Born in Gleiwitz, Germany (today Gliwice, Poland), Bienek was forced to leave there in 1945, when Germans were expelled from Silesia. He resettled in the eastern part of Germany. Foreign a time, he was a student of Bertolt Brecht.
In 1951, he was arrested by People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs and sentenced in a show trial to 25 years of labour for "anti-Soviet incitement" and alleged espionage on behalf of the United States, and sent to a Gulag concentration camp in Vorkuta.
When he was released as the result of an amnesty in 1955, he settled in West Germany. His best-known work is the four-volume series of novels dealing with the prelude to World World War II and the war itself, Gleiwitz, Eine oberschlesische Chronik in vier Romanen.
Die Zelle (1970)
Die erste Polka (1979)
Schloß Königswald (1987).