Stefan Heym, “The Architects”


Stalinism in the Soviet Union could not be addressed in the GDR to the public. Stefan Heym wrote the key novel for this reason, the same in English. Only 34 years later, he appeared on German.

We are in the year 1956, three years after Stalin’s death. In the GDR, the socialist construction is progressing, especially the “road to world peace is to be” a shining example of socialist architecture: risen from the ruins. The first phase of construction is as good as finished. Architect Arnold Sundstrom and his staff are involved in for months with the plans for the further construction. However, the approval of the party leadership.

Sundstrom, therefore, is tense, is quickly indignant. The gets his very much younger wife Julia to feel very. It is part of his planning team, but you also have together a son. In this position, Daniel Tieck shows up completely unexpectedly, Sundstroms former friend and Mentor. The last years of the former Bauhaus had spent camps-teacher in Stalin’s criminal.

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“The architect” by Stefan Heym

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“The architect” by Stefan Heym

When the courage comes to questions

The successful architect expresses meaning pregnant, he feel “personal and political responsibility” for his friend Tieck. Its arrival raises at once a lot of questions. Inconvenient questions as to the time, as Sundstrom, Tieck, and Juliet’s parents as Communists in Moscow before the Nazis had taken refuge. Julia’s mother was at the time denounced as a Collaborator, she and her husband of Stalin’s murdered henchmen. Your child, the girl, Julia, grew up with the Sundstroms care. With 18, she is his wife.

The architect Sundstrom is considered to be in the GDR. The age odd Couple lives a privileged life in a mansion, even a car is always available. As the seriously ill returnees Daniel Tieck with his ideas on socialist construction, part, device the civic life of the Sundstroms in the wrong location. Julia, who has, until then, reverence to her older man and him good to teach, begins to provide at once their own questions.

As this recording of Berlin was Friedrichshain, her name was still Stalin-Allee, and the construction was not yet completed. Later, the socialist Boulevard Karl-Marx has been renamed Avenue.

The past returns

Suddenly she cares more for Daniel Tiecks at the Bauhaus-oriented architectural ideas, which are contrary to the sugar Baker’s style, the man provides for the Expansion of its socialist glory road, krass. Initially, miss you trust your own suspicions:

“Together with the reflections in the Windows on the Sunny side of the street, all of these squiggles have contributed to the heroic proportions of the blocks less cumbersome appear, and created a mood that Julia breathe a sigh of relief. Why in the world would have lost a sight, she had found a few weeks ago, still charming, its luster all of a sudden? Why should be an Aesthetic, according to the epitome of you brought up was that even valid?”

But your doubt sprout. The past always seems more uncertain. Finally, they elicited Tieck the shocking truth: It was Sundstrom who betrayed their mother and his friend in the prison camp.

A negotiation of East German history

Stefan Heym wrote his book in 1966, in English, of his early literary language. At the time, it would not appear in the GDR. The topic was controversial, as it should be, a repressed Chapter of East German history. The victims of Stalinism were not reprocessed in GDR times, never mourned, the dictatorial undesirable developments in the early years.

In the book the Sundstroms life in the province, but the historical reference for the construction of East Berlin’s Stalin-Allee, which was later renamed the Karl-Marx-Allee, is unmistakable. The Moscow Baukonferenz of 1954 ended with the Stalinist construction, final and ordered their architects more pragmatic designs.

In November 1989, shortly before the fall of the Berlin wall, Stefan Heym, in the case of a large demonstration on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz for a better GDR

This sudden paradigm shift has been identified in the DDR, only with a delay. And it is precisely in this post-Stalinist period of transition, the short-lived thaw under the Soviet head of government Nikita Khrushchev, moved to the Heym in his novel. Has he published him – self translated – in the year 2000, a few months before his death.

As in many of his books, it is Stefan Heym in his novel “The architect” of the liberty of the Individual, with social decisions, and between the rational and the adjustment is not crashing. And it comes to a political step forward or backward and to humanity. This is what makes his novel, important, and very worth reading.


Stefan Heym: “The architect” (2000), C. Bertelsmann Verlag (also available as audiobook)

Stefan Heym was born in 1913 with the name Helmut Flieg in Chemnitz, Germany, as the son of a Jewish merchant family. The convinced socialist, fled from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, and later in the United States. He was an American citizen and ends up with the American troops in 1944 in the Normandy. In Protest against the Korean war, the Americans, he gave up his citizenship and went back to the GDR. Party membership in the SED, the writer never was.

Stefan Heym as a PDS member of the Bundestag

His novel “The king David report” on the relationship of spirit and Power was at its release in the GDR, a small Sensation. Stefan Heym always remained a socialist, even as he was sitting after the reunification until 1995 for the PDS in the German Bundestag. He died in 2001 in Jerusalem, during a trip to a Symposium on the ‘dissident’Poet Heinrich Heine.