Jürgen Thorwald

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jürgen Thorwald (born October 28, 1915 in Solingen as Heinz Bongartz ; † April 4, 2006 in Lugano ) was a German writer who was particularly successful as an author of historical non-fiction books designed with literary means. In particular, his books on the end of World War II , the history of surgery, and the history of scientific forensics became bestsellers .


The son of a teacher began after high school, first in Cologne , a medical school , but he had to retire for health reasons soon. Instead, he also studied German and history at the University of Cologne . His journalistic career began in 1933; He wrote for Die Braune Post , the SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps and especially for the Essener National-Zeitung , an "organ of the NSDAP ." Thorwald researcher David Oels remarked on his early work:

“After dropping out of his philology studies, he specialized in the journalistic growth markets of aviation and the air force from 1938 onwards . In 1939 his first book Luftmacht Deutschland was published , a richly illustrated folio volume. Hermann Göring wrote the preface . "

During the Second World War , Thorwald was a civil employee in Berlin in the history department of the naval high command . His publications, which were created up to 1945, "move (...) between daily journalism, popular historiography and propaganda [...], even if he did not belong to the propaganda troops." The blurb of his second book, Luftkrieg im Westen (1940), promised a " Fact book ", which represents the" essential aviation combat operations [...] charged with tension ".

After the war, Thorwald first worked as a journalist in Stuttgart , where he was one of the co-founders of the weekly newspaper Christ und Welt , for which he also worked as an editor from 1948 to 1951. Thorwald then worked for the illustrated magazine Quick . A report created in the spring of 1945, "for which he was sent to the Bay of Lübeck to (...) write about the refugees arriving there via sea ​​transport from East Prussia , West Prussia, etc." did not appear until 1948, broken down into two long articles about the catastrophe the refugee ships in 1945 ; with Christ and the world . For the Allies , the sheet, which was largely written by former employees of the Propaganda Department of the Foreign Office , was considered an "under cover Nazi paper" . “Because of Bongartz 'articles, the Allies accused her of' nationalism and militarism '. Thereupon the author took on the pseudonym Jürgen Thorwald for a series on East German fate that appeared from March to June 1949. "The publisher planned a book edition of this series of articles, because" the newspaper asked its readers for further source material for a 'substantially expanded version of the factual report' , Experience reports, calls, documents, newspapers. "

In 1949, at the time of the Cold War , Thorwald published in the series of articles “The unresolved cases, Dr. Richard Sorge ” defamatory claims in the Munich Illustrated Revue about the industrialist and savior of the Jews Willy Rudolf Foerster . So he was "of dark origin" and had "stolen a whole suitcase full of [German] construction drawings and made them available to the Russians". It is also very likely that he was a Soviet agent with permanent ties to Richard Sorge . Foerster responded with both a reply and a libel suit against the Revue . Thorwald's article was based on a manuscript by Wolfgang von Gronau . During the Second World War, he was an air attaché at the German embassy in Tokyo, where he followed the Nazi defamation campaigns against Foerster as alleged Jews, KPD sympathizers and Soviet spies. In addition, he himself, in cooperation with the Gestapo , had stopped Foerster's business connections with the Nazi opponent and Social Democrat Antonius Raab . Of particular relevance, however, was that Willy Foerster, who was slandered, arrested and expropriated because of the rescue of Jews and his anti-Nazi attitude as a Soviet agent, had been released by the Japanese as early as 1944 on the basis of proven innocence. After the war, the Nazi circles responsible for Foerster's arrest succeeded in covering up the events and branding him as a notorious criminal, liar and National Socialist among the Allies , which led to his complete expropriation and forced repatriation to Germany. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the “Communist Foerster” was apparently asked again in 1949, when he sent unpleasant petitions from Switzerland to German and Allied authorities in order to regain his reputation and his fortune. Apparently Thorwald had no knowledge of the intrigues against Foerster before his series of articles was published. In response to the libel suit, however, he instructed his good friend Gerhard Matzky , formerly a military attaché at the German embassy in Tokyo, to inspect the Foerster files in Bonn. He was particularly interested in the background to Foerster's statelessness and whether this could be used to characterize Foerster as an anti-fascist . If at all possible he, Thorwald, wanted to “thwart Foerster”. Thorwald's attempt to obtain incriminating material in the form of an allegedly existing list of Foerster's criminal records through Matzky and the former Tokyo diplomats Alois Tichy and Heinrich Seelheim was unsuccessful. It has not been proven whether he, as Foerster stated on record, tried together with von Gronau to influence witnesses by paying money against Foerster. The correspondence between Thorwald and Heinrich Seelheim as well as Seelheim and Eugen Ott shows that Thorwald apparently served as a means to an end against Foerster and was not one of the masterminds of the affair.

In 1949/50, The Great Escape was published - divided into two volumes: It began on the Vistula and The end on the Elbe  - in Stuttgart's Steingrüben Verlag. Since then the book has been reprinted over fifty times. With this and with his other documentary works about the Nazi era, he became known to a wider audience. Thorwald sometimes worked with fictionalizations, which he removed in later editions and thus "reacted to political twists and turns [e]". "So the reader has not heard anything about the thoughts of a Red Army soldier since 1979." In 1995, particularly drastic episodes were removed, such as "the chapter with Pastor Seifert, who sees 'thousands and thousands' of Germans floating dead down the Elbe in the Pirna area " , as well as that of a “wooden bedstead on which a whole family with their children was nailed with the help of long nails”, for which no evidence could be found in Thorwald's records or in other documents. The passages belonged to the “symbolic condensation”, which as “an 'eyewitness report' was the preferred example of the CDU politician and expellee functionary Erika Steinbach , with which she wants to make clear to 'young people in particular' the necessity of her center for expulsions .”

Unlike Oels' display of 2,010 certified Moishe Postone Thorwald that his article in the Mirror in 1979 on the occasion of the television film Holocaust - The history of the White family "one of the few recent attempts in the West German media, the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis qualitatively to determine “was. Thorwald is specific here: "The planners and actors of the Holocaust, not only in the SSD, but in the Foreign Office , the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economics or Transport and their branch offices were chosen to kill [...]." He names Otto Ohlendorf and the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA).

From 1951 Thorwald worked as a freelance writer. In 1956 he achieved a bestseller success with The Century of Surgeons , a chronicle of recent medical history . In the next few years he wrote other non-fiction books on medicine and its history, including Das Weltreich der Sururgen and The Discharge on Ferdinand Sauerbruch . He achieved another great success in 1965 with The Century of Detectives , an outline of the sensational criminal cases and a history of criminalistics. His works include A History of the Jews in America ( The Spice ), In the Fragile House of the Soul - Power and Powerlessness of the Brain Surgeons, and the novels The Man on the Cliff , The Monteverdi Mission and The Deadly Embrace .

The book about Sauerbruch led to a lawsuit from the doctor's descendants. Thorwald had written that the doctor had continued to operate despite a brain sclerosis . The plaintiffs were unsuccessful in the legal dispute.

Jürgen Thorwald was a founding member of the Liechtenstein PEN Club . He last lived in Suvigliana, a district of Lugano in Ticino .

Awards and honors

  • 1966 nomination for the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the category Best Fact Crime for The Century of Detectives
  • 1979 Award in Forensic Medicine
  • 1983 Federal Cross of Merit, 1st class
  • 1995 Medal of Honor of the European Conference on Man for the afflicted man

Publications (selection)

under the name Heinz Bongartz

  1. Development and rise of German air power. The air war in Poland . 1941 (no longer published).
  • Maritime power Germany . Essen Publishing House, Essen 1941/44
  1. The resurgence of the German Navy. The war at sea until the beginning of the campaign in Norway . 1941.
  2. The Navy in the battle for Norway. Conquering the Channel and Atlantic coasts. Italy's entry into the war and the new starting position of the naval war . 1944.

under the name Jürgen Thorwald

  • It started on the Vistula. Flight and expulsion of the Germans from the East . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1949; revised new edition Droemer Knaur, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-426-80067-5 ; ibid. 2005, new subtitle: Defeat, Flight and Expulsion.
  • The end on the Elbe. The last months of World War II in the east . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1950; Revised new edition Droemer Knaur, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-426-80068-3
    • Both volumes together under the title: The great flight , Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1965; most recently Droemer Knaur, Munich 2005
  • The unsolved cases . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1950 ( Ernst Udet , Eduard Dietl , Günther Prien , Werner Mölders , Fritz Todt , Otto Lasch , Ferdinand Schörner , Walter Model , Walter von Reichenau )
  • Whom they want to spoil . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1952; New edition under the title: The Illusion. Red Army soldiers against Stalin . The tragedy of the Vlasov army . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1974; Revised edition Droemer Knaur, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-426-80066-7
  • The Pastorius case . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1953
  • High above Kaprun . Südverlag. Munich 1954
  • Blood of kings. The drama of hemophilia in the European royal houses . Verlag der Stern-Bücher, Hamburg 1954; New edition Droemer Knaur, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-426-00468-2
  • The century of the surgeon. According to the papers of my grandfather, the surgeon H. St. Hartmann . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1956. 18th edition Knaur, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-426-03275-9
  • The surgeon's empire. From the papers of my grandfather, the surgeon H. St. Hartmann . Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1957. Most recently Knaur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-426-03281-3
    • Both volumes (abridged version) under the title: The history of surgery , Steingrüben, Stuttgart 1965; under the title The World Empire of Surgeons , Deutscher Bücherbund, Stuttgart 1969
  • The discharge. The end of the surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1960, ISBN 3-426-26081-6
  • Power and Secret of the Early Doctors. Egypt, Babylonia, India, China, Mexico, Peru . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1962, 10th edition 1993, ISBN 3-426-77064-4 .
  • The century of the detectives. Paths and adventures of criminology . Droemer, Zurich 1964.
    • Paperback in three volumes: The Mark of Cain, Report of the Dead, Handbook for Poisoners ; last 11th edition 1994/95
  • The hour of the detectives. Becomes and worlds of criminology . Droemer Knaur, Zurich and Munich 1966.
    • Paperback edition in two volumes: Bloody Secret, Traces in Dust , Droemer Knaur, Munich, last 1986
    • Both volumes together under the title: The merciless hunt. Criminology novel . German Book Association, Stuttgart 1970.
  • An Image's dream oasis or novel: Beverly Hills . Droemer Knaur, Zurich 1970
  • The patients . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1971, ISBN 3-426-03383-6
  • The Spice. The saga of the Jews in America . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-426-03666-5 ; under the title: Das Gelobte Land , Deutscher Bücherbund, Stuttgart 1980
  • Accounting shows ignorance. Jürgen Thorwald on the uniqueness of the Holocaust . In: Der Spiegel . No. 6 , 1979 ( online ).
  • The man on the cliff . Novel. Droemer Knaur, Munich 1980
  • The Monteverdi Mission . Novel. Droemer Knaur, Munich 1982; New version 1989, ISBN 3-426-19262-4
  • The gynecologists . In: The best of Konsalik , Danella , Simmel , Paretti , Jürgen Thorwald, Bergius . Deutscher Bücherbund, Stuttgart (1982) (first 1972)
  • Deadly hug . Novel. Droemer Knaur, Munich 1984
  • In the fragile house of the soul. A century of brain surgeons, brain researchers, soul seekers . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1986, new edition 1990, ISBN 3-426-03918-4
  • The troubled man. The prostate, history and stories . Droemer Knaur, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-426-26821-3

Radio play:


  • Jürgen Thorwald, the Jews in America. A conversation with Hans Heinz Holz . In: Franz J. Bautz (Ed.): History of the Jews. From biblical times to the present . Beck, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-406-08468-0 , pp. 184-27.


Web links


  1. a b c d e f g h i j k David Oels: Fate, guilt and atrocities. Popular historiography based on the spirit of war propaganda: Jürgen Thorwald's eternal bestseller “The Great Escape” . In: The time . No. 30 of July 22, 2010, p. 16 ( online ). (Short version of the study on Thorwald's book in the journal Zeithistorische Forschungen . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010)
  2. His pseudonymly written, very old-style articles about the refugee ships in the Baltic Sea in 1948 were one of the reasons why the newspaper was internally called "Verdeckte Nazi-Zeitung" by the Americans. David Oels: "This book is not a novel". Jürgen Thorwald's “The Great Escape” between contemporary history and the politics of memory. In: Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History , online edition, 6 (2009), no.3 ( online ).
  3. ^ Ernst Klee: The culture lexicon for the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, p. 552.
  4. Thorwald quote. In David Oels: Fate, Guilt and Atrocities. Popular historiography based on the spirit of war propaganda: Jürgen Thorwald's eternal bestseller “The Great Escape” . In: Die Zeit , No. 30/2010, p. 16.
  5. Clemens Jochem: The Foerster case: The German-Japanese machine factory in Tokyo and the Jewish auxiliary committee Hentrich and Hentrich, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-95565-225-8 , chapter: "The unresolved cases ..." in the Munich Illustrated Revue - A new attempt to destroy Foerster's existence , pp. 127–153.
  6. Jürgen Thorwald: Calculating shows ignorance . In: Der Spiegel . No. 6 , 1979, pp. 193-194 ( online ). About Thorwald's abbreviation “SSD”: it should actually be “dem SSD” for “SS security service”, ie SD . This abbreviation is only known from internal Nazi letters, e.g. B. Letter from Himmler to Heydrich from 1942 Archive link ( Memento of the original from September 7, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . After 1945 either SS or SD was abbreviated @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kokhavivpublications.com
  7. Jürgen Thorwald: Calculating shows ignorance . In: Der Spiegel . No. 6 , 1979, pp. 193-194 ( online ). See works, 1979. Most historians in their statements up to 1979 had not been any further.
  8. First as a series in Der Stern : With this he intervened in the abortion discussion of the years: “When some gynecologists, who are opening the floodgates of morality or ethics against an adaptation of paragraph 218 to the present and future world, leave the Had learned history, they would know that in the very near future their attitude will be condemned as just as unworldly, frozen and incomprehensible as the attitude of their ancestors. ”1982 only as a club edition, because of the pressure of organized abortion opponents on other publishers. Without mentioning the publisher, pp. 415–536