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Heinrich Theodor Böll

playwright , translator , writer

Heinrich Böll is an outstanding German writer, playwright and translator, one of Germany's most popular and prolific post-World War II authors, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972 as a critical chronicler of the Federal German Republic (1949-1990). His courageous and unerring intervention significantly enriched and influenced political culture in Germany.


Heinrich Böll was born on the 21st of December 1917 in Cologne, Germany. During the reign of King Henry VIII, Böll’s ancestors, strong Catholics, left England fleeing religious persecution from Anglican Church.


As a schoolboy he he was one of the few boys who did not join the Hitler Youth movement. However, his elder brother, Alois, joined the movement to keep his father’s business afloat. Böll graduated from a high school in 1937 with a certificate which had two errors: Böll's birth date was incorrect and his choice of career – "book trade" was altered by the school principal.

Böll was able to begin his studies of Germanistics and Classical Philology during the summer term of 1939. Late in the summer of 1939 he was conscripted into the German Army shortly before the outbreak of the war. In 1946 he enrolled again at the University of Cologne in order to obtain a ration card.


In 1951 Böll quited the job and devoted himself entirely to writing.


  • Heinrich Böll was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. He was President of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists (international association) International, the worldwide association of writers and the oldest human rights organisation, between 1972-1973.


  • Collection of essays (1973)

    • Neue politische und literarische Schriften / New political and literary writings

  • Novel (1949)

    • Der Zug war pünktlich / The Train was on Time

  • Novel (1953)

    • Und sagte kein einziges Wort / And Never Said a Word

  • Novel (1954)

    • Haus ohne Hüter / The unguarded house

  • Novel (1957)

    • Irisches Tagebuch / Irish Journal

  • Novel (1959)

    • Billard um halbzehn / Billiards at half past nine

  • Novel (1963)

    • Ansichten eines Clowns / The Clown

  • Novel (1966)

    • Ende einer Dienstfahrt / The End of a Mission

  • Novel (1971)

    • Gruppenbild mit Dame / Group Portrait with Lady

  • Novel (1975)

    • Berichte zur Gesinnungslage der Nation / Reports on the state of mind of the nation

  • Novel (1979)

    • Fürsorgliche Belagerung / The Safety Net


Böll was born in a strongly Catholic family, but his concerns about the role of the Catholic Church in Germany grew in 1960 - 1969 and he criticized its close links with the ruling CDU (Christian Democratic Union) political party, whose central figure wass the German Chancellor - a former mayor of Cologne in the pre-Nazi period - Konrad Adenauer. Often returning to his Catholic faith, Böll examined the godlessness of the times but viewed critically the church itself. In January 1976, Heinrich Böll and his wife formally left the Catholic Church.


In his works he focused on the brutalities of the Nazi era and army life during World War II. After Willy Brandt (1913-1992) was elected leader the Social Democratic Party of Germany and began his eastward-facing policy, Böll became also politically active and in 1972 he participated in SPD's election campaign.


Member American Academy Arts and Letters (honorary), German Academy for Language and Poetry, Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists association (past president), American Academy Arts and Sciences (honorary).

  • German Academy of Language and Literature / Mitglied der Deutschen Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung , Germany

    1953 - 1985

  • Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists (international association) Club of the Federal Republic of Germany , Germany

    1970 - 1972

  • International P.E.N. organization , England

    1972 - 1973


a father:
Viktor Böll - German - Sculptor and cabinet-maker

His father, Viktor Böll, was a strong Catholic, who later opposed the rise of Nazism.

a mother:
Maria Hermanns - German

a wife:
Annemarie Cech

1st son:
Christoph Böll

He died in October 1945.

2nd son:
Raimund Böll

3rd son:
René Böll

4th son:
Vincent Böll

a friend:
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn - Russian - a writer
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn - a friend of Heinrich Böll

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian writer, dissident and activist. He helped to raise global awareness of the gulag and the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system. While his writings were often suppressed, he wrote several books most notably The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, he first took refuge in Heinrich Böll's house.