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Famous Like Me > Writer > H > Stefan Heym

Profile of Stefan Heym on Famous Like Me

Name: Stefan Heym  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 10th April 1913
Place of Birth: Chemnitz, Germany
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Hellmuth Flieg (April 10, 1913 - December 16, 2001) was a German - Jewish writer, known by his pseudonym Stefan Heym. He lived in the United States (or served in its army abroad) between 1935 and 1952, before moving back to the part of his now-partitioned native Germany which was the German Democratic Republic (GDR, "East Germany"). He published works in English and German at home and abroad, and despite longstanding criticism of the GDR remained a committed socialist.


Early life

Helmut Flieg, born to a Jewish merchant family in Chemnitz, was an antifascist from an early age. In 1931 he was, at the instigation of local Nazis, expelled from the Gymnasium in his home town because of an anti-military poem. He completed school in Berlin, and began a degree in media studies there. After the 1934 Reichstag fire he fled to Czechoslovakia, where he took the name Stefan Heym.

United States

In 1935 he received a grant from a Jewish student association, and went to the United States to continue his degree at the University of Chicago, which he completed in 1936 with a dissertation on Heinrich Heine. Between 1937 and 1939 he was based in New York as Editor-in-Chief of the German-language weekly Deutsches Volksecho, which was close to the Communist Party of the USA. After the newspaper ceased publication in November 1939, Heym worked as a freelance author in English, and achieved a bestseller with his first novel, Hostages (1942).

From 1943 Heym, now an American citizen, contributed to the World War II war effort. As member of a unit for psychological warfare under the command of emigre Hans Habe he experienced the 1944 Normandy landings. His work consisted of composing texts designed to influence Wehrmacht soldiers, to be disseminated by leaflet, radio and loudspeaker. After the war Heym led the Ruhrzeitung in Essen, and then became editor in Munich of the Neue Zeitung, one of the most important newspapers of the American occupying forces. Because of his pro-Soviet inclinations Heym was transferred back to the US towards the end of 1945.

Heym left the army and in the following years worked as a freelance author once again. In 1952 he avoided a threatened draft for the Korean War by moving first to Prague, and the following year to the German Democratic Republic (GDR, "East Germany").


In the GDR Heym initially received privileged treatment as a returning antifascist emigre. He lived with his wife in a state-provided villa in Berlin-GrĂ¼nau. Between 1953 and 1956 he worked at the Berliner Zeitung, thereafter primarily as freelance author. In the early years of his life in the GDR Heym, a committed socialist, was prepared to support the GDR regime with decidedly socialist novels and other works. Heym's works, which he continued to write in English, were published by a publishing house founded for him, named Seven Seas Publishers, and in German translation were printed in large numbers.

Conflicts with the GDR state apparatus became apparent from 1956 on, as despite the destalinisation of the leadership the publication of Heym's book on the 17 June 1953 uprising, Five Days in June, was rejected. Tensions rose after 1965, when Erich Honecker attacked Heym during an SED party conference. In 1969 Heym was convicted of a breach of exchange control regulations after publishing his novel Lassalle in West Germany. He was nonetheless able to leave the GDR on foreign trips, such his two-month visit to the US in 1978, and his books continued to appear, albeit in lower print runs, in the GDR.

In 1976 Heym was among the GDR authors who signed the petition protesting the exile of Wolf Biermann. From this point on Heym could only publish his works in the West, and he began to compose them in German. In 1979 he was again convicted of breaching exchange controls and excluded from the GDR Authors Association. Heym expressed support for German reunification as early as 1982, and during the 1980s supported the civil rights movement in the GDR, contributing a number of speeches to the East Berlin demonstrations in autumn 1989.

After reunification

In the years after reunification Heym was extremely critical of what he saw as the discrimination against East Germans in their integration into the Federal Republic, and argued for a socialist alternative to the capitalism of the reunited Germany. At the federal elections in 1994 Heym stood as an independent on the Open List of the then Party of Democratic Socialism, and won direct election to the Bundestag from the seat of Berlin-Mitte/Prenzlauer-Berg. As chairman by seniority he held the opening speech of the new Parliament in November 1994, but resigned in October 1995 in protest against a planned constitutional amendment raising MPs' expense allowances. In 1997 he was among the signers of the "Erfurt Declaration", demanding a red-green alliance (between SPD and Greens) to form a minority government supported by the PDS after the 1998 federal elections. He died in Jerusalem in 2001 during a Heinrich Heine Conference.

Heym was honoured with honorary doctorates from the University of Bern (1990) and University of Cambridge (1991), and honorary citizenship of Chemnitz (2001). He was also awarded the Jerusalem Prize for Literature (1993) 'for the freedom of the individual in society', and the peace medal of the IPPNW. Previously he had won the Heinrich-Mann-Prize (1953), and the National Prize of the GDR, 2nd class (1959).


Written in English

  • Nazis in U.S.A., New York 1938
  • Hostages, New York 1942
  • Of Smiling Peace, Boston 1944
  • The Crusaders, Boston 1948
  • The Eyes of Reason, Boston 1951
  • Goldsborough, Leipzig 1953
  • The Cannibals and Other Stories, Berlin 1958
  • The Cosmic Age, New Delhi 1959
  • Shadows and Lights, London 1963
  • The Lenz Papers, London 1964
  • The Architects written c 1963 - 1965, unpublished (published in German as Die Architekten, Munich 2000)
  • Uncertain Friend, London 1969
  • The King David Report, New York 1973
  • The Queen against Defoe, London 1975
  • Five Days in June, London 1977

Written in German

  • The Wandering Jew (1984)
  • Schwarzenberg (1984) - about the Free Republic of Schwarzenberg


  • Meg Tait: Taking sides, Oxford 2001
  • Peter Hutchinson (ed.): Stefan Heym: socialist - dissenter - Jew, Oxford 2003
  • Regina U. Hahn: The democratic dream, Oxford 2003

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Stefan Heym