Anna Seghers

Anna Seghers (19 November 1900 – 1 June 1983) was a German writer famous for depicting the moral experience of the Second World War. After living in Mexico City (1941–47) and West Berlin (1947-50), Anna Seghers eventually settled in the GDR. The pseudonym Anna Seghers was apparently based on the surname of the Dutch painter and printmaker Hercules Pieterszoon Seghers or Segers (c. 1589 – c. 1638).

Anna Seghers
Anna Seghers (1966)
BornAnna (Netty) Reiling
(1900-11-19)19 November 1900
Mainz, Germany
Died1 June 1983(1983-06-01) (aged 82)
Berlin, Germany
Hungarian (by marriage, 1925)
SpouseLászló Radványi


Born Anna (Netty) Reiling in Mainz in 1900 into a Jewish family, her father was a dealer in antiques and cultural artefacts.[1] She married László Radványi, also known as Johann Lorenz Schmidt, a Hungarian Communist in 1925, thereby acquiring Hungarian citizenship.[1]

In Cologne and Heidelberg she studied history, the history of art and Chinese. She joined the Communist Party of Germany in 1928, at a time when the Weimar Republic was moribund and soon to be replaced. Her 1932 novel, Die Gefährten was a prophetic warning of the dangers of Nazism, which led to her being arrested by the Gestapo. In 1932, she also formally left the Jewish community.[2]

By 1934 she had emigrated, via Zurich, to Paris.[1] After German troops invaded the French Third Republic in 1940, she fled to Marseilles and one year later to Mexico, where she founded the anti-fascist 'Heinrich-Heine-Klub', named after the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, and founded Freies Deutschland (Free Germany), an academic journal. Still in Paris, in 1939, she had written The Seventh Cross, for which she received the Büchner-Prize in 1947. The novel is set in 1936 and describes the escape of seven prisoners from a concentration camp. It was published in the United States in 1942 and produced as a movie in 1944 by MGM starring Spencer Tracy. The Seventh Cross was one of the very few depictions of Nazi concentration camps, in either literature or the cinema, during World War II.

Seghers's best-known story, The Outing of the Dead Girls (1946), written in Mexico, was an autobiographical reminiscence of a pre-World War I class excursion on the Rhine river in which the actions of the protagonist's classmates are seen in light of their decisions and ultimate fates during both world wars. In describing them, the German countryside, and her soon-to-be destroyed hometown Mainz, Seghers gives the reader a strong sense of lost innocence and the senseless injustices of war, from which there proves to be no escape, whether or not you sympathized with the NSDAP. Other notable Seghers stories include Sagen von Artemis (1938) and The Ship of the Argonauts (1953), both based on myths.

In 1947, Seghers returned to Germany, moved to West Berlin, and became a member of the SED in the zone occupied by the Soviets and received Georg Büchner Prize in the same year. In 1950, she moved to East Berlin and became a co-founder of the Academy of the Arts of the GDR and became a member of World Peace Council. In 1951, she received the first Nationalpreis der DDR, the Stalin Peace Prize also in 1951, and an honorary doctorate by the University of Jena in 1959. Seghers was nominated for the 1967 Nobel Prize in Literature by the German Academy of Arts.[3] In 1981, she became honorary citizen of her native town Mainz.[4][5] She died in Berlin on 1 June 1983.


Anna Seghers is mentioned in the ostalgie film, Good Bye Lenin!.

Selected works

  • 1928 – Aufstand der Fischer von St. Barbara – Revolt of the Fishermen of Santa Barbara (novel)
  • 1933 – Der Kopflohn – A Price on His Head (novel)
  • 1939 – Das siebte Kreuz – The Seventh Cross (novel)
  • 1943 – Der Ausflug der toten Mädchen – "The Excursion of the Dead Girls" (story) (in German Women Writers of the Twentieth Century, Pergamon Press, 1978)
  • 1944 - Transit – Transit Visa (novel)
  • 1946 - Die Saboteure - The Saboteurs (1946)[6]
  • 1949 - Die Toten bleiben jung – The Dead Stay Young (novel)
  • 1949 - Die Hochzeit von Haiti (short story)
  • 1950 - Die Linie.
  • 1950 - Der Kesselflicker "The Tinker" (short story)
  • 1951 - Crisanta (novella)
  • 1951 - Die Kinder.
  • 1952 - Der Mann und sein Name (novella)
  • 1953 - Der Bienenstock "The Beehive" (short story)
  • 1954 - Gedanken zur DDR. In Aufsätze … 1980, as an excerpt from Andreas Lixl-Purcell (ed.): Erinnerungen deutsch-jüdischer Frauen 1900–1990.
  • 1958 - Brot und Salz "Bread and Salt" (short story)
  • 1959 - Die Entscheidung "The Decision" (novel)
  • 1961 - Das Licht auf dem Galgen "The Light on the Gallows" (short story)
  • 1963 - Über Tolstoi. Über Dostojewski.
  • 1965 - Die Kraft der Schwachen The Power of the Weak (novel)
  • 1967 - Das wirkliche Blau. Eine Geschichte aus Mexiko. "The Real Blue" (short story)
  • 1968 - Das Vertrauen Trust (novel)
  • 1969 - Glauben an Irdisches (essays)
  • 1970 - Briefe an Leser.
  • 1970 - Über Kunstwerk und Wirklichkeit.
  • 1971 - Überfahrt. Eine Liebesgeschichte. "Crossing: A Love Story" (Diálogos Books, 2016)
  • 1972 - Sonderbare Begegnungen Strange Encounters (short stories)
  • 1973 - Der proceß der Jeanne d'Arc zu Rouen 1431 The Trial of Joan of Arc in Rouen (radio play, later adapted by Berthold Brecht)
  • 1973 – Benito's Blue and Nine Other Stories
  • 1977 - Steinzeit. "Stone Age" Wiederbegegnung "Reencounter" (short stories)
  • 1980 - Drei Frauen aus Haiti Three Women from Haiti (short stories)
  • 1990 - Der gerechte Richter The Righteous Judge (short stories)

See also

  • Anna Seghers: The Mythic Dimension by Helen Fehervary
  • Anna Seghers : eine Biographie in Bildern / herausgegeben von Frank Wagner, Ursula Emmerich, Ruth Radvanyi ; mit einem Essay von Christa Wolf, Berlin : Aufbau, 2000


  1. "Seghers, Anna (eigtl.: Netty Radványi): geb. Reiling * 19.11.1900, † 01.06.1983 Shriftstellerin, Präsidentin des Schriftstellerverbands". Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur: Biographische Datenbanken. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  2. Christiane Zehl Romero. "Anna Seghers". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  3. "Forteckning over forslag till 1967 ars Nobelpris i litteratur" (PDF). Swedish Academy (Svenska akademien). Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  4. Liukkonen, Petri. "Anna Seghers". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 19 May 2007.
  5. "German biography". Archived from the original on 23 June 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
  6. "Seghers - German Literature". Retrieved 28 May 2017.
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