Nobel Prize in Literature. Gerhart Hauptmann received notoriety as the 1912 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient; according to the Nobel Prize committee, the coveted award was given for “primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art." His Nobel Prize biography was written using the first person pronoun of “I.” Born in Lower Silesia in what is now Poland, he studied art in the universities of Breslau, Jena, Dresden, and Berlin. At first he called receiving an education as the “tortures of school,” exhibiting a problem behavior and removed from school for an year “for his lack of academic progress.” In 1878 he became seriously ill with a respiration infection, which would lead to chronic respiratory problems. He first tried sculpture but then turned his attention to writing and drama while studying in Berlin. His first work, the short novel "Bahnwärter Thiel" ("Crossing Guard Thiel") was published in 1888 and his first drama, "Vor Sonnenaufgang" ("Before Sunrise") was first performed in 1889, and is seen as the beginning of the German naturalistic movement. His most famous work is likely "The Weavers" in 1882, a drama of the 1844 rebellion in Silesia. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities at Leipzig and Oxford, the Austrian's Franz Grillparzer Prize three times, and in 1912 the Nobel Prize in Literature for his dramatic works. His novel "Atlantis" in 1912 was noteworthy as it presaged the Titanic disaster by only a month. As a social democrat, he was not popular with Kaiser Wilhelm II, though he did support World War I publicly. In 1915, Wilhelm II awarded him the Order of the Red Eagle, 4th Class. He supported the founding of the Weimar Republic after the war and in its early days was asked to become Chancellor, which was an offer he turned down. After the Nazi Party took power in 1933, he did sign a loyalty oath, but although the Nazis used him for propaganda purposes, they still censored his works. He survived the Dresden bombing in 1945 and returned home to his house in Lower Silesia after the war, even though it was now in Poland However the Polish government asked for his expulsion in April of 1946, which was only forestalled by his death. He died from respiratory failure. He was refused burial in his hometown, even though the Soviet government tried to intercede, as he was a highly regarded and popular author in Russia. He was eventually buried near his vacation home on the Baltic Sea with the President of East Germany and other East German and Soviet officials present. He married twice, and eventually his widow's cremated ashes were interred with his. Including two autobiographies, his collected works in seventeen volumes were published in 1942. There are two Hauptmann Museums in Germany and one in Poland.
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert
Margarete Marschalk Hauptmann