East German Writers, Singers and Artist



Under Communism, art was supposed to serve the party and inspire the masses and most early writers followed the guidelines established by the SED. Most writers who remained in Germany had to make some concessions to remain the Writers' Union, those who criticized too much were imprisoned or allowed to leave .Some writers such as Anna Seghers (1900-1983) and Stefan Heym (1913-2001) voluntarily returned to East Germany after WWII. Heym was criticized by writing about the June 17, 1953 rebellion with Five Days in June during the Destalinisation period of the Khrushchev era, but allowed to remain in the country and travel abroad.


Some, such as  Theodor Plievier  (1892-1955) became disenchanted with East Germany and left.  His works critical of his WWI experience in the German Navy were banned by the Nazis and settled in the USSR. He witnessed the carnage of the Eastern Front in WWII which became the basis for his documentary novel Stalingrad. Gerhard Zwerenz (1925 -  ), who wrote Casanova, also left East Germany. Some were imprisoned such as Wolfgang Harich (1923-1955) who campaigned for Democratic change .


Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven)


After the 1953 uprising the SED was afraid that dissidents might encourage another uprising while becoming aware of the damage that was being done to East Germany's reputation by jailing writers . In April 1959, the East German publishing house Mittel-deutscher Verlag organized a writers' congress addressed by, among others, Walter Ulbricht to promote the 'Bitterfeld Way', with the slogan 'Grief zur feder, Kumpel!' (Grab your pen, buddy !), young writers were encouraged to spend time in society a write about real-life experience and to provide an outlet  for writers who wished to criticise the state . This effort promoted such writers as Christa Wolf (1929-  ), Gunter Kunert (1929-   ) and Volker Braun (1939-  ). Christa Wolf (  who published Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven) about two lovers who become divided as Germany has been and was made into a movie in 1964. She went on the write Cassandra , of the Iliad from Cassandra's perspective . Gunter Kunert  was a versatile writer who left East Germany in 1979 after his works were criticized by the state .


Die neuen Leiden des jungen W (The new Sorrows of Young W)


When Honecker became General Secretary in 1971, he promised more freedom for writers as long as works were rooted in socialism. During this period Ulrich Plenzdorf (1934-2007) wrote Die neuen Leiden des jungen W (The new Sorrows of Young W) about a teenager in 1970s East Germany . The book became a cult favorite with its socially criticism and use of slang, but was removed from circulation when it was deemed critical of the state . It was made into a movie in West Germany in 1976.


Wolf Biermann




 Wolf Biermann in West Germany in 1976


One of the most influential poet, songwriter and singer of the 70s was Wolf Biermann ( 1936-  ) who was born and raised in Hamburg but volunteered to live in the GDR in 1953. He began to write lyrics critical of the GDR and while he was performing in West Germany in 1976, the East German government revoked his citizenship, a common way to get rid of troublesome dissenters . exile provoked protests by leading East German intellectuals, including novelist Christa Wolf, Stefan Heym and Volker Braun, over 100 artists . Many were forced to leave East Germany because of their support for him.




East German Film


East German Rock