Habe, Hans

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HABE, Hans

Pseudonym for János Békessy; pseudonym adopted, 1930, legalized, 1955. Nationality: Hungarian. Born: Budapest, 12 February 1911. Military Service: French Army, 1939-40; United States Army, 1942-46: major; Bronze Star. Education: University of Heidelberg; University of Vienna, 1929-30. Family: Married 1) Margit Bloch in 1931; 2) Erika Lewy in 1934; 3) Eleanor Close in 1942, one son; 4) Ali Ghito in 1947; 5) Eloise Hardt in 1948, one daughter (deceased); 6) Licci Balla in 1958. Career: Editor, Wiener Sonn and Montagszeitung, Vienna, 1929-33; editor-in-chief, Der Morgen, Vienna, 1934-36; League of Nations correspondent, Geneva, Switzerland, Prager Tageblatt, Prague; writer and lecturer, United States, 1941-42; editor-in-chief of 18 U.S.-edited German language newspapers, occupied Germany, 1945-46; founder and editor-in-chief, Müencher Illustrierte and Echo der Woche, Munich, Germany, 1949-51; writer, 1952-77. Also contributor to anthologies, author of syndicated column, "Outside USA," and weekly columnist, Kölnische Rundschau (Cologne, Germany), and Welt am Sonntag (Hamburg, Germany). Member of board of governors, Haifa University, 1971. Awards: Croix de Guerre de Luxembourg; named Great Knight of Mark Twain, Mark Twain Journal; Jerusalem Medal, city of Jerusalem; Boston University fellow, 1966; Herzl Prize of Israel, 1972; Grand Cross of Merit from West Germany; Konrad Adenauer prize for literature, 1977. Member: Authors Council of West Germany; Journalist Association of Israel. Died: 29 September 1977.



Drei üeber die Grenze. 1936; as Three over the Frontier, 1939.

Eine Zeit bricht zusammen [A World Crumbles]. 1938.

Zu spat? 1939; as Sixteen Days, 1939.

A Thousand Shall Fall (autobiographical; English translation). 1941; revised German edition, as Ob Tausend fallen, 1961.

Kathrine (English translation). 1943.

Aftermath (English translation). 1947.

Walk in Darkness (English translation). 1948.

Black Earth (English translation). 1952.

Off Limits: Roman der Besatzung Deutschlands. 1955; as Off Limits: A Novel of Occupied Germany, 1956; as Off Limits, 1957.

Im Namen des Teufels. 1956; as The Devil's Agent, 1958.

Die Rote Sichel. 1959.

Ilona. 1960; as Ilona, 1961.

Die Tarnowska. 1962; as The Countess, 1963.

Die Weissen und die schwarzen Engel [The White and the Black Angels]: Die Mission. 1965; as The Mission, 1966.

Christoph und sein Vater. 1966; as Christopher and His Father, 1967.

Das Netz (third edition). 1969; as The Poisoned Stream, 1969.

Palazzo. 1975; as Palazzo, 1977.

Staub im September. 1976.


Our Love Affair with Germany (nonfiction). 1953.

Ich stelle mich: Meine Lebensgeschichte. 1954; as All My Sins: An Autobiography, 1957.

Der Tod in Texas: Eine amerikanische Tragödie (nonfiction). 1964; as The Wounded Land: Journey through a Divided America, 1964.

Meine Herren Geschworenen: Zehn grosse Gerichtsfälle aus der Geschichte des Verbrechens (nonfiction). 1964; as Gentlemen of the Jury: Unusual and Outstanding European Murder Trials, 1967.

Im Jahre Null: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Presse. 1966.

Wien, so wie es war (photographic book). 1969.

Wie einst David: Entscheidung in Israel (nonfiction). 1971; as Proud Zion, 1973.

Erfahrungen (philosophical memoirs). 1973.

Leben fuer den Journalismus (nonfiction). 1976.


Film Adaptation:

Die Mission, 1967.

Critical Studies:

"Hans Habe" by Robert C. Jespersen, in Deutsche Exilliteratur seit 1933, 1976; "'Gute Europaer in Amerikas Uniform': Hans Habe und Stefan Heym in der Psychological Warfare" by Reinhard K. Zachau, in World War II and the Exiles: A Literary Response, edited by Helmut F. Pfanner, 1991.

* * *

Hans Habe was the pseudonym of János Békessy, who was born on 12 February 1911 in Budapest. He was the son of the scandalous journalist and newspaper publisher Imre Békessy. Hans lived in Vienna until 1926, when Karl Kraus initiated an extortion scandal against his father. The son studied German language and literature at Heidelberg and found his first position as a reporter for newspapers in Vienna. He edited army newspapers and sympathized temporarily with the Austrian fascists. His early career was quite successful, and he was the first to discover Adolf Hitler's origins and real name, Schicklgruber. Beginning in 1934, Habe was the League of Nations correspondent for the Neue Wiener Journal and the Prager Tageblatt. In 1936 he published Drei über die Grenze (Three over the Frontier ), described as an "exile novel of a nonexile." Expatriated from Austria, Habe served as a volunteer in the French army in 1939-40, became a German POW, and in 1940 escaped to the United States. His successful war novel A Thousand Shall Fall (Ob Tausend fallen ) was published in the United States in 1941.

After being trained as a defense officer in the U.S. Army, Habe was promoted to major and was assigned to serve as a member of the American committee to establish a democratic press in defeated Germany. His most important achievement was the founding of the Munich newspaper Die Neue Zeitung. In his not entirely reliable report Im Jahre Null: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Presse (1966), on the history of the German press, he characterized the attitude of the American occupying forces as "anti-German" and "pro-Russian" and claimed to have repeatedly warned the United States of the communist danger.

Habe published successfully as a novelist in the United States, with his works reflecting his personal experiences. The novel Aftermath (1948) portrays the end of the war and postwar period and criticizes the emancipated American woman. Off Limits (1954) relates stories surrounding the American occupation of Germany. Black Earth (1952) depicts the fight of farmers in Hungary against the Soviet influence on domestic agricultural policies.

In 1946 Habe moved to Hollywood and then, in 1951, to Ascona, Switzerland. His attempt to publish the magazines Neue Münchner Illustrierte and Echo der Woche in Munich failed, and Habe's journalistic career ended in 1954. With more than 40 publications to his credit, however, Habe established a reputation as a best-selling novelist. From the 1960s on, calling himself an "extremist of the center," he openly opposed left-wing and liberal authors such as Max Frisch and Rolf Hochhuth in Welt am Sonntag. In the same vein he argued against the antireader and antimoral avant-garde, the nouveau roman, and the so-called nonrepresentational novel. Throughout his career he remained a pugnacious defender of his own interests and opinions. He sued the magazine Stern in 1952 for the publication of details of his private life, and he brought politically motivated suits against others, for example, in the charges made against Friedrich Dürrenmatt in 1972. Habe died on 29 September 1977 in Locarno, Switzerland.

—Walter Schmitz

See the essay on The Mission.