Günter Eich was born in eastern Germany in 1907. His family moved to Berlin in 1918 where, eight years later, he began studying at the university. His involvement in poetry began while he was at university and it was also there that he wrote his first radio play with Martin Raschke, which was performed in 1929. During the Third Reich the majority of his literary output were radio plays, often tailored to fit the propaganda needs of the Nazi party.

From 1939-1945 Eich served in the German army in a signal unit on the Russian front. He was taken prisoner by the Americans in 1945. His famous poem Inventur (Inventory) was written when he was still in a Prisoner of War camp in Remagen on the banks of the Rhine. His other poems written during this time were later compiled into his first major book Abglegene Gehofte (Outlying Farms), published in 1948; this was followed by Untergrundbahn (Subway) in 1949:

both perfectly captured the sentiments of postwar Germany, a country in chaos and deprivation. Eich’s writing, while at times highly lyrical, also contained a keen sense of observation and wit that exposed hyprocrisy and easy answers. [The PIP (Project for Innovative Poetry) Blog]

After his release from the camp in 1946 he moved to Bavaria where he co-founded Gruppe 47, a writer’s society of post-war German authors. He continued writing prose, poetry and radio plays until his death in 1972.

Günter Eich’s Poems: