How does the project work?

Every other year, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the German-Polish Institute present the Karl Dedecius Prize for Polish translators of German literature and German translators of Polish literature. The prize, which is endowed with prize money of €10,000 per winner, honors the translators’ commitment to building bridges through language. It is named after Karl Dedecius (1921-2016), the doyen of translators for Polish literature and distinguished mediator between Germany and Poland.

Prize-winners are selected by a German-Polish jury. Since 2003, it has been awarded as a twin prize for a Polish and a German translator. Its predecessor, presented since 1981, was a talent award for Polish translators of German literature. Winners are invited to a public event of the Foundation Karl Dedecius Literature Archive at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder).

Who was Karl Dedecius?

Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1921, Karl Dedecius is one of the most important figures representing Polish literature and culture in Germany. In 1952, after the end of World War II and his time as a Russian prisoner, he slowly began to build a life in the West. Initially, he only had time to devote to his passion for Polish literature and its translation after finishing a long day at work. But his perseverance paid off in 1959, with the publication of his first anthology, “Lektion der Stille (Lesson of Silence).” He also tirelessly translated the works of Polish authors such as Zbigniew Herbert, Stanisław Jerzy Lec, Czesław Miłosz, Tadeusz Różewicz, and Wisława Szymborska into German.

In 1979, he founded the German Polish Institute in Darmstadt, and remained its director until 1997. In addition to his countless translations, his main projects included the 50-volume “Polnische Bibliothek (Polish Library),” which he worked on for 20 years, and the seven-volume “Panorama der polnischen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Panorama of Polish Literature of the 20th Century).” He completed both in the year 2000.

Karl Dedecius has received numerous honors and awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1990 and the Order of the White Eagle nine years later in Poland. In 2010, the Deutsche Nationalstiftung honored him with its National Prize “as someone who builds bridges between Poland and Germany.” Professor Karl Dedecius, one of the last representatives of the generation shaped by the Second World War and the following decades of reconciliation, passed away in Frankfurt (Main) on February 26, 2016, shortly before his 95th birthday. Today, his life’s work is considered the embodiment of German-Polish understanding.

Prize winners 2003 - 2017

2003: Krzysztof Jachimczak and Hans-Peter Hoelscher-Obermaier
2005: Maria Przybyłowska and Olaf Kühl
2007: Tadeusz Zatorski and Martin Pollack
2009: Renate Schmidgall and Ryszard Wojnakowski
2011: Esther Kinsky and Ryszard Turczyn
2013: Jakub Ekier and Bernhard Hartmann
2015: Katarzyna Leszczyńska and Sven Sellmer
2017: Eliza Borg and Lisa Palmes