has been awarded every three years since 2008 in honour of Stefan Heym, son of the City of Chemnitz and its honorary citizen. The award recognises outstanding authors and commentators whose work, like that of Stefan Heym, has proved them to be socially and politically engaged, and committed to advocating moral values.
The committee that awards the prize consists of the Mayor of the City of Chemnitz, the President of the German PEN Centre, the President of the Goethe-Institut, the Director of the publishing house C. Bertelsmann Verlag, the Chair of the German Section of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), the Chair of the International Stefan Heym Society, Professor Bernadette Malinowski as the incumbent Chair of Modern and Comparative Literature at Chemnitz University of Technology and two representatives of the Chemnitz City Council Culture Committee.
+ City of Chemnitz statute on the awarding of the City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize (in German language only)
The next award ceremony of the International Stefan Heym Award will take place in 2023.
Further information will follow.
The City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize 2020 is being awarded jointly to Croatian novelist and journalist Slavenka Drakulić and Swedish author and journalist Richard Swartz, in an acknowledgement by the Awards Committee of the extensive literary journalistic accomplishments of this married couple. The Committee’s decision was announced today by Mayor Barbara Ludwig. The literary prize will be awarded on 3th April 2020; the ceremony traditionally takes place close to the time of Stefan Heym’s birthday (10th April 1913).
“Stefan Heym made a lasting impression on the cultural and spiritual legacy of our city. He was a lateral thinker, sometimes a heckler. He took nothing for granted. Quite the contrary, in fact: he actively sought out discussion and debate. He questioned, he touched on sore points, he stirred the pot ‒ all to challenge society to think, to reflect, to change its view. “Opening minds” ‒ the belief that underpins our application to become European Capital of Culture ‒ was something that he lived and breathed and embodied. Slavenka Drakulić and Richard Swartz are two journalists and writers who do the same. Like Stefan Heym, they persuade with the sheer force of their analytical insight; their works address the big European issues.”
Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig
Slavenka Drakulić and Richard Swartz are European voices in the best sense of the term: they tackle the big European questions, expressed through the stories of the fates of individuals. War and peace; democracy; dictatorship; war crimes and responsibility; equality and justice: as chroniclers of our time they stand out for their sharp literary observations of the past and present, communicating unassailable truths in superlative lyrical style.
The International Stefan Heym Prize for 2020 is thus honouring two journalists and writers whose works of searing clarity call on readers to form their own judgements and make up their own minds. Their works are protests against collective amnesia, and a beacon of intercultural understanding and reconciliation.
“The City of Chemnitz has done an exemplary job of honouring the legacy of Stefan Heym, and preserving his spirit for the modern age. In Slavenka Drakulić and Richard Swartz, the Award is once again celebrating two authors who have each explored European themes in their own way, and taken a profound look at the relationship between individuals and society. Much in the spirit of Heym himself, Swartz has done this with a touch of humour; Drakulić, meanwhile, has written about disquieting subjects that are often forgotten or pushed aside. Her novel As If I Am Not There, about the systematic rape perpetrated by Serbian soldiers in the Yugoslavian war, is the most oppressive and nightmarish anti-war novel that I have come across.”
Regula Venske, President of the PEN Centre Germany
“Both of these authors combine literary storytelling with journalistic analysis, and their work is relevant to contemporary debates today. A Croat and a Swede, an east-west relationship; practically the embodiment of European integration. Literary craftsmanship combined with social and political responsibility: simply an excellent choice!”
Dr. Ulrike Uhlig, Chair of the International Stefan Heym Association
Croatian novelist and journalist Slavenka Drakulić, born in 1949, shot to prominence with her novels “The Principle of Longing” (1989), The Taste of a Man (1997), Marble Skin (1998), As If I Am Not There (1999), Frida’s Bed (2007), “Dora and the Minotaurus” (2016) and Mileva Einstein, A Theory of Sadness (2018).
Her work examines the role of women in society and in relationships between the genders – a topic that has lost none of its relevance and is still fiercely debated today. She frequently situates these issues in her biographies of famous women. However, her exploration of universal questions also takes the brutality of war as its backdrop. Her non-fiction work, They Would Never Hurt A Fly: War Criminals on Trial in the Hague won the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding in 2005 .
Born in 1945, Richard Swartz is an internationally acclaimed Swedish writer and journalist, who has worked for a number of renowned newspapers. His reports, articles and novels – including Room Service (1996), “Emergency Lies” (1998), A House in Istria (1999), “Address Book” (2005), The Stranger Next Door: An Anthology from the Other Europe (2007), Oysters in Prague (2019) – reflect spiritual and political life in western and eastern Europe. His writings delve into the stories of individual people and their relationships with society. Like Stefan Heym, he views literature as a tool that can help people in their quest for answers in their present life.
The City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize was previously awarded to the following writers. For more information, click the name of the prizewinner:
The City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize 2017 was awarded to the Polish writer and commentator Joanna Bator on 4th April 2017 at Chemnitz Schauspielhaus. The Award Committee’s decision was announced by Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig in October 2016. In accordance with tradition, the literary prize, for which the winner receives 20,000 euros, was conferred around the time of Stefan Heym’s birthday in April 2017. Amongst others, the honorary citizens Christoph Magirius and Siegmund Rotstein, deputies of the German Bundestag and the Saxon Landtag, the chairwoman of the International Stefan Heym Society, Dr. Ulrike Uhlig, as well as members of the award committee attended the awarding ceremony of the International Stefan Heym Prize.
"The topics you are dealing with touch with the substance of the social debates we encounter on a daily basis – an obvious parallel to the work of Stefan Heym. And just like him, you do not make it easy for your reader to choose one side, you rather challenge him. Your books are about questions that do not know simple answers: questions about home, identity, affiliation, exclusion – how do people change, how do societies change when they have to change?"
Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig addressed the prizewinner in her welcoming speech.
Born in 1968, Joanna Bator is one of the outstanding voices in contemporary European literature. Her idiosyncratic, artistic and subtle narratives engage quietly but determinedly with current social issues and phenomena, exploring all their historical dimensions. Her latest novel, Ciemno, prawie noc (Dark, Almost Night), shows how hate can destroy a community and how quickly the surface of human morality can rupture when people are confronted with change.
This novel earned Joanna Bator Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, the Nike Award, in 2013. In 2016 she was shortlisted for the same novel for the House of World Cultures Award for Translated Contemporary Literatures. Her previous publications include the novels Piaskowa Góra (Sandy Mountain, 2011) and Chmurdalia (Cloudalia, 2013), along with numerous essays and articles.
Joanna Bator was also the recipient of the Spycher: Leuk Literary Award 2014. She held the post of Friedrich Dürrenmatt Visiting Professor of World Literature in Bern for the winter semester of 2014/15. In 2015 Joanna Bator lived and worked for twelve months in Berlin as a guest of the DAAD Berlin Artists-In-Residence programme. She has a degree in philosophy and is an author and university lecturer. She has taught in Warsaw, New York, London and Tokyo, and lives in Poland and Japan.
"There is no such thing as "the writer". Different writers want different things and it is natural that not everybody who writes a book should have the same aim. Some of us, like Nabokov, believe that the aesthetic freedom is the only principle to follow, others, such as Orwell, insist that direct political involvement is crucial. I am inclined to support the former but they are times like nowadays when everybody, including writers, is forced to redefine the tension between his or her own private world of turmoil and doubts and public domain that requires a different kind of approach and language. Few weeks ago taking part in the Warsaw Black Protest of Polish women fighting for their rights I was sure I was in the right place taking time off from my private projects to resist public danger. However, I believe that I as writer can be really involved in the life of my contemporaries only when I write exactly the right books at exactly the right time."
The City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize was awarded to Christoph Hein on 10th April 2013, Stefan Heym’s 100th birthday. The recipient accepted the award and prize of 40,000 euros in person in front of 350 guests at the Chemnitz Playhouse. The ceremony was attended by Inge Heym, along with former Stefan Heym Prize recipient Bora Ćosić and honorary citizens of Chemnitz Christoph Magirius and Siegmund Rotstein.
“The International Stefan Heym Prize commemorates the life and work of one of our city’s greatest sons. He exemplified what this prize celebrates: the power of free speech against injustice. This year’s winner, Christoph Hein, stands for those same values. His outstanding literary work discusses the potential and limitations of the individual to grapple with social inequities. In the GDR and later in reunified Germany, he dedicated himself to the free expression of opinion. Heym and Hein both remind us not to forget how to use the fundamental rights and freedoms we take for granted.”
Mayor Barbara Ludwig
Christoph Hein was born on 8th April 1944 and is considered one of the most accomplished authors of our time. His literary work includes novels, essays, short stories, plays, lyrics and children’s books. He came to international attention in 1982 with his novella, The Distant Lover, published in West Germany in 1983 under the title Drachenblut (Dragon’s Blood). His most famous novels include The Tango Player (1988) and Willenbrock (2000), which was adapted as a film by Andreas Dresen. His most recent work is Weiskerns Nachlass (Weiskern’s Legacy, 2011). In 1998 Christoph Hein was appointed as the first President of the reunified German PEN centre. He was also co-editor of the Freitag newspaper until 2006.
Christoph Hein was born in Heizendorf (Jasienica) in Silesia, Poland, and grew up in Bad Düben, Saxony. In 1960 he moved to West Berlin to enable him as the son of a pastor to take his Abitur (A Levels). Before studying logic and philosophy in Leipzig and Berlin (1967 to 1970), he earned his living as an assembly worker, bookseller and assistant director to Benno Besson at the Deutsches Theater and the Volksbühne in Berlin. After completing his studies, he returned to the Volksbühne as a dramatist and was appointed as a director in 1973 alongside Heiner Müller. Christoph Hein has been a freelance writer since 1979. As a member of the GDR PEN Centre, he was a critical participant in debate, protesting against censorship at the 10th Writers’ Congress in 1987 and two years later against the arrest of Václav Havel, to give just two examples. Christoph Hein was one of the speakers at the Alexanderplatz demonstration organised by artists in Berlin on 4th November 1989.
He has won numerous awards, most recently the Uwe Johnson Prize (2012), the Eichendorff Award for Literature (2010) and the Walter Hasenclever Award for Literature (2008). He is also a holder of the Federal Cross of Merit (1994).
As part of the International Stefan Heym Conference on 1st July 2011, the City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize was awarded to the writer and commentator Bora Ćosić. Bora Ćosić accepted the award and 40,000-euro prize in person at the official ceremony in Chemnitz town hall.
“Stefan Heym is a great son of our city. The demands that are expected from the recipients of the Stefan Heym Prize have to do justice to him. The jury’s task is one of interpretation: how do we encounter Stefan Heym today? And how would he greet us? The decision to award the prize to Bora Ćosić answers these questions and honours not only the recipient but also the prize itself and the man from whom it takes its name. Ćosić does not shy away from the fine line between art and politics. He apportions criticism openly and teaches us to make our way through the world with our eyes open.”
Mayor Barbara Ludwig
Long-standing WDR Director General and former ARD Chairman Fritz Pleitgen, who was also patron of the International Stefan Heym Society’s first conference, gave a speech paying tribute to Bora Ćosić. “Stefan Heym would have been thoroughly satisfied with this year’s prizewinner,” he said. “Bora Ćosić is a writer who gets to grips with our times, who breaks down doors. He leads us out of narrow ways of thinking and opens up new and surprising perspectives. And he knows how to do all this with spirit and subtle – or, where necessary, wicked – humour; he would never sell his right to say and write what he thinks and feels in exchange for a quiet life, however many unpleasant reprisals he is faced with. These are the fundamental traits that Bora Ćosić shares with Stefan Heym.”
The ceremony was accompanied by the music of Beethoven and Mahler, Stefan Heym’s and Bora Ćosić’s favourite composers. At the event, Bora Ćosić wrote an entry in the City of Chemnitz Golden Book, which records the city’s noteworthy figures and its honorary citizens.
Ćosić, born in Zagreb in 1932, lived for 55 years in Belgrade until he emigrated in 1992; he has since lived in exile in Berlin and Rovinj (Croatia).
In awarding the City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize to Bora Ćosić, the jury has recognised a great novelist, satirist and critic from south-eastern Europe. Ćosić stands in the tradition of the Serbian avant-garde of the 1960s and ’70s, and has published more than 30 works. Amongst the most well-known are his prizewinning novel My Family’s Role in the World Revolution (Uloga moje porodice u svetskoj revoluciji), a novel that appeared in the 1960s and predicted back then the downfall of Yugoslavia from a child’s viewpoint, as well as Nulta zemlja (Country Zero) and Put na Aljasku (Journey to Alaska). The Award Committee’s decision also recognises Ćosić’s role as a political writer in providing enlightenment.
“I long ago gave up trying to draw a strict distinction between life in the East and the West. In this I have been helped by the poet Adonis, who says that there are several Wests in every West and several Easts in every East. When we say East and West, we make things easier. We can say there are Easts in the West that are much more eastern than the East, and Wests in the East that are much more western than the West. I only knew Stefan Heym, thanks to whose work we are all gathered here, for a short time. But I am joined to him and to his dramatic life by my own fate, which is also balanced between West and East.”
Prizewinner Bora Ćosić in his acceptance speech
Bora Ćosić studied philosophy and worked amongst other things as an editor at various literary journals. Not wanting to live under the Milošević regime, he left Serbia in 1992, travelling to Rovinj in Croatia and then to Berlin. Bora Ćosić was awarded the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding in 2002 and the Günter Grass Foundation Albatros Prize in 2008.
The award ceremony took place during the First Stefan Heym Conference, which ran from 1st to 3rd July 2011 in Chemnitz. The conference, which examines the life and work of Stefan Heym, was organised by the International Stefan Heym Society in cooperation with the City of Chemnitz’s Cultural Management Office and held in the TIETZ.
The City of Chemnitz awarded its first International Stefan Heym Prize on 14th April 2008, in honour of Stefan Heym, son of the city and honorary citizen. The first recipient of the prize is the Israeli writer and commentator Amos Oz, who accepted the award and the 40,000-euro prize in person in Chemnitz.
The Stefan Heym Prize was awarded at a ceremony in the Chemnitz Opera. Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz from the publishing house Suhrkamp Verlag gave a speech paying tribute to Amos Oz. Ambassador for the State of Israel Yoram Ben-Zeev gave a welcoming address. The Robert Schumann Philharmonic Orchestra played Beethoven and Brahms, two of Stefan Heym’s and Amos Oz’s favourite composers. As part of the ceremony, Amos Oz signed the City of Chemnitz Golden Book, which records the city’s noteworthy figures and its honorary citizens.
“Stefan Heym and Amos Oz have a quite wonderful and moreover very personal connection and so we are happy to be able to award the first ever prize directly to an author who so particularly embodies the idea behind it.”
Mayor Barbara Ludwig
Amos Oz, born in 1939, is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (1992), the Israel Prize (1998), the Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt (2005), the Bavarian First Minister’s Corine Literature Prize (2006) and the Prince of Asturias Award (2007). Amos Oz has published more than 30 books, including novels, short stories and political essays. His works have been translated into 37 languages.
Stefan Heym Sponsorships
Next funding period in 2023
The City of Chemnitz is awarding International Stefan Heym Sponsorships to projects and initiatives that have a particular focus on Stefan Heym’s life, work and legacy. The next funding period starts in 2023. The sponsorships with a total value of 20,000 euros are awarded in addition to the City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize.
The prize money is awarded proportionally to projects and initiatives in the fields of science, art, culture and research or that continue Stefan Heym’s legacy, for journalistic and documentary work, as scholarships or funding for school and university-level projects.
Mayor Sven Schulze says: “Inge Heym, Stefan Heyms' widow, has always emphasized how important it was for her husband to reach the younger generations with his works. In addition to the great literary works of time-critical and courageous writers and publicists, we also wanted to support other initiatives and projects by schoolchildren and students that keep Heym's work alive.”
Regula Venske, author and President of the PEN Centre Germany, explains: “It is remarkable how the City of Chemnitz honours the legacy of its famous son Stefan Heym – we only wish that other cities would follow this example and grant their own famous literary figures the same honour. Together with the International Stefan Heym Prize, the Stefan Heym Sponsorships send out an important signal: young people are encouraged to take a critical look at literature and literary, philosophical or socio-political issues in school projects; they are able to work on personal historical research projects and go on research trips. It’s all about remembering his life and works in a productive debate in the here and now rather than merely worshipping his work in a museum.”
Applications are open to individuals, initiatives, institutions, public and private bodies, and associations. The sponsored projects should be completed before the next Stefan Heym Prize is awarded in around three years time. A description of the project (no more than two A4 pages), a cost and funding plan, a plan for PR activities relating to the project and a schedule must be submitted along with the application.
The application form can be downloaded from www.stefan-heym-preis.de and is also available from the City of Chemnitz Mayor’s Office.
Sponsorship recipients will be chosen by the International Stefan Heym Prize Award Committee. The Committee patron is Inge Heym.
Gerald Richter and Marian Kretschmer (EUR 7,500)
Gerald Richter and Marian Kretschmer bring students at schools in Chemnitz closer to the life and work of Stefan Heym through various interactive formats. In Heym's spirit, they want to empower young people to find their own way and get involved. Holiday workshops for the design of banners, posters, flyers, bookmarks and short videos are planned.
Dr Jürgen Nitsche (EUR 2,500)
Historian Dr. Jürgen Nitsche uses Heym's autobiography as a starting point to open up the immediate social environment of the writer in Chemnitz to all interested readers.
Ludwig Streng (EUR 2,500)
With music, Ludwig Streng creates a new approach to the lesser-known poetry of Stefan Heyms and the history of how it was created. The compositions will be played and recorded.
Liv Heym (EUR 4,000)
Liv Heym, granddaughter of Stefan Heym, accompanies Heym's "Obituary" with music and pays special attention to the social component of the venues of her concert readings: In addition to public stages, voluntary performances are planned in schools, nursing homes, museums and prisons.
Beate Kunath (EUR 3,500)
Seven companions of Stefan Heyms remember personal encounters in interviews with filmmaker Beate Kunath and open up a very own perspective on Heym's work. The interviews will be filmed.
Overall, the jury awarded EUR 20,000.
The Karl-Schmidt-Rottluff Grammar School Friends’ Association, represented by headteacher Ronald Langhoff (EUR 4,000)
In keeping with the spirit of Stefan Heym, the competition encourages young people to follow his example – by writing. Young people get to grips with the world around them in an active artistic way. and the jury considers a collected summary of the best entries from each competition, including the forthcoming 150th anniversary of Karl-Schmidt-Rottluff Grammar School in 2018, as an appropriate way of honouring many years of dedication from pupils and project organisers at Stefan Heym’s alma mater.
Historian Dr Jürgen Nitsche (EUR 3,000)
The Awards Committee took the view that this project dealt with a hitherto neglected field of research. It is expected not only to uncover close links between the life of Stefan Heym and the history of the city of Chemnitz, but also other connections with the life of Stefan Heym, such as his companions at that time.
International Stefan Heym Society, represented by Prof. Bernadette Malinowski (EUR 2,600)
The Awards Committee recognises the academic potential and desirability of an exploratory trip to the Stefan Heym Archive in Cambridge by the Chair for Modern German and Comparative Literature. The trip would also help kick start academic engagement with Stefan Heym at a Stefan Heym research centre in the city of Chemnitz.
Theresia-Gerhardinger Grammar School in Munich, represented by Elisabeth Neuhaus (EUR 2,500)
The Awards Committee concluded that this preparatory academic seminar, enabling pupils from the girls’ grammar school in Munich to engage with Stefan Heym, and the associated field trip to Chemnitz, were an eminently suitable way of passing on the memory of Stefan Heym to the next generation, and gave pupils the opportunity to draw active lessons from the life of Stefan Heym.
Verein Kunstzone Schwarzenberg-Aue e. V. (Association Art Zone Schwarzenberg-Aue), represented by Jörg Beier (EUR 2,500)
The Award Committee honors and finances the part of the project in which pupils deal with the concept of home. The pupils examine the concept of home taking into account the life of Stefan Heym as well as current issues. The project is pedagogically accompanied.
Overall, the jury awarded EUR 14,600 as requested in the competition contributions submitted. The remaining amount of EUR 5,400 from the total of EUR 20,000 is being set aside for future awards.
Stefan Heym Forum
With the Stefan Heym Forum at the TIETZ, in the centre of Chemnitz, a place for lively encounters between readers of the author, but also a place for Heym research and scientific exchange has been created.
The heart of the forum is the Stefan and Inge Heym Working Library. It moved to Chemnitz from the shared house in Berlin-Grünau thanks to a precious donation from Inge Heym, Stefan Heym's widow.
Lord Mayor Barbara Ludwig: “The library of Stefan Heym and his wife Inge is such a valuable gift for our city. Compiled by a witness to a century who dared to stand against overwhelming powers with great courage and the power of the word. With the library, part of him is now returning to Chemnitz - the city of his birth. That moves me deeply. With the forum at the TIETZ, the memory of Stefan Heym, the son of our city, stays alive. It is now and here, in the Stefan Heym Forum, our task to continue in his spirit and to carry his memory into the younger generations. I am grateful and proud that Inge Heym has given us Chemnitz people the confidence to look after this great legacy.”
Dr. Ulrike Uhlig, CEO of the International Stefan Heym Society e. V .: “A person's library is a mirror of his soul, his personality, his spiritual world. It can tell stories about the person who brought it together. I am extremely moved, grateful and happy that we can open the Stefan Heym Forum with the Stefan and Inge Heym Working Library today.”
In short, but very emotionally, Inge Heym describes her feeling about the relocation of the Working Library to Chemnitz: “Somehow it is as if all is coming full circle. He's going back home.”
Heart of the forum – the Stefan and Inge Heym Working Library
At the centre of the Stefan Heym Forum is the original working library of Stefan and Inge Heym. Thanks to a room-in-room system of glass, the working atmosphere of the publicist couple can be experienced by the visitors. The Stefan and Inge Heym working library counts almost 2500 works. Including first editions of Heym's novels, works by fellow writers and friends with personal dedications, research volumes and complete editions, for example by Shakespeare and Heine.
In future, all titles will be listed in the catalog of the Chemnitz City Library and can be researched using the online catalog at www.stadtbibliothek-chemnitz.de.
With the books, Stefan and Inge Heym's furniture and personal items also move into the TIETZ.
A public exhibition tells Stefan Heym's life story, explains his extensive work and outlines the almost symbiotic collaboration between Stefan Heym and his wife Inge.
The International Stefan Heym Prize of the City of Chemnitz and its award winners will be presented as well as the International Stefan Heym Sponsorships. The exhibition also provides information about the work of the International Stefan Heym Society.
Also part of the Stefan Heym Forum is a multifunctional event and training area with around 30 seats. This can be used for school lessons, for study purposes, for lectures and events.
Chemnitz as the centre of Heym research
Another essential component of the Stefan Heym Forum is the joint intention of the City of Chemnitz, the International Stefan Heym Society and the Professorship for Modern German and Comparative Literature at the Technical University of Chemnitz to set up a "Stefan Heym Research Centre". In addition to scientific, interdisciplinary conferences and symposia, the researchers plan above all the publication of previously unpublished works by Heym and the publication of a historical-critical edition of his complete works. For this the researchers will apply for financial support from the German Research Association. With this focus, Chemnitz will become - even more so than before - a centre of Heym research.
The total costs for the Stefan Heym Forum amount to 250,000 euros. It was financed jointly from funds from the city of Chemnitz, the Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung and Sparkasse Chemnitz.
The son of a Jewish businessman, Stefan Heym was born Helmut Flieg in Chemnitz on 10th April 1913.
His humanistic education meant that even as an 18-year-old high-school pupil of the Hohe Straße Staatsgymnasium Helmut Flieg was grappling with the social contradictions of the Weimar Republic.
His first open social critique was the publication of a poem in the Chemnitz Volksstimme newspaper denouncing German militarism. This resulted in his expulsion from school and reprisals from the National Socialists after 1933. To protect himself and out of concern for his family under the Nazi anti-Semitic terror regime, he adopted the pseudonym Stefan Heym from then on.
However, he was later unable to avoid having to emigrate to Prague and later to the USA. Having completed his studies in philosophy, German studies and journalism in Chicago, he started out in journalism as the Editor in Chief of the anti-fascist weekly Deutsches Volksecho. His literary career began with his novel Hostages in his mid-thirties.
His contempt for the Hitler regime and his desire to play an active role in bringing the Second World War to an end led Stefan Heym to join the US Army. As a solider immediately after the end of the war, he visited Chemnitz, which had been devastated by bombing.
At the start of the Cold War, Stefan Heym took a critical view of US policy and was expelled from the US Army because of his “pro-Communist position”. He returned his military medals to the American government in protest against the Korean War.
Stefan Heym had great hopes for the GDR and made it his new homeland in 1952. As the author of novels that would become classics, such as The Crusaders, Der Fall Glasenapp (his own translation of Hostages, which had been written in English) and The Eyes of Reason, he gained a wide readership in the GDR and government approval. In recognition of his literary achievements, he was awarded the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1953, the Free German Trade Union Federation Literary Prize in 1956 and the GDR National Prize in 1959.
Describing himself as a critical Marxist, he refused to let himself, as a writer of international acclaim, be complicit with, or used by, the SED (Socialist Unity Party of the GDR) leadership, engaging increasingly critically with the direction the GDR was taking from the mid-1950s onwards. His open discussion of social problems led to repeated clashes with the GDR leadership. On the other hand, his brilliant style and the topics he addressed meant Heym was enormously popular. In novels such as Uncertain Friend and The King David Report, he used the format of the historical novel to set out contemporary issues from a perspective that did not sit easily with official SED guidelines. Until 1989 the German-language editions of some of his works could only be published in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Typical examples of this were the novels Collin and Schwarzenberg, which were published by Bertelsmann in 1979 and 1984 respectively, but only appeared in East Germany in 1990.
Stefan Heym never made a secret of his rejection of the “actually existing socialism” practised in the GDR. His signing of the open letter protesting against the forced expatriation of Wolf Biermann led to his expulsion from the GDR Writers’ Union. Though he was subject to increasing constraints and at best only tolerated, Stefan Heym continued writing unabated.
Via the West German media, he went on debating social issues in the GDR, which he continued to regard as his homeland despite all its shortcomings and the difficulties he had experienced there.
In autumn 1989, Stefan Heym was one of the leading participants in the Peaceful Revolution in the GDR. Although he was one of the few leading figures in either of the German states who had foreseen the reunification of Germany at the beginning of the 1980s, he was a constructive and critical supporter of the process as it unfolded after 1990.
As president by seniority of the 13th German Bundestag, his inaugural address in 1994 drew attention to the negative aspects of the reunification process and simultaneously pointed out the great historical opportunity for a reunified Germany to achieve democracy and social justice.
Stefan Heym was a lateral thinker whose world view throughout his life was characterised by a commitment to humanism and social justice. His advocacy of ideology was never superficial; his role in discussions of social issues was more that of a charismatic pragmatist.
He debated the social questions of the age in which he lived over the course of more than seven decades, and not just in his literary works. His moral courage and his constructive engagement with the search for a modern and sustainable form of society were always impressive. His unsparingly frank and not infrequently discomfiting style brought him up against the restrictions imposed on him by government, but neither German National Socialism nor McCarthyism in the USA, nor the GDR’s SED regime, could prevent Stefan Heym from striving for democracy and justice.
In bestowing honorary citizenship on Stefan Heym on 2nd October 2001, the City of Chemnitz honoured an internationally respected individual who was born and grew up here in the city. The extent of his lifetime achievements makes Stefan Heym one of the most important German writers of the 20th century.
Stefan Heym died in Israel on 16th December 2001.
The City of Chemnitz will always honour his memory.
The City of Chemnitz is committed to honouring the memory of Stefan Heym and his work. Stefan Heym’s legacy is housed in the Stefan Heym Archive at the University of Cambridge, and it was originally planned to found the International Stefan Heym Society in Cambridge. However, because of the dignified tribute made by the City of Chemnitz to Stefan Heym, the idea was conceived during the award ceremony of founding the International Stefan Heym Society in Chemnitz and making the city its permanent base.
On 18th April 2009 the International Stefan Heym Society was founded during a celebratory event at the City of Chemnitz Town Hall. Guests included partners from Cambridge and Inge Heym, the writer’s widow. 45 interested individuals and organisations joined the Society on that day alone.
The Society’s aim is to promote literary life, and it is dedicated above all to the study and promotion of Heym’s work, and to preserving his journalistic and literary legacy and the memory of his life. It aims to promote cooperation between all those interested in his work and to foster international relationships. The Stefan Heym Society therefore works closely with the Stefan Heym Archive at Cambridge University Library. It aims not only to advance research but also to stimulate public engagement with Heym’s literary achievement and works. The Society organises public readings, lectures, literary colloquiums, exhibitions and publications.
The Society is a not-for-profit organisation and is registered in the Chemnitz District Court Registry of Associations. The Society will solely and directly pursue charitable aims.
The City of Chemnitz Press Office acts as the contact point for media representatives, issues press releases, manages the website www.stefan-heym-preis.de and is the contact point for the city’s publications on the International Stefan Heym Prize.
You can contact the online editor at the following times:
Monday–Thursday 9.30 am–5.30 pm
Friday 9.30 am–3 pm
Telephone: +49 (0)371 488-1531
Fax: +49 (0)371 488-1595
Telephone: +49 (0)371 488-1530
Mobile: +49 (0)151 61550169
Fax: +49 (0)371 488-1595
Permission is required from the Press Office before Town Hall buildings or other civic buildings may be photographed or filmed for the press and/or online media. This applies in particular to reporting on committee meetings or events.
Stefan Heym Forum opened at the TIETZ – The centerpiece is the Stefan and Inge Heym Working Library
The City of Chemnitz awards International Stefan Heym Sponsorships – Applications accepted until 31 December 2020
City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize 2020 awarded jointly to journalists and writers Slavenka Drakulić and Richard Swartz
Stefan and Inge Heym working library coming to Chemnitz
Stefan Heym sponsorships awarded
City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize 2017
awarded to Joanna Bator
Deadline for Stefan Heym Sponsorship extended
Applications can be sent until 30th June 2017
City of Chemnitz International Stefan Heym Prize for 2017 goes to Polish author Joanna Bator
The award and 20,000-euro prize will be presented in April next year
City of Chemnitz awards Stefan Heym Sponsorships
Additional funding of 20,000 euros for projects and initiatives
+ archived press releases (in German language)
City of Chemnitz
Mayor’s Office, European and International Relations, Protocol
Telephone: +49 (0)371 488-1523
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City of Chemnitz
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