Wolfgang Borchert
Wolfgang Borchert was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

 and playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

Trümmerliteratur , also called Kahlschlagliteratur , is a literary movement that began shortly after World War II in Germany and lasted until about 1950....

) whose work was affected by his experience of dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

 and his service in the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 during the Second World War. His work is among the best examples of the Trümmerliteratur
Trümmerliteratur , also called Kahlschlagliteratur , is a literary movement that began shortly after World War II in Germany and lasted until about 1950....

 movement in post-World War II Germany. His most famous work is the drama "Draußen vor der Tür (The man outside)", which he wrote in the first days after World War II. In his works he never makes compromises in questions of humanity and humanism. He is one of the most popular authors of the German postwar period, also today often read in German schools.

Borchert was born in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, the only child of teacher Fritz Borchert, who worked also for the Dada
Dada or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a...

 magazine "Die Rote Erde" and author Hertha Borchert, who worked for the Hamburg radio and was famous for her dialect poetry. Borchert's family was very liberal and progressive, they operated in Hamburg's intellectual society circles. Far from being an enthusiastic Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

, Borchert hated his compulsory time in the party's youth wing, the Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung...

, from which, after missing meetings, he was released. So long before he wrote his famous drama "The man outside", he rebelled against the NS-dictatorship in his prewar-works (1938-1940). In April 1940 he was arrested by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 (Secret State Police) and then released. The same year he reluctantly took up an apprenticeship at a Hamburg bookshop. While at the bookshop, Borchert took acting lessons, without, at first, telling his parents. He left the apprenticeship early in 1941. Upon passing his acting examination on 21 March 1941, he began working at for the travelling theatre repertoire company Landesbühne Ost-Hannover based in Lüneburg
Lüneburg is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about southeast of fellow Hanseatic city Hamburg. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, and one of Hamburg's inner suburbs...

. His nascent theatrical career was cut short, however, by his conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 into the Wehrmacht in June 1941.

Borchert was posted to the Eastern front, where he saw the full horror of the eastern conflict, witnessing the numerous casualties in battle and those sustained due to cold, starvation, and inadequate equipment. On 23 February 1942, Borchert returned form sentry duty on the Russian front missing the middle finger of his left hand. He claimed that he had surprised a Russian soldier, had engaged in hand-to-hand conflict, his rifle had gone off in the struggle and wounded him. His superior officer, accusing him of attempting to evade military service by self-mutilation, had him arrested and placed in isolation. At his trial, the military prosecutor called for the death penalty, but the court believed Borchert's version of the events, and he was pronounced not guilty. However, he was immediately re-arrested on charges under the Heimtückegesetz - making statements against the regime, He was convicted of making "statements endangering the country" and sentenced to serve a further six weeks of strict-regime detention, and was then sent back to the Eastern front "to prove himself at the front". There he suffered frostbite
Frostbite is the medical condition where localized damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to extreme cold. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas...

 and several further bouts of hepatitis, after which he was granted medical leave. On leave he again acted in a nightclub in the now ravaged city of Hamburg. He then returned to his barracks, and successfully applied to be transferred to an army theatre group.He was transferred to a transit camp in Koblenz, but in the dormitory on the evening of 30 November 1943 he retold parodies of the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

, Borchert was denounced by one of the other soldiers in the dormitory, arrested and on 21 August 1944 sentenced to nine months in prison. The sentence was deferred until the end of the War, so he was again returned to the army, this time mostly spending his time in his barracks in Jena, before being sent, in March 1945, to the area around Frankfurt/M. His company surrendered to the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in March 1945. During their transportation to a prisoners of war camp, Borchert and others jumped off the lorry and escaped, and then he walked home to Hamburg (a distance of around 370 miles). He arrived there, totally exhausted, on 10 May, a week after Hamburg had surrendered to the British without putting up any resistance.

Following the war, Borchert's condition continued to worsen. In 1946 one doctor told his mother he expected Borchert would not live longer than another year, but Borchert himself was never told of this prognosis. He resumed his work with the theater, and continued writing. He wrote short prose and published a collection of poems Laterne, Nacht und Sterne (Lantern, Night and Stars) in December 1946. In December 1946 and/or January 1947 he wrote the play The Man Outside (Draußen vor der Tür). Even before its publication the play was performed on the radio on 13 February 1947, meeting with much acclaim. Later in 1947 Wolfgang Borchert entered a hepatic sanitorium in the Swiss
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 city of Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

, where he continued with short stories and wrote his manifesto against war Dann gibt es nur eins! (Then there is only one thing!) shortly before his death.

Selected bibliography

  • Die drei dunklen Könige (The three dark kings, 1946)
  • An diesem Dienstag (On this Tuesday, 1946)
  • Das Brot (The Bread, 1946)
  • Draußen vor der Tür
    Draußen vor der Tür
    The Man Outside is a play by Wolfgang Borchert, written in a few days in the late autumn of 1946. It made its debut on German radio on 13 February 1947....

    (The Man Outside, 1946)
  • Nachts schlafen die Ratten doch (The rats do sleep nights, 1947)
  • Die Kirschen (The cherries, 1947)
  • Dann gibt es nur eins! (Then there's only one thing!, 1947)


Wolf, Rudolf. 1984. Wolfgang Borchert. Werk und Wirkung.Bouvier Verlag. Bonn.

Gumtau, Helmut. 1969. Wolfgang Borchert. Colloquium Verlag. Berlin.

Rühmkopf, Peter. 1961. Wolfgang Borchert. Rowohlt. Reinbeck bei Hamburg.

External links

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