Fühmann, Franz

Biography:

Franz Fühmann was born on January 15, 1922 in Rochlitz an der Iser (now Rokytnice nad Jizerou, Czech Republic). In 1932, he attended the Jesuit boarding school in Kalksburg, near Vienna, before moving to pursue his secondary education in Reichenberg (now Liberec, Czech Republic). After the German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938, he joined the Nazi Sturmabteilung. Though he volunteered for the army in 1939, he did not enlist until 1941 and was a communications soldier in Greece and the Soviet Union. He was captured by the Soviet forces in 1945 and sent to a POW camp near Moscow.

 

After his release in 1949, Fühmann moved to East Germany. Until 1972, he was an active member of the National Democratic Party of Germany, one of the GDR’s bloc parties. He started publishing in the 1950s, authoring short stories, children’s books, screenplays, and essays, and translating literature from Czech and Hungarian into German.

 

Many of Fühmann’s earlier short stories are autobiographical in nature. His short story collection entitled Das Judenauto (The Jew’s Car), for example, is based on his childhood memories. American critics praised this work as “an unparalleled examination of the psychology of National Socialism.” Although his youth was influenced by Nazism, however, he later first embraced and then renounced socialism. He reflects on his personal political change in his major work Zweiundzwanzig Tage oder Die Hälfte des Lebens (Twenty-two Days or Half a of Life). Many of his works were adapted for the cinema.

 

Gradually, Fühmann became critical of East German society and withdrew his membership in the Academy of Arts and the Writer’s Association. He was a role model for a whole generation of dissident writers in the GDR and was one of the first people to protest against the landmark expatriation of singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann in 1976.

 

Franz Fühmann, one of modern Germany’s most fascinating literary figures, died in Berlin on July 8, 1984.

Filmography:

1991 Der Fall Ö (The Case Oe, based on his short story “King Oedipus”)
1974 Das Geheimnis des Ödipus (The Secret of Oedipus, TV, script)
1966/71 Der verlorene Engel (The Lost Angel, based on his novella The Terrible Year)
1970 Der Nibelungen Not (The Misery of the Nibelungen, script, unfilmed)
1963 Die Suche nach dem wunderbunten Vögelchen (The Quest for the Bird of Many Colors, based on his children’s book of the same title)
1963/80s Simplicius Simplicissimus (script, unfilmed)
1963 Des Teufels russ’ger Gesell (The Devil’s Sooty Fellow, cartoon, based on his story of the same title)
1962 Der Schwur des Soldaten Pooley (The Oath of the Soldier Pooley, TV, script)
1960 Die heute über 40 sind (Age Forty and Above, script)
1957 Betrogen bis zum jüngsten Tag (Duped Till Doomsday, based on his novella Comrades)

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