The Jerusalem Prize

1993 - Stefan Heym was born Helmut Flieg

Born: April 10, 1913, Chemnitz, Germany

Author's quote: "I always had the attitude: this Wall cannot be permanent. If it's permanent, it's permanent defeat."

Field: Writer

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Stefan Heym

About Stefan Heym

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 1933 Reichstag fire he fled to Czechoslovakia, where he took the name Stefan Heym. In Czechoslovakia, the only remaining democracy in Central Europe at that time, he worked for German newspapers published in Prague such as Prager Tagblatt and Deutsche Zeitung Bohemia (de) and also managed to have some of his articles published in translation by Czech newspapers. During this time he signed his articles under several pseudonyms, Melchior Douglas, Gregor Holm and Stefan Heym.

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 the Ritchie Boys, a unit for psychological warfare under the command of émigré 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. These experiences formed the background for a later novel, The Crusaders, and were the basis for Reden an den Feind (Speeches to the Enemy), a collection of those texts. After the war Heym led the Ruhrzeitung in Essen, and then became editor in Munich of the Neue Zeitung (de), one of the most important newspapers of the American occupying forces. Because of his refusal to soften his critical stance toward Naziism and the German elites that had collaborated with it and his refusal to begin to discreetly weave doubts about Soviet intentions into his editorials, [2] Heym was transferred back to the US towards the end of 1945 and was discharged because of an allegedly "procommunistic" mindset.

In the following years he worked as a freelance author once again. In 1952 he gave all his American military commendations back in protest of the Korean War and moving first to Prague, and in the following year to the German Democratic Republic (GDR, "East Germany").

In the years after reunification Heym was 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 suddenly of heart failure in Ein Bokek in Israel whilst attending 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, his birthplace (2001). He was also awarded the Jerusalem Prize (1993) for literature 'for the freedom of the individual in society', and the peace medal of the IPPNW.


The King David Report (European Classics) - Stefan Heym

By Samuel Romilly

An odd title for my review I admit, but let me explain. I was first given a copy of what looked like a rather tawdry pot-boiler by a certain Rowan Williams (later to become Archbishop of Canterbury). I was bemused. Why did an intellectual and scholar of his standing want me to read this?

Finally I did read it. Not only was it beautifully written (the English echoing the cadences of the Authorised Version,as the German does the style of Luther's translation of the New Testament),but it was utterly convincing not only about Israel 3000 years ago but about Europe behind the Iron Curtain. Disguised to bewilder the dotards of tyranny as a novel about a tenth century BC king it was in reality a superb underhand dig at the distortion of reality that totalitarian regimes are prone to.

I ended up as a director of studies in Old Testament at Cambridge University. I put this book at the top of the reading list for first year undergraduates. Why? Because it also happens to be the best introduction to modern critical analysis of the Old Testament that I know of. Heym provides a most convincing account of how the biblical historical narratives were likely composed as propaganda for the authorities: after all King David was a pretty sordid sort of King, and Solomon was not much better. He also suggests how paid scribes could fulfil their task and yet sqeeze hints of the truth into commissioned texts, hints that the authorities would be too obtuse to pick up but contemporary readers might discern or modern scholars might detect and decipher.

Something for everyone


The King David Report (European Classics) - Stefan Heym

By A Customer

Of all the modern retellings of the story of David, including Heller's _God Knows_ and Shamir's _The Hittite Must Die_, this is by far the best informed, most sophisticated and the most remarkable achievement for a writer. Another on-line reviewer praises the book for revivifying "a dry piece of OT prose." There is nothing dry or prosaic about David's story in 2 Samuel 9-1 Kings 2. On the contrary. It is in a league of its own. Yet Heym has somehow given himself a superlative background in biblical studies and the ancient Near East, and somehow acquired a command of English which native English speakers should envy. As a result, Heym manages to produce a piece of engrossing fiction which at the same time contains a wealth of insight into both ancient and modern political realities. As a modern biblical novel, it far outstrips even Thomas Mann's writings on Joseph and Moses. The highest praise I can give is to put it on a par with Hurston's magnificent _Moses: Man of the Mountain_.