Germany is mourning one of its greatest authors. In a reaction to Siegfried Lenz’s death on Tuesday, the German President Joachim Gauck said: “For many readers Siegfried Lenz wasn’t just an author. He was a person who believed in the good in people and their ability to better themselves. He was loved like few other artists.”
Mr Lenz’s work “Deutschstunde” (The German Lesson) made him famous in 1968. In the novel, Siegfried Lenz uses the character of a police officer to show how Germans became minions of Nazi authority, lacking the essential ingredients of willpower, individuality and a mind of one’s own. Mr. Lenz called for a critical questioning of authorities and explored the central question of German guilt in the Second World War.
Siegfried Lenz was born in Eastern Prussia in 1926. After studying philosophy, English and literature, he worked at the German newspaper Die Welt for a short period of time. From 1951 onwards, Mr. Lenz worked as a freelance author, essay writer and critic living in Hamburg and the Danish island of Alsen.