Anna Seghers

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Anna Seghers, 1966

Anna Seghers (born November 19, 1900 in Mainz , † June 1, 1983 in East Berlin ; born Netty Reiling, married as Netty Radványi ) was a German writer .


Anna Seghers was the only child of the Mainz art and antique dealer Isidor Reiling and his wife Hedwig (née Fuld) . Her maternal grandfather was the Frankfurt lawyer Salomon Fuld . The father was a member and part of the property developer of the new Orthodox synagogue in Flachsmarktstrasse, which was inaugurated in 1879 . She attended a private school from 1907, then from 1910 the higher girls' school in Mainz, today's Frauenlob grammar school . During the First World War she did military service. In 1920 she graduated from high school . She then studied in Cologne and HeidelbergHistory, Art History and Sinology. In 1924 she received her doctorate from the University of Heidelberg with a dissertation on Jews and Judaism in Rembrandt's work .

In 1925 she married the Hungarian sociologist László Radványi , who came from a Jewish family and called himself Johann Lorenz Schmidt from then on . She had two children with him. The couple moved to Berlin , where they lived in the Wilmersdorf district from 1925 to 1933. In 1926 their son Peter was born, who is now called Pierre Radványi . The young author signed her first story Die Toten auf der Insel Djal with Antje Seghers in the 1924 Christmas supplement of the Frankfurter Zeitung . The story Grubetsch appeared in 1927 under the stage name Seghers (without a first name), whereupon critics suspected a man to be the author. She borrowed the pseudonym from the Dutch etcher and painter Hercules Seghers, whom she valued (the name was also spelled Segers ).

In 1928 daughter Ruth was born. That year Seghers' first book Uprising of the Fishermen of St. Barbara was published under the pseudonym Anna Seghers. At the suggestion of Hans Henny Jahnn , she received the Kleist Prize for her first work in the same year . Also in 1928 she joined the KPD and in the following year she was a founding member of the League of Proletarian Revolutionary Writers . In 1930 she traveled to the Soviet Union for the first time . After the seizure of power by the National Socialists Anna Seghers was briefly by the Gestapo arrested; their books were banned and burned in Germany . A little later she was able to flee to Switzerland , from where she went to Paris.

In exile, she worked on magazines for German emigrants, including as a member of the editorial team of the Neue Deutsche Blätter . In 1935 she was one of the founders of the Association of German Writers in Paris. After the start of the Second World War and German troops marched into Paris, Seghers' husband was interned in the Le Vernet camp in southern France . Anna Seghers and her children managed to escape from occupied Paris to the part of southern France ruled by Philippe Pétain . There she tried in Marseilles to get her husband released and to find ways to leave the country. Their efforts finally met with success at the Mexican Consulate General, led by Gilberto Bosques , where refugees were generously issued entry permits. This time formed the background of the novel Transit (published 1944).

Memorial plaque on Anna-Seghers-Strasse 81 in Berlin-Adlershof

In March 1941 Anna Seghers succeeded in emigrating with her family from Marseille to Mexico City via Martinique , New York , Veracruz . Her husband found a job there, first at the Workers' University, and later also at the National University. Anna Seghers founded the anti-fascist Heinrich Heine Club , of which she became president. Together with Ludwig Renn , she launched the Free Germany Movement and published the magazine of the same name. In 1942 her novel The Seventh Cross was published in an English edition in the USA and in German in Mexico by the exile publisher El libro libre (The free book). In June 1943 Anna Seghers suffered serious injuries in a traffic accident that made a long hospital stay necessary. In 1944, Fred Zinnemann filmed The Seventh Cross - the success of the book and film made Anna Seghers world famous; After her death, Hans Werner Henze made this novel the basis of his 9th symphony in 1996 in a rework by Hans-Ulrich Treichel .

In 1947 Seghers left Mexico and returned to Berlin, where she initially lived in West Berlin as a member of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany . At the First German Writers' Congress in October 1947, she gave a much-noticed speech on exile and the concept of freedom. That year she was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize . In 1950 she moved to East Berlin and was appointed a member of the World Peace Council and a founding member of the German Academy of the Arts . In 1951 she received the GDR National Prize and went on a trip to the People's Republic of China . In 1952 she became president of the GDR Writers' Association and remained so until 1978. In 1955 Anna Seghers and her husband moved to Volkswohlstrasse 81 (since 1984 Anna-Seghers-Strasse) in Berlin-Adlershof , where they lived until her death. The Anna Seghers Memorial , a museum on the author's life and work , has been in the apartment since the end of the 20th century .

Grave of Anna Seghers in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin.

When in 1957 Walter Janka , the head of the Aufbau Verlag , who published her books, was tried for alleged “ counterrevolutionary conspiracy”, Anna Seghers did not take a public position. When Heiner Müller was expelled from the Writers' Union in 1961, she voted against it. In 1975 she was awarded the World Peace Council's Culture Prize and honorary citizenship of (East) Berlin. In 1978 she resigned as President of the Writers' Union and became its Honorary President. Her husband died that same year. In 1979 Anna Seghers remained silent about the exclusions of nine critical authors from the Writers' Union. In 1981 she was given the honorary citizenship of her native Mainz. She died on June 1, 1983 and was buried in the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof in Berlin after a state act in the Academy of Arts of the GDR .


Anna Seghers' early works can be assigned to the New Objectivity . In exile literature , she not only played an important role as an organizer, but also wrote two of the most important literary novels of the time, Transit and The Seventh Cross . Her later novels , published in the GDR , are committed to socialist realism . They show a schematic guiding of figures and irritate with their loyalty to the party, which can be attributed not least to the numerous official functions (e.g. as president of the Writers' Union ). In contrast to the novels of the fifties and sixties, the late narratives retain their literary validity. Right up to old age, Seghers demonstrated a narrative freshness in it, which was not least due to the fact that she repeatedly took up materials from the Renaissance , East Asia, the Caribbean or Mexico, which she was both sensitive and knowledgeable as well as with great inventiveness and creative talent - beyond all clichés - knew how to tell great literary stories.

Film adaptations

Radio plays

Honors and prizes

Awarded the Patriotic Order of Merit in Gold 1960 to Anna Seghers, here with Rector Schröder and Otto Nagel (r.)
Image and text from the Federal Archives : Anna Seghers was awarded honorary citizenship of the city of Mainz. On this occasion, Klaus Höpcke , Deputy Minister for Culture of the GDR, was in her Berlin apartment (from right to left) ; Manfred Harder , President of Gutenberg University Mainz; Mayor Anton Maria Keim , Klaus Bölling , Head of the Permanent Mission of the FRG in the GDR, Herman-Hartmut Weyel (SPD parliamentary group leader in Mainz); Lord Mayor Jockel Fuchs (standing), Günter Storch (FDP parliamentary group leader in Mainz), Ms. Fuchs and other personalities present. (1981)

See also


  • Monika Melchert: In the protection of eagles and snakes. Anna Seghers in exile in Mexico, Quintus-Verlag, Berlin, 2020, ISBN 978-3-947215-84-3 .
  • Monika Melchert: Wild and tender dreams. Anna Segher's years in exile in Paris 1933–1940 , Bübül Verlag, Berlin, 2018, ISBN 978-3-946807-24-7 .
  • Daniel Hoffmann: Post to the Promised Land. A Jewish story . In: Argonaut ship . Yearbook of the Anna Seghers Society, Volume 22, 2013, ISBN 978-3-942476-92-8 , pp. 219–229.
  • Monika Melchert: Coming back to a cold country. Anna Seghers in Berlin from 1947 to 1952 . Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-942476-17-1 .
  • Walter Fähnders, Helga Karrenbrock (ed.): Authors of the Weimar Republic (=  Aisthesis textbook . No. 5 ). Bielefeld 2003, ISBN 3-89528-383-5 .
  • Birgit Schmidt: When the party discovers the people. Anna Seghers, Bodo Uhse, Ludwig Renn u. a. A critical contribution to the popular front ideology and its literature . Münster, ISBN 3-89771-412-4 .
  • Pierre Radvanyi: Beyond the Stream. Memories of my mother AS Aufbau, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-351-02593-9 .
  • Christiane Zehl Romero: Anna Seghers. A biography 1900–1947 . Structure, Berlin 2000, ISBN 978-3-351-03498-6 .
  • Christiane Zehl Romero: Anna Seghers. A biography 1947–1983 . Structure, Berlin 2003, ISBN 978-3-351-03497-9 .
  • Christiane Zehl Romero: Anna Seghers. Letters 1924–1952 . Ed .: Almut Giesecke. Structure, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-351-03473-3 .
  • Christiane Zehl Romero: Anna Seghers. Letters 1953-1983 . Ed .: Almut Giesecke. Structure, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-351-03474-0 .
  • Irina Wittmer : Excursion of the dead brides. Eight fictional encounters with Anna Seghers and the Jewish Mainz . In: Krautgarten . No. 55 , 2009, ISBN 978-3-00-028847-0 , pp. 23–30 (partial print from private print).
  • Anita Wünschmann: Anna Seghers. Jew, communist, citizen of the world - the great narrator of the 20th century . Hentrich & Hentrich Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 978-3-933471-68-0 .
  • Friedrich Albrecht: The narrator Anna Seghers 1926–1932 (=  New Contributions to Literary Studies . Volume 25 ). Rütten & Loening, Berlin 1965, DNB  450042669 (Revised dissertation under the title: Das Frühwerk Anna Segher (1926–1932) ).
  • Friedrich Albrecht: Efforts. Works on the work of Anna Seghers 1965–2004 . Peter Lang, Bern 2005, ISBN 3-03910-619-8 .
  • Friedrich Albrecht: The adventurous life of the poet Anna Seghers. Texts by Anna Seghers, selected and presented for young readers . Bertuch, Weimar, ISBN 3-937601-58-9 .
  • Bernd-Rainer BarthSeghers, Anna . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 2. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Sonja Hilzinger:  Seghers, Anna. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 24, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-428-11205-0 , pp. 162-164 ( digitized version ).
  • Anette Horn: Controversial Legacy and Innovation: The Novella Die Reiseegegnung by Anna Seghers in the literary-political context of the GDR in the 1970s, contributions to literature and literary studies of the 20th century No. 22, edited by Eberhard Mannack . Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-631-54024-8 .
  • Christina Salmen: Anna Seghers: The most beautiful stories. With an afterword by Gunnar Decker . Structure, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-351-03495-5 .
  • Oskar Neumann: So we see a way: In memory of Anna Seghers . In: Antifascism or defeats prove nothing but that we are few (= dialectic , 7). Pahl-Rugenstein, Cologne 1983, ISBN 3-7609-0844-6 .
  • Kurt Batt: Anna Seghers. Trial over development and works . Röderberg, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-87682-470-2 (first Reclam, Leipzig: 1973)
  • Rolf Michaelis : Obituary. In: Die Zeit , No. 24/1983
  • Christa Wolf : Encounters with Anna Seghers. In: Continued attempt - essays, conversations, essays, Reclam jun. Leipzig, 1979, Reclam UBB 773

Web links

Commons : Anna Seghers  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. About the synagogue consecrated in 1879 in Flachsmarktstrasse of the Israelite Religious Society in Mainz ( memento from September 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) by Rabbi Leo Trepp on November 9, 2004; Web access: August 14, 2011. The Orthodox Jewish community called itself the Israelite Religious Society and was led by Rabbi Marcus Lehmann . The synagogue was destroyed during the November pogroms in 1938 .
  2. ^ Biography of A. Seghers on the website of the Aufbauverlag ( Memento from June 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Decker, p. 288 below in Salmen, edition 2008.
  4. ^ Anna Seghers - Exile in France. ( Memento from November 9, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) Student project, University of Potsdam.
  5. Anna Seghers in Mexico ( Memento from June 27, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Life and work in exile in Mexico.
  6. A deep shame . In: Der Spiegel . No. 30 , 2000 ( online - Anna Seghers in 1947, exactly three weeks after her arrival in Berlin).
  7. ^ Anna-Seghers-Strasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  8. "The Celebration" - Drama fragment discovered by Anna Seghers. Website of the Anna Seghers Society; accessed on December 16, 2014.
  9. ^ The East German writer Anna Seghers (...) . In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna November 21, 1970, p. 11 , column 2, below ( - the open online archive - digitized).
  10. Anna Seghers Memorial