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Siegfried Lenz: 1926-2014

The death has occurred (October 7th) of Siegfried Lenz, a German novelist who was a member of the postwar literature forum Group 47 and who, together with Günter Grass, became involved with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), in particular supporting the Ostpolitik (opening to the east) of Chancellor Willy Brandt. He was invited in 1970 to attend the signing of the German-Polish Treaty, when Brandt, in a gesture of reconciliation and penance for German crimes, kneeled at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto (the highly symbolic event is referred to in German as the Kniefall von Warschau). Lenz saw it as his duty to help the German people “pay off the enormous debts” which “the Germans together with their honoured Führer had burdened themselves” and to “take preventive actions against any danger of a recurrence”. He was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1988 and the Goethe Prize by the city of Frankfurt in 2000. His most widely translated novel was The German Lesson (1968)