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Gert Ledig

Gert Ledig, full name Robert Gerhard Ledig (born 4 November 1921 in Leipzig; died 1 June 1999 in Landsberg am Lech) was a German writer.


Gert Ledig, son of a merchant, spent his early childhood in Vienna. From 1929 he lived in Leipzig. After finishing school, he held down a number of casual jobs from 1936 onwards. After this, he entered an apprenticeship to become an electrician and also studied at a private acting school to become a director. In 1939, he volunteered for the German army (Wehrmacht). As a pioneer, he took part in fighting at the Western Front, advanced to NCO and was transferred to the Eastern Front in 1941. Due to alleged misconduct he was transferred to a penal battallion. In summer 1942, Ledig was wounded before Leningrad; he suffered, among other injuries, an injury to his jaw. After being released from the army, he trained to become a shipbuilding engineer. In the last year of the war he worked in the naval forces bureaucracy.

After the end of the Second World War, Ledig joined Germany's Communist Party. He again worked several casual jobs, such as lumberjack and scaffolder. In 1948, he failed in his attempt to take over his father's company and also failed in setting up his own advertising agency. From 1951 to 1953, Ledig worked as a translator for the US Army, then worked as an author from 1953 onwards.

His debut novel The Stalin Organ (Die Stalinorgel) was relatively positively received both in Germany and abroad. Ledig was invited to meetings of Germany's literary author group Gruppe 47. Because of his war injuries and doubts whether he could call himself an author at all, he declined the invitation, stating he'd find it impossible to stand next to authors such as Ilse Aichinger, a member of the group, and Die Stalinorgel was "only a combat organ". In 1956, he was represented by Günter Eich, who read from Ledig's second novel, Vergeltung (Payback). Ledig's crass depiction of war events was increasingly met with revulsion in the climate of the 1950s, so Ledig eventually withdrew from writing altogether. From 1963 he ran an engineering firm and an agency for technology news.

Ledig, meanwhile living in isolation in Utting near the Ammersee, was only rediscovered in 1998 - just before his death. W. G. Sebald had been pointed towards his work „Vergeltung“ as one of the few examples of a literary treatment of Allied air raids on Germany during the Second World War. Sebald published a chapter on the responses to his Zürcher Vorlesungen ("Zurich lectures") of 1997 and the resulting discussion in the Germany media in his book On the Natural History of Destruction ("Luftkrieg und Literatur") in 1999.

In autumn 1999, German publisher Suhrkamp re-issued Vergeltung, which met much more positive responses now than during its first publication in autumn 1956. In August 1999, the novel was discussed in the "Literarisches Quartett", a TV-broadcast book discussion featuring prominent literature critics, which raised the novel's profile. On 26 August 2005, radio station Radio Bremen broadcast a radio drama based on the novel with the same title. This version was written by Daniel Berger and directed by Klaus Prangenberg.


  • Die Stalinorgel, Claassen Verlag, Hamburg 1955 - (translated into English as The Stalin Organ (Granta), Netherlands (Arbeiderspers) and Portuguese (Ulissea))
  • Vergeltung, Frankfurt am Main 1956 - (translated into English as Payback (Granta), Netherlands (Arbeiderspers), French (Zulma), Spanish (Minuscula) and Croatian (Kruzak))
  • Faustrecht, Munich et al. 1957 (transalted into Englisch)
  • Darling, München [ua] (translated into English) 1957
  • The Duel, Berlin 1958
  • The Prosecutor, Fürstenfeldbruck 1958
  • "The Guns of Korcula" (unpublished novel manuscript, probably from the 60s)