Zinner, Hedda


Hedda Zinner was born to a Jewish family in Vienna in 1905. After attending acting school in Vienna, she worked there as an actress.


In 1929, Zinner joined the German Communist Party and moved to an artists’ colony known as the “Red Block” in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, where many leftist Jewish artists and oppositionists lived. Here she met her future husband, the author, journalist, and theater critic Fritz Erpenbeck. Zinner published reportages and poems in workers’ magazines and presented her satirical and political poems at many political rallies. She later described her experiences at the artists’ colony in her novel Fini (1973).


Many artists left the colony and emigrated after it was raided by Nazi forces in March 1933. Zinner left first for Vienna and then Prague, where she founded a cabaret called Studio 34 in 1934. In 1935, she followed her husband to Moscow, where she worked for various literary magazines and for the German-speaking division of the Moscow radio station. After the Hitler-Stalin Pact, her family was resettled to the city of Ufa in 1941.


After WWII, Zinner’s family returned to Germany and settled in the eastern part of Berlin. Zinner was involved in many political organizations, including the German Women’s Council, which she headed for a time. Beginning in 1946, she served as a director of broadcasting at the Haus des Rundfunks.


Zinner became a prolific author of plays, novels, and short stories and also wrote scripts for television productions. Many of her written works were adapted for the screen by the East German DEFA Studio. These included: her biographical novel about the life of the women’s rights activist Luise Otto-Peters, Nur eine Frau (Only a Woman, 1954); a play set around the Reichstag fire in 1933, Der Teufelskreis (Vicious Circle, 1953); and the novel Arrangement mit dem Tod (An Arrangement with Death, 1984), a love story set soon after the institution of the Nuremberg Race Laws.


In 1989, Hedda Zinner published her autobiography—Selbstbefragung (Self-Questioning), written ten years earlier—in which she critically discussed her years in Soviet exile. She died in Berlin in 1994.

Bibliography & More:

Zinner, Hedda. Selbstbefragung [trans. Self-Questioning]. Berlin: Morgen. 1989.


1988 Das Mädchen Leo (The Girl Called Leo, TV)
1988 Die Schauspielerin (The Actress, based on the novel An Arrangement with Death)
1983 Zwei Ärztinnen (Two Doctors, TV)
1983 Der Fall Marion Neuhaus (The Case of Marion Neuhaus, TV)
1976 Das Abenteuer (The Adventure, TV)
1974 Die Richterin (The Judge, TV) 
1972 Lützower (Lützowers, based on the play of the same title)
1961 Die aus der 12b (The Pupils of Class 12b, based on the play of the same title)
1960 Was wäre wenn…? (What if…?, based on the play Assessment)
1958 Nur eine Frau (Only a Woman, based on the novel of the same title)
1955 Der Teufelskreis (Vicious Circle, based on the play of the same title)

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