Apitz, Bruno

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APITZ, Bruno

Nationality: German. Born: Leipzig, 28 April 1900. Education: Studied to be a stamp-cutter, 1914-15. Family: Married Marlis Kieckhäfer in 1965; one daughter. Career: Joined Worker Education Association (Socialist Worker Youth of the Social Democratic Party), 1914; arrested for anti-war propaganda and imprisoned in Cottbus, 1917-18; worked as a bookstore assistant and actor, Leipzig and Hamburg, 1919-27; theater director, Berlin, 1928-30; chairperson of Leipzig district, Union of Proletarian-Revolutionary Writers, 1930-33; penal servitude in Sachsen and imprisonment in Buchenwald, 1933-45; administrative manager, Leipzig city theatres, 1946; chairman, art and literature trade union, Leipzig, 1951; worked in film in East Berlin, 1952. Beginning in 1955 journalist and novelist. Editor, Leipziger Volkszeitung, 1945. Award: Honored by the City of Leipzig, 1975. Died: 7 April 1979.



Nackt unter Wölfen. 1958; as Naked among Wolves, 1960.

Der Regenbogen [The Rainbow]. 1976.

Schwelbrand. 1984.

Short Stories

Esther. 1959.



Nackt unter Wölfen, 1963.

Radio Play:

Nackt unter Wölfen, 1960.


Critical Studies:

"Survival under Fascism: Deception in Apitz' Nackt unter Wölfen, Becker's Jakob der Lugner, and Kohlhaase's Erfindung einer Sprache " by Helen L. Cafferty, in West Virginia University Philological Papers, 30, 1984; Bruno Apitz, 1900-1979: Biographie, Texte, Bibliographie by Renate Florstedt, 1990.

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Bruno Apitz began writing at the age of 18 and published his first poems and short stories in newspapers and journals in the 1920s. In 1924, while working as an actor in Leipzig, he wrote his first drama, Der Mensch im Nacken ("The Man on Your Tail") . Like the novel Fleck und Barb, die Unrasierten ("Fleck and Barb, the Unshaven") and the dramas Und was sagt ihr dazu? ("And What Do You Say to That") and Paradies und gute Erde ("Paradise and Good Soil") as well as the poems and full-length plays he wrote at the end of the war reflecting his incarceration in the Buchenwald concentration camp, it was never published or performed. A number of short radio plays dealing with his Buchenwald years were broadcast in the postwar years but are now forgotten. It was not until 1958 that Apitz saw success with his novel Naked among Wolves (Nackt unter Wölfen , 1958), which rapidly became a bestseller in both East and West Germany. The novel was translated into some 30 languages, adapted as a radio play (1960), and turned into a popular film (1963). Apitz himself wrote both the radio script and the screenplay. In 1959 Apitz published the story Esther and in 1976 his autobiographical novel Der Regenbogen ("The Rainbow").

Naked among Wolves is one of the first German concentration camp novels and contains much of what Apitz experienced in the eight years (1937-45) he was imprisoned in Buchenwald. A committed communist from his youth on and a member of the Communist Youth Organization from 1920 and the Communist Party of Germany from 1927, he described his political struggles and experiences in his earlier works. These political activities resulted in jail sentences in 1917 and 1918-19 and in lengthy stays in various camps from the very beginning of the Third Reich. Apitz's work accordingly reflects first and foremost his lfe as a socialist in the first half of the twentieth century and not primarily his life during the Holocaust. Buchenwald was not, of course, an extermination camp, but a camp for political prisoners. Jews were, however, sent there and killed from 1938 on, and the Jewish child described in Naked among Wolves —who miraculously survives the last weeks of the war in Buchenwald—did in fact exist. This child has symbolic value, however, and is not intended to encapsulate Jewish experience in the Holocaust. Apitz, properly, should be seen as an antifascist writer rather than a writer from, or on, the Holocaust.

—David Scrase

See the essay on Naked among Wolves.