Otto Zierer

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Otto Zierer (born May 8, 1909 in Bamberg , † March 5, 1983 in Groebenzell ) was a German writer and an officer of the paratroopers in World War II . Zierer studied philosophy and history in Munich and Heidelberg .

Zierer lived on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and in the Villa Zierer in Groebenzell west of Munich. In post-war Germany his books reached a circulation of over 30 million copies. For his life's work he was awarded the Bavarian Order of Merit and the Federal Cross of Merit with ribbon. Zierer was known as "exiles [r] and persecuted [r] of the Third Reich" and founder and honorary member of the national association of Saarland Free German author Association (FDA) Protection Association of German writers e. V.


Zierer wrote over 130 books, including some novels, such as his own war experiences in the book Red the Sun Shone . But his specialty was the history of mankind since its early days, which he wanted to convey to a broad readership in a popular way. For this purpose he also wrote the 50 Lux reading sheet books.

Image of the centuries

Zierer's most popular work to this day is the anthology Picture of the Centuries , of which various complete editions have been published by Bertelsmann Lesering , Verlag Sebastian Lux and Wilhelm Heyne Verlag. In 44 volumes of his Große Illustrierte Weltgeschichte , as the picture of the centuries was sometimes called in the subtitle, he reports on all epochs on all continents. Zierer's style in Picture of the Centuries , which is still extremely lively and gripping, but never sloppy, in the so-called epic present tense , moves between narrative history (comparable roughly to the style of today's historian Richard J. Evans ) and fiction, and is divided into three components , of which the last two in particular contributed to the evaluation of the work as a pure novel:

  • narrative history, which is not only devoted to the history of events, but also intensively to sociological currents, art, culture, architecture, economic and socio-economic analyzes and repeatedly identified quotations from historical and other non-fiction books as well as from authentic contemporary sources, often exact Numbers and statistics offers, without ever losing its gripping vitality,
  • fictional inner monologues of important characters in the story, which are held in the third person,
  • fictional dialogues between significant counterparts and companions of current affairs, partly with fictional supporting characters and partly with authentic quotations.

Criticism and appreciation

Peter Bierl pointed out in 2008 that Zierer falsely claimed during his denazification that books by him could not have appeared in the Third Reich . In fact, during the Nazi era, in addition to a series of newspaper articles, two historical adventure novels by Zierer came out, one of them as a serial in the newspaper “ Der Attack ”. The author himself mentioned these books in his memoirs in 1979. They were the historical adventure novels “Der Kurier von Rafalowka” (1938) and “Der Mann ohne Herz” (1944). Bierl emphasizes that both are characterized by anti-Semitic personal descriptions.

In 1958, Zierer's portrayal of the Bavarian Prime Minister Kurt Eisner, who was murdered in 1919, led to violent allegations of the use of anti-Semitic clichés in a series of articles for the Süddeutsche Zeitung that was also published as a book. In his memoirs, Zierer described the criticism as one-sided twenty years later. According to Bierl, the author condemned “National Socialism and the Shoah in his post-war writings ”, but continued to spread the image “of the enterprising, rich Jew who has always aroused the envy of others”.

Zierer's depiction of the Middle Ages in the volume "Das Heilige Reich" was heavily criticized in the 1957 Historical Yearbook, on the one hand because of a number of errors and incorrect spellings, on the other hand because the stylistic device of the invented speech is being misused here to "clearly modern problems of medieval people" to discuss.

In 1962, the Catholic side objected to Zierer 's portrayal of African history, stating that the author was stuck in the prejudices of the 19th century, judging "entirely from the field of view of the European chronicler" and even declaring blacks to be "historically". In the GDR , Zierer's depiction of Africa was condemned as defamatory and at the same time it was claimed that the author's point of view was "characteristic" of West German historians.

A biography of Franz Josef Strauss published by Zierer in 1978 was rejected by critics as "Schwulst" and by CSU politician Hermann Höcherl as a waste of time.

The author of the bestseller “ Education ”, first published in 1999, - Dietrich Schwanitz - included Zierer's world history in his reading tips because the presentation was “sometimes a bit theatrical or also involuntarily funny”, but there were students who, from reading the volumes, “ would have benefited greatly ”.

The historian and former library director at the Lower Saxony State Library (today Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library ) Reinhard Oberschelp described the numerous “ reading sheets ” of the Lux-Verlag in Murnau , written by Zierer, as an “impressive series” in 2010. In his description of the revolution of 1848/49, Zierer stands “with his sympathies quite on the side of the democrats” despite a supposedly contrary title.

One of Zierer's writings that received more attention is a novel biography on Marcus Tullius Cicero that was published several times and was also published by Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag in 1979 . The magazine “ Welt und Wort ” ruled in 1959 that the essential features of the Cicero image by Zierer were not recorded. In contrast, spoke in the GDR teaching Althistorikerin Liselott Huchthausen 1980 by a politically abused Cicero and founded among other things so that Zierer not Lenin's distinction between state form and type of state have noticed. In 2013, the standard work “ Der Neue Pauly ” on ancient history said about the novel that it was one of the rare literary representations that Cicero “gave a great deal of space to intellectual personality and philosophical interests”.

Works (selection)

  • History of India and Islam , Bertelsmann, Gütersloh
  • Great moments in world history , Prisma, 1978
  • Franz Josef Strauss. A picture of life , Ullstein Verlag , Munich
  • Doctor Li , Bergland-Buch, Salzburg 1980, ISBN 3-7023-0132-1
  • Christoph Columbus , Heyne Verlag , Munich 1981
  • as Ed .: White Book for the Rescue of Language , Langen-Müller, Munich 1976
  • The sun was shining red
  • Munich. A city and its stories from 850 years . Langen Müller Verlag , Munich 2007
  • Great women in world history. A thousand biographies of famous women in words and pictures. With 1000 portrait drawings by Elly Strick. Sebastian Lux Verlag , Murnau am Staffelsee
  • Great men in world history. A thousand biographies of famous men in words and pictures. with 1000 portrait drawings by Elly Strick. Sebastian Lux, Murnau

Image of the centuries

Sebastian Lux editions [Lux I, Lux II, Lux III] and derivatives [Bertelsmann]

Counting Otto Zierer's picture of the centuries according to the original edition by Sebastian Lux Verlag Murnau with burgundy-red plastic cover [Lux I] :

(The division and title remain the same for the licensed editions in the Bertelsmann Lesering in the gray-brown cardboard cover, but the counting is a little different; in addition, before the later paperback edition by Heyne there was another similarly bound edition by Sebastian Lux Verlag, which consisted exclusively of combined double volumes [ Lux II] , and a Sebastian Lux Verlag luxury edition in color [Lux III] bound in light brown leather , which also always consisted of double volumes, which in the four editions [Lux I, Lux II, Lux III and Bertelsmann] became one led quite adventurous confusion and juxtaposition of the counts, all of which tried to do justice to both the original count of the first Sebastian-Lux-Verlag edition [Lux I] and the respective summary by means of double counting .)

  • Volume 0: register band
  • Volume 1/2: oldest peoples: from prehistoric times to 500 BC Chr / Early Europe: The ancient world until 500 BC Chr
  • Volume 3: Classical Day: 500–400 BC Chr.
  • Volume 4: Sowing in the world: 400-300 BC Chr.
  • Volume 5: The eagles of Rome: 300–200 BC Chr.
  • Volume 6: Imperium Romanum: 200-100 BC Chr.
  • Volume 7: Invisible Crown: 100–1 BC Chr.
  • Volume 8: Noon of the Empire: AD 1–100.
  • Volume 9: Evening Emperors: 100–200 AD
  • Volume 10: Chaotic Century: AD 200-300
  • Volume 11: Victory of the Cross: 300–400 AD
  • Volume 12: Twilight of the Nations: AD 400–500
  • Volume 13: Germanic tragedy: 500–600 AD
  • Volume 14: Allah's Flame: AD 600-700
  • Volume 15: Crown of the West: 700–800 AD
  • Volume 16: Heirs of the Emperor: 800–900 AD
  • Volume 17: Caesarian Temptation: 900 AD – 1000
  • Volume 18: The Holy Kingdom: 1000–1100
  • Volume 19/20: High Time of the West: 1100–1200
  • Volume 21/22: Time and Eternity: 1200-1300
  • Volume 23/24: The old forces: 1300–1400
  • Volume 25/26: At the Gate of the New World: 1400–1500
  • Volume 27/28: The Great Outrage: 1500–1600
  • Volume 29/30: Unleashed Violence: 1600–1700
  • Volume 31/32: Hexenkessel Rococo: 1700–1789
  • Volume 33/34: The Great Revolution: 1789–1795
  • Volume 35/36: Emperors of Europe: 1795–1815
  • Volume 37/38: Between the Times: 1815-1850
  • Volume 39/40: Lords of the World: 1850-1917
  • Volume 41: The Image of Our Time: From World War I to the Present

(The Bertelsmann Lesering divides the last volume again into two volumes, after the Bertelsmann counting Volume 21: The Image of Our Time: From World War I to 1933 , Volume 22: The Image of Our Time: From 1933 to the Present )

Heyne edition

There was also the newer paperback edition (1969) by Heyne with different titles and partly different timing per volume, which did not even attempt to do justice to the old first edition count by parallel counting (i.e. naming both the old and the new volume number):

  • Volume 1: Human be your name: up to 500 BC Chr.
  • Volume 2: Conquerors and Philosophers: 500–300 BC Chr.
  • Volume 3: Carthage Must Fall: 300-100 BC Chr.
  • Volume 4: The Way of the Caesars: 100 BC-100 AD
  • Volume 5: Palaces and Catacombs: AD 100–300
  • Volume 6: In this sign: 300–500 AD.
  • Volume 7: Cross and Crescent: 500–700 AD
  • Volume 8: By God's Grace: A.D. 700–900.
  • Volume 9: Emperors and Popes: 900–1100
  • Volume 10: Knights and Monks: 1100–1200
  • Volume 11: Converter of the World: 1200-1300
  • Volume 12: Divine Comedy: 1300–1400
  • Volume 13: To New Shores: 1400–1500
  • Volume 14: The New Man: 1500–1600
  • Volume 15: Drums and Tears: 1600–1700
  • Volume 16: After Us The Flood: 1700–1789
  • Volume 17: Freedom, Equality, Fraternity: 1789–1795
  • Volume 18: From Corsica to St. Helena: 1795–1815
  • Volume 19: Farewell to Biedermeier: 1815–1850
  • Volume 20: Gambling for World Power: 1850–1916
  • Volume 21: Völker, Hear the Signals: 1916–1945

Web links


  1. the Villa Zierer
  2. Free German Authors Association , on, accessed on October 17, 2019
  3. ^ Peter Bierl: Otto Zierer (1909-1983). On the life and work of a writer in the shadow of National Socialism. In: Amperland. Local history quarterly for the districts of Dachau, Freising and Fürstenfeldbruck. 44th year 2008, issue 2, pp. 209-218, here p. 213
  4. My adventure to write, Munich 1979
  5. Zierer, Otto: The adventures of the much-loved city of Munich, part 2: The years since 1914. Süddeutscher Verlag 1958
  6. My adventure to write, p. 222ff.
  7. Bierl, p. 210
  8. Historisches Jahrbuch 76/1957, p. 340 (Reviewer: Harro Brack)
  9. Otto Zierer: History of Africa. 2 volumes. Lux-Verlag Murnau 1959
  10. Hildegard Christoffels: The historical image of the Europeans of Africa. In: Orientation. Catholic papers for ideological information. 26th year 1962, issue 8, pp. 93–96, here p. 94
  11. Manfred Nussbaum in: Yearbook for Economic History 14/1963, p. 243
  12. Der Spiegel No. 22/1978, p. 92ff.
  13. ^ Dietrich Schwanitz: Education. Everything you need to know. 34th edition. Munich 2002, p. 656
  14. Reinhard Oberschelp: The Lux reading sheets 1947–1964. A post-war public education company. Directory by numbers, authors and things with an introduction. Manuscript [available for loan] Hannover 2010, p. 7. See also: Kurt Dröge: Die Lux-Lesebogen and Karlheinz Dobsky. Norderstedt 2017, (ebook without page counting), note 11.
  15. Otto Zierer: And then Rome devoured me. The life of Marcus Tullius Cicero. Munich: Süddeutscher Verlag 1958, as a Fischer paperback under the title: Cicero. Republicans without a republic. 1979
  16. Welt und Wort 14/1959, p. 6
  17. Liselott Huchthausen: Abused Cicero. In: Klio 62/1980, p. 623
  18. The New Pauly. Supplements Vol. 8: Historical figures from antiquity. Reception in literature, art and music. Stuttgart Weimar 2013, p. 290