BERLIN (Reuters) - Siegfried Lenz, one of Germany’s most significant post-war writers whose novels explored individuals’ culpability for the horrors of Nazism and the struggle to shape a new national identity, died on Tuesday at the age of 88, his publishers said.
Lenz, whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages, is best known for The German Lesson (Deutschstunde), in which a boy watches his policeman father doggedly follow orders to prevent their artist neighbor, branded “degenerate” by the Nazis, from painting in the remote German-Danish borderlands.
Born in 1926 in a city known today as Elk in eastern Poland but which was then in Germany, Lenz served in the German navy from the age of 18 in the last year of World War Two and spent time as a prisoner of war before eventually settling in Hamburg.
He became part of Gruppe 47, a group of post-war writers including Heinrich Boell, Guenther Grass and Ingeborg Bachmann who felt duty-bound to engage with the legacy of German fascism in their work, exposing and disrupting society’s urge to forget.
“Part of Germany has died today with Siegfried Lenz,” said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a statement.
“Like no other, Siegfried Lenz observed German society and shaped it with his work. His love of his country, his connection to both his home towns - one in Poland, the other in the north of Germany - are literary foundations for our own sense of self,” he said.
Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Stephen Brown and Gareth Jones