Lothar-Günther Buchheim

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Lothar-Günther Buchheim (About this sound listen ) (February 6, 1918 – February 22, 2007) was a German author and painter. He is best known for his novel Das Boot (1973), which became an international bestseller and was adapted in 1981 as an Oscar-nominated film.


Early life

Buchheim was born in Weimar in Thuringia, the second son of artist Charlotte Buchheim. She was unmarried, and he was raised by his mother and her parents. They lived in Weimar until 1924, then Rochlitz until 1932, and finally Chemnitz. He began contributing to newspapers in his teens and put on an exhibition of his drawings in 1933, aged just 15.

He travelled to the Baltic Sea with his brother, and canoed along the Danube to the Black Sea. He spent time in Italy after taking his Abitur in 1937, where he wrote his first book, Tage und Nächte steigen aus dem Strom. Eine Donaufahrt. ("Days and nights rise from the river. A travel on the Danube."), published in 1941. He studied art in Dresden and Munich in 1939, and volunteered to join the Kriegsmarine in 1940.

Second World War

Buchheim was an officer in a propaganda unit of the German Navy in the Second World War, writing as a war correspondent about his experiences on minesweepers, destroyers and submarines. He also made drawings and took photographs.

As a Leutnant in the autumn of 1941, Buchheim joined Lieutenant-Commander Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock and the crew of U-96 on her seventh patrol in the Battle of the Atlantic. His orders were to photograph and describe the U-boat in action. From his experiences, he wrote a short story, Die Eichenlaubfahrt (The Oak-Leaves Patrol) - Lehmann-Willenbrock had been awarded the Knight's Cross with oak leaves. He ended the war as an Oberleutnant.

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