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Katja Behrens

Part of the first generation of postwar writers in Germany, Katja Behrens grapples with the often difficult relationship between German Jews and the majority. Behrens survived the Holocaust by hiding in the house of a Catholic priest with her mother and grandmother. In 1960 she began translating books from English to German, including the works of Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs. She then worked as a reader for Luchterhand-Verlag Press from 1973–1978. In 1978 she published her first collection of short stories, Die Weiße Frau (the White Woman), followed by numerous novels, short story collections, and essays. Behrens explicitly grapples with the Holocaust and with her Jewish identity in her lyric fiction and in her essays, often returning to the idea of Jew as eternal outsider. She has also used her own experience as fuel to advocate for other marginalized groups in Germany, including immigrants. Alongside her award-winning writing, Behrens has also written and directed television documentaries such as her 1993 Jerusalem—Berlin. From 2007–2009 she served as vice-president of PEN Center Germany.


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Katja Behrens in 2012,

Courtesy of Manfred Sause/Wikimedia Commons.

Date of Birth


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Katja Behrens." (Viewed on June 3, 2020) <>.


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