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Jurek Becker (probably 30 September 1937 – 14 March 1997) was a Polish-born German writer, film-author and GDR dissident. His most famous novel is Jacob the Liar, which has been made into two films. He lived in Łódź during World War II for about two years and survived the Holocaust.

Jurek Becker
Jurek Becker, 1993
Jurek Becker, 1993
Bornprobably (1937-09-30)30 September 1937
Łódź, Poland
Died14 March 1997(1997-03-14) (aged 59)
Sieseby, Schleswig-Holstein
Notable worksJacob the Liar



Jurek Becker was born, probably, in 1937. His birth date is not entirely clear because his father gave a birth date that was intended to protect the child from deportation. After the war Becker was claimed by a father, but Jurek was never sure if he was his real father,[1] and who said he no longer remembered Jurek's correct birth date. It is probable that Jurek Becker was some years younger than is generally reckoned.

He lived in the Łódź Ghetto as a child. When he was five, he was sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp and later to Sachsenhausen. His mother died in the Holocaust, but his father survived; father and son were reunited after the war and settled together in East Berlin.


After completing his national service in the East German army in the 1950s, during which time he became firm friends with the actor Manfred Krug, Becker studied philosophy in East Berlin but was expelled for expressing non-conformist views. In the 1960s he wrote film scripts, one of which, Jakob der Lügner ("Jacob the Liar"), he turned into a novel when the film production was halted. It was made into a film by the East German film company DEFA in 1974, and in 1975 became the only East German film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award (in the foreign-language film category), though it did not win. A 1998 remake, starring Robin Williams in the title role, had limited success.

By the mid-1970s differences of opinion with the GDR authorities were becoming apparent, and Becker was one of the original twelve signatories of the petition against the expulsion of writer and singer Wolf Biermann in November 1976. In 1977 he moved from East to West Berlin, though somewhat unusually he retained his East German citizenship. He continued to publish novels and short stories, some on Jewish themes, others not.

Becker died in 1997 of colon cancer that was diagnosed in December 1995.


In GermanEdit

Becker was primarily a novelist, but he also wrote film and TV scripts. Several of his novels deal with the victims of the Holocaust: Jakob der Lügner, Der Boxer, and Bronsteins Kinder. Jakob der Lügner remains his most successful work.

  • Jakob der Lügner (1969)
  • Irreführung der Behörden (1973)
  • Der Boxer (1976)
  • Schlaflose Tage (1978)
  • Nach der ersten Zukunft (1980) – short story collection
  • Aller Welt Freund (1982)
  • Bronsteins Kinder (1986)
  • Amanda herzlos (1992)
  • Warnung von dem Schiftsteller (1990) – lectures
  • Liebling Kreuzberg (1986 and 1988) – TV series

In English translationEdit

  • Sleepless Days (1986)
  • Jacob the Liar (1990)
  • Bronstein's Children (1999)
  • The Boxer (2002)
  • My Father, the Germans and I (2010)


  1. ^ Sander Gilman (2002). "A Rare Bird Sander Gilman on writing the biography of Jurek Becker". Archived from the original on May 15, 2004. Retrieved October 5, 2014.



  • Gilman, Sander L. (2003), Jurek Becker: A Life in Five Worlds, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-29393-9.
  • "Jurek Becker", The Oxford Companion to German Literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 67–68.