Hermann Kasack

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Hermann Kasack (with bow tie, at the head of the table) at a meeting of the German PEN Center in 1949

Hermann Kasack (born July 24, 1896 in Potsdam , † January 10, 1966 in Stuttgart ) was a German writer and poet . He was also a pioneer in conveying literary content in the early days of broadcasting . He published some radio plays under the pseudonyms Hermann Wilhelm and Hermann Merten .


Hermann Robert Richard Eugen Kasack grew up as the only child of the general practitioner Richard Kasack and his wife Elsbeth in Potsdam. He attended the grammar Viktoria-Gymnasium in Potsdam, where he one in August 1914 Notabitur took off. A classmate was the somewhat older Edlef Köppen , also a doctor's son, to whom he remained lifelong. At the beginning of September 1914 he was drafted into military service in the First World War, but discharged from the army on October 31 due to a heart defect . He then began studying economics and literary history in Berlin , which he completed in Munich in 1920 .

In 1915 he published his first poem entitled Mother in the magazine Die Aktion . During his studies he got to know the expressionist poet Wolf Przygode , who in 1916 attended lecture evenings for "New Poetry" in Berlin. In 1916/17 he did civilian auxiliary services in Brussels , where he met Carl Einstein and Gottfried Benn . Lifelong friendships began in November 1917 with the painter Walter Gramatté - the model for the figure of the painter Catell in The City behind the Stream - and with the poet Oskar Loerke , whom he met for the first time in Gramatté's studio. Kasack's first book, Der Mensch, Verse , was published in 1918.

In 1920 Hermann Kasack married Maria Fellenberg. In the same year he became a lecturer at Gustav-Kiepenheuer-Verlag in Potsdam / Wildpark. In this role he published the collected works of Friedrich Hölderlin , among other things . He did not finish his doctoral thesis on Holderlin. In 1924 his daughter Renate was born. In 1925 he left the Kiepenheuer publishing house and became a permanent literary assistant at Funk-Hour Berlin , where he was responsible, among other things, for the programming of the first poetry readings by contemporary poets. The following year his drama Die Sister premiered and he became director at S. Fischer Verlag . In 1927 his son, the later Slavist Wolfgang Kasack , was born. From 1927 Kasack lived with his wife and two children at Potsdamer Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße 13, today's Hegelallee. In the following years he worked as a freelance writer and radio writer. He published numerous poems and was responsible for more than a hundred radio broadcasts, including many portraits of writers and numerous radio plays , only a few of which have survived as audio documents. When his socially critical radio play Der Ruf was broadcast in a National Socialist version in March 1933 (excerpts from a Hitler speech had been cut into it), he protested to Arnolt Bronnen , the new head of the literature department at the Funk- Hour, against the propaganda falsification of his work. On March 28, 1933, he was banned from any radio activity.

Kasack withdrew into private life and coined the term “ emigrant inside ” for himself in his diary . At first he published only a few poems in various magazines. In 1934 he visited Hermann Hesse for the first time and made extensive trips to Italy in the period that followed. Later he again participated together with Köppen in projects of the film production company TOBIS , until 1936/37 a state-controlled management was established here as well. Finally, in 1941, he succeeded his late friend Oskar Loerke as head editor at S. Fischer (later Suhrkamp) Verlag and held this position until 1949. At the time of Peter Suhrkamp's arrest in 1944, Kasack took over the management of the publishing house.

After the war, Kasack worked again for the Berlin radio until he moved to Stuttgart in 1949. In 1947 his best-known novel The City Behind the Stream was published , written in 1942–1944 (I – XII) and 1946 (XIII – XX) in Potsdam, for which he received the Fontane Prize in Berlin in 1949 . The novel depicts a Kafkaesque shadowy world of the dead, which in the post-war period was understood as a symbol of the totalitarian world. Also in 1947, Kasack gave the speech on the seventieth birthday of Hermann Hesse in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. In 1948 he became a founding member of the German PEN Center and a member of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz. His second and last novel, Das große Netz , was published in 1952. In it as well as in his stories Der Loom (1949) and Fälschungen (1953) he turned against dictatorship and tyranny, war and Nazi rule in the understanding of contemporary criticism and readership and wanted to make the survivors aware of their situation.

From 1953 to 1963, as President of the German Academy for Language and Poetry , he campaigned primarily for the publication of forgotten contemporary authors. In 1955, the opera Die Stadt hinter den Strom premiered in Wiesbaden , a setting of his novel of the same name by Hans Vogt with a libretto written by Kasack himself .

On his sixtieth birthday in 1956, a collection of his most important essays and speeches from three decades was published as a gift from Suhrkamp Verlag. The Hessian Ministry of Culture awarded him the Goethe badge . In 1960 he received the Leo Tolstoy Commemorative Medal from the Maxim Gorky Institute for World Literature in Moscow .

In 1963, Kasack resigned from his position as President of the German Academy for Language and Poetry after he was almost completely blind. Kasack died in his Stuttgart apartment in early 1966. In the same year, his probably last text was published by Hoffmann and Campe: year and year 1896. A look back at my life.


The following list contains only a selection, a detailed and complete list can be found on the website of the City and State Library Potsdam, see web links .


  • The human being. Verses. Munich 1918.
  • The island. Poems. Berlin 1920.
  • The song of the year. Potsdam 1921.
  • Stage. A series of poems. Potsdam 1921.
  • Echo. Thirty-eight poems. The Rabenpresse, Berlin 1933.
  • The current of the world. Poems. Hamburg 1940.
  • Eternal existence. Poems. Berlin 1943.
  • From the Chinese picture book. with drawings by Caspar Rudolf Neher, Frankfurt am Main 1955.
  • Answer and question. 13 poems. Frankfurt am Main 1961.
  • Watermark. New poems. Frankfurt am Main 1964.
  • Hermann Kasack. (= Poetry album. 291). Märkischer Verlag, Wilhelmshorst 2010, ISBN 978-3-931329-91-4 .


  • The sister. A tragedy in eight stages. Berlin 1920.
  • The tragic mission. A dramatic event in ten scenes. Berlin 1920 (reprint Potsdam 1993)
  • Vincent. Play in five acts. Potsdam 1924 (first performance in spring 1924 under the direction of Hoffmann-Harnisch in Stuttgart).
  • The city behind the stream. Libretto of the oratorio opera in three acts. Frankfurt am Main 1954.

Radio plays

  • Voices in battle. Radio play (under the pseudonym Hermann Wilhelm), Berlin 1930 (first broadcast: December 7, 1930, length: 30 '), post-production by NDR 1959 under the title Ballwechsel (director: Fritz Schröder-Jahn , length: 28')
  • Tull, the master jumper. A series of ten radio plays for young people (under the pseudonym Hermann Merten), Berlin 1932, two surviving episodes: Children 's trip with Tull (length: 33'33 ") and Tull's Children's Olympics (length: 26'54")
  • One voice out of a thousand. Funkdichtung (under the pseudonym Hermann Wilhelm), Berlin 1932 (director: Edlef Köppen , first broadcast October 6, 1932, length: 11'46 "), German Broadcasting Archive No. C 1680
  • The call. Funkdichtung (under the pseudonym: Hermann Wilhelm), Berlin 1932 (director: Edlef Köppen, first broadcast: December 12, 1932, length: 57'34 "), German radio archive No. C 1632.


  • The Visitation. A story. Munich 1919 (new edition Berlin 1922)
  • Tull, the master jumper. Leipzig 1935.
  • The birch grove. 1944.
  • The loom. Narrative. Frankfurt am Main 1949.
  • Fakes. Narrative. Frankfurt am Main 1953.
  • The unknown destination. Selected samples and works. Frankfurt am Main 1963.
  • Year and year of birth 1896. Review of my life. Verlag Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1966.


  • Alexander. The dubiousness of life. 1932 (unpublished, fragment)
  • The city behind the stream . Berlin 1947
  • The great network. Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1952.


  • Herbert Heckmann , Bernhard Zeller (Ed.): Hermann Kasack in honor. A difficult time for the presidency. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 1996, ISBN 3-89244-217-7 .
    • In it: Ute Bauermeister: Biographical information on Hermann Kasack. , Pp. 221–226 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Heribert Besch: Poetry between vision and reality. An analysis of the work of Hermann Kasack with a diary edition (1930–1943). (= Saarbrücker contributions to literary studies. 33). Röhrig, St. Ingbert 1992, ISBN 3-924555-96-6 (see:, Diss., Saarbrücken 1992).
  • Helmut John, Lonny Neumann (ed.): Hermann Kasack - life and work. 1993 symposium in Potsdam (= research on literary and cultural history , 42). Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1994, ISBN 3-631-46952-7 .
  • Wolfgang Kasack (ed.): Life and work of Hermann Kasack. A breviary. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1966.
  • Pierre Lech: Hermann Kasack and the time-critical novel of the present. Echternach / Luxemburg 1956 (Diss., 1956).
  • Fritz Martini:  Kasack, Hermann. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 11, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-428-00192-3 , p. 309 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Hans Sarkowicz , Alf Mentzer: Literature in Nazi Germany. A biographical lexicon. Extended new edition. Europa-Verlag, Hamburg / Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-203-82030-7 , pp. 252-255.
  • Heinz Schwitzke : Digression on the history of radio plays. In: Heinz Schwitzke (Ed.): Speak so that I can see you, Volume II. Early radio plays. List, Munich 1962.
  • The time : Hermann Kasack . Obituary dated January 14, 1966, updated on November 22, 2012, first in Die Zeit No. 03/1966, accessed on July 27, 2017.


  • German Broadcasting Archive : Hermann Kasack and the radio , audio CD no. Wo01, Frankfurt am Main and Potsdam 2004 (contains the radio plays A Voice of Thousand and The Call , as well as a contribution by Bertolt Brecht )
  • Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv: What children like to hear , audio CD No. mu03, Frankfurt am Main and Potsdam 2003 (a collection of children's songs and radio plays from the 1930s and 1950s, includes the radio play Tull's Children's Olympics )

Web links

Commons : Hermann Kasack  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hessian Ministry of Science and Art : Directory of the Goethe Plaques awarded from September 1952 (PDF; 62.5 MB), as of February 2016, page 4.