
2013 Abbas Khider Iraq/Germany
2015 Marie NDiaye France[9]
2017 Bachtyar Ali Iraq


  1. ^ "Culture Facts". (English). Archived from the original on 21 April 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  2. ^ "Literaturpreis der Stadt Dortmund - Nelly-Sachs-Preis" (in German). Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  3. ^ "Nelly-Sachs-Preis geht an Margaret Atwood". Der Westen (WAZ). 10 September 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  4. ^ a b Flood, Alison (19 September 2019). "Kamila Shamsie's book award withdrawn over her part in Israel boycott" – via
  5. ^ "Dortmund: No Nelly Sachs Prize for Kamila Shamsie because of BDS activities". Ruhrbarone. 18 September 2019.
  6. ^ Guardian Staff (13 February 2015). "Over 100 artists announce a cultural boycott of Israel | Letters" – via
  7. ^ "Author Kamila Shamsie stripped of literary award over BDS support".
  8. ^ "* Romanian writer Norman Manea receives Nelly Sachs literature award in Germany". Romania Business Insider. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  9. ^ "Marie N'Diaye erhält Nelly-Sachs-Preis". (in German). 7 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.

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