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Walter Hasenclever

Born 8 July 1890
Aachen, Germany
Died 22 June 1940
Les Milles, France
Occupation Writer
Nationality German
Literary movement Expressionist

Walter Hasenclever (8 July 1890 in Aachen, Germany - 22 June 1940 in Les Milles (Camp des Milles) near Aix-en-Provence) was a German Expressionist writer.


The son of the doctor Friedrich Hasenclever and his wife Emma, Walter Hasenclever began studying law at Oxford University in 1908 before changing to the University of Lausanne. From 1909 to 1914 he studied in Leipzig, where he became interested in literature and philosophy. In 1910 he published his first volume of poems, Städte, Nächte und Menschen (Towns, nights and people). In 1914 his play Der Sohn (The Son) was his first successful expressionist drama.

At first, Hasenclever was pro-war and volunteered for military service; soon, however, he came to reject the war. He simulated mental illness and was released from duty. That same year he was presented with the Kleist Award for his passionate adaptation of Sophocles' Antigone. He was a good friend of the artist Oskar Kokoschka who depicted him in his 1918 work "The Friends" with Käthe Richter in Dresden, where Hasenclever was recuperating from his "illness" in a sanatorium.

In 1924 Hasenclever met Kurt Tucholsky; at this time he worked as a French correspondent for the magazine ""8-Uhr-Abendblatt", spending a lot of time in Paris, where he also befriended the dramatist Jean Giraudoux. In 1926 he produced the successful comedy Ein besserer Herr (A Better Gentleman) and in 1928 the comedy Ehen werden im Himmel geschlossen (Marriages are made in Heaven). In 1930 he wrote scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for Greta Garbo: at this time he lived in Berlin in an "artists' colony". When the National Socialists took over power in 1933, his works were banned, burnt during the book burning then removed from libraries. Hasenclever went into exile in Nice. In 1934 he married Edith Schläfer there.

During the Second World War Hasenclever was imprisoned twice as a "foreign enemy" in France. When France fell to Germany, he was in the prison camp of Camp des Milles in the South East of France. In the early hours of 22 June 1940 he took his own life with an overdose of the barbiturate Veronal, so as not to fall into the hands of the Nazis.


Since 1996 the Walter Hasenclever Prize has been awarded to a German language writer every two years. Winners have included Peter Rühmkorf (1996), George Tabori (1998), Oskar Pastior (2000), Marlene Steerewitz (2002) and Friedrich Christian Delius (2004). The funds come from the Walter Hasenclever Society (Walter-Hasenclever-Gesellschaft) as well as the town of Aachen, the Schiller Society and Hasenclever's old school, the Einhard Gymnasium.


Much of this article is translated from de:Walter Hasenclever of 15 June 2005


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