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ארצות ועמים מדע בדיוני ספרות פופולארית

German science fiction fantasy and pulp literature in Israel

This Article was actually begun as an article about Perry  Rhodan in Hebrew called  in translation : THE ETERNAL MAN in which I  had  presented the characters and history of Rhodan and Atlan to Israeli sf readers ,the great majority of whom had  never heard about him .

As I was asked by German Perry Rhodan fan  Willi Divo to translate the Article to English for the benefit of foreign and German  readers  of a German  magazine called "SOL", I decided to drastically revise and change  it as it very likely that most German readers will find nothing new  in the history of Rhodan and co which I had   presented to the Hebrew readers.


Instead I will deal in those subjects which will be new for foreign readers : the influence ( if such can it can be called ) of German sf and fantasy in Israel ,the translations of Rhodan to Hebrew and also the subject of “ancient astronauts “ and the Pherry Rhodan series ,in which I personally specifically interest .


German sf fantasy  in  Israel

As a result of the second world war  and the holocaust German literature in general and German fantasy literature in particular  were practically forbidden inIsrael. The stories of the Brothers Grimm, once much translated ,  were consider as “bad influence “ with emphasis on horrors and cruelty . however this  disgust had vanished many years ago and today there are several complete editions of Grime stories in Hebrew .

On the other hand the Operas of  RIchard Wagner  and most particularly his mythological operas are still forbiden to be played  since he is thought to have with them a major influence on Hitler and the nazis  . This ban which put to effect since before the second world war is a source of a major controversy in Israel for many years,and there are many musicians who call to put an end to this ban .This controversy is the subject of several book and very recently a whole issue of a history magazine ZMANIN (TIMES ) was devoted to various articles on the subject of Wagner his operas and the controversy around them.  Wagner though is today a special case .The Nebulengs epic on which Wagner had based some of his most controversial operas was translated to Hebrew at least twice .

Before the Second World War there was no problem with German literature and much of it was translated to Hebrew. The best know German  (Austrian ) sf writer (and in fact the only one known)  in Israel is  the founder of Zionism  Theodor Herzel who was a Austrian writer.


. Herzel  had wrote a  utopian sf novel about future Jewish state in Palestine  called ALTNEULAND from whose Hebrew title was taken the name for the first Hebrew city Tel Aviv. At October 2002   it was the anniversary of `100 years for this book and it  was republished in Hebrew.

  . Herzel also happened to write the first story of alternate history in German and one of the first ever    "Der Unterhimer Bounaparte".             from 1900   about a alternate history in which Napoleone chose at 1795 a career of business instead of the army  with the results thatFrancereturned to the monarchy at the end of the 18 century. As a matter of fact this is the first  story of alternate history in which the changes are presented to the surprised reader as a matter of fact without trying  to explain them as a dream or something like that ,just like modern alternate histories

. Herzel also wrote a fantasy story from which he made a play called SOLON IN LYDIA  a fantasy set at the time of Greek leader Solon in which he encounter a long before his time scientist which invents something very similar to today nano –thechnology with the result of total social chaos. The story and the play are the best literary works of Herzel .

The most  well known German –origin work of fantasy are the Munchhausen tall-stories which appeared in many versions in Hebrew before the world war and after ,including  in the  German version of Gustav Adolf Burger .

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German famous works of literature FAUST of Goethe was translated several times since the 19 century.

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German fantasy writers from the 19 century are not particularly known in Israel  with the exeption of William Hauf which was always much translated and some of his stories were presented in Israel as children plays and puppet plays .

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 The early fantasy writer Ernest Theodore Amadeus Hoffman .was translated only in recent years ,however he had a strong influence on Israeli writer ( and sometimes fantasy writer)  and critic Reuven Kritz who is  A German speaker .

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    At 1975 Kritz published the first and till today almost the only research book in Hebrew on fantasy literature which included a deep literary  investigation of the stories of Hoffman . More Recently at 1997 Kritz published under assumed name “ricky Keller “ the book “HOFMAN TALES IN TEL AVIV “ which is a modern  fantasy deeply influenced by Hoffman stories  and in which one of the central characters is called Hoffman. but this kind of influence by German fantasy writer is quite rare today.

 Even Before the world war not much German sf  or fantasy was translated to Hebrew .

The exceptions were Bernard Kellermann  book The  Tunnel  about the building of transatlantic tunnel ( which was translated again to Hebrew several years ago ) and two books by FFriedrich Wilhelm Mader   about the discovery of ancient  city of Ophar in Africa  which were quite popular and were translated again in the 70s.


On the other hand well known German sf and utopia  works of the period such as Those of Alfred Dublin and Franz Werfel and Kurt Lassowitz   were never translated ( Though of the first 2 writers  their  non fantasy work were translated)


 Only in recent years were translated works of well known fantasy writers Gustav Meyrink ( his  famous book THE GOLEM was   translated only at 1997  ) and Leo Perutz ( which actually lived for many years in Israel utterly unknown , he becomes to be translated and  popular there only in recent years).Kafka on the other hand was of course always much translated ,but not on account of his being fantasy writer

After the war

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After the second world war German culture was for many years practically forbidden. with the exception of some 19- century writers, of Thomas Mann and particularly children writer Erich Kastner ( who is very popular in Israel) and above all of Karl May .

Karl May is a strange anomaly . It was well known that he was Hitler most  favorite writer  and had the strongest imaginitive influence on him beside and even more then  Wagner. but it dident stop any one from translating him and reading him and the translations actually begun at the the middle of the second world war  when practically no other German literature was translated and never stoped for many years after that . my opinion is that he was so popular since his translators know what a influence he had on youth movements in central Europeand wanted to have the same influence in Israelof making the readers more adventurous and “manly”.


Anyway  he is the German writer  most translated to Hebrew of all time ( more the 50 of his titles were translated and most more then once or twice  ) if we will ignore pulp writer Dan Shoker .  his adventure stories were second in popularity inIsraelonly to those of Tarzan (link to article in english about the israeli tarzan stories is below )

 The May stories were so popular that at the beginning of the 60s there was even at least one ( and perhaps more then one ) original Hebrew series about the adventures of winetu`s half –breed  son “the white hawk “ after his father death along side old Shaterhand and the rest .the success of May in Israel ( and in particularly at the time  in which anti German sentiments were at their highest from the 40s to the 70s)  is a incredible  phenomenon to which I had devoted a whole chapter in my book “from tarzan to zbeng “ about the history of Israeli popular literature.

And while the high German literature was almost nonsexist in Israel at the 60s the German pulp literature was quite popular .

One pulp publisher Uri Shalgi of “Ramdor “ know and liked the German pulp stories and consider them the best of their kind .  In his opinion the German westerns were far better then the Americans  and he had hundreds of them translated and published in Hebrew

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.Some from the G.P.UNGER  series were translated with their origin clear.

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But usually in Hebrew they were drastically  revised   and their heroes were changed to fit them as titles in original Hebrew series about westerns fighters “RINGO “ and BILL CARTER  series which run to many hundreds of titles ( some of which were Hebrew original and some adapted from German and very very few from English ) and are still fondly remembered by many .

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Ramdor also translated other German pulp series such as CLIF MORIS  ( of which some 11 stories were translated at 1967-1968) ,JERRY CUTON , COMISAR X   usually only a few titles each , as they were not very popular   and I suspect several others which I  do not identify .

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I suspect that the majority and perhaps all of the pulp covers of Ramdor (thousands of them )  were “lifted” from German original pulp covers.

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It was a great surprise for me when I visited  in Germany a used book store to find many pulp issues with covers well known to me from Hebrew books which I assumed were Israeli original .

Science fiction and Perry rhodan

Along side the many western crime and spy stories Ramdor also published at the 60s some 4 sf titles which 3 of which  were  German titles.

thanks to the detective work of German sf fan wili Devo who had collebrated with me to find the source of those 3 forgotten sf books in Hebrew  here the detailes :

 One such book    from 1961   by “Klif Hadigan” (Israeli invented pen name to German sf writer   Walter Schwerdtfeger  better known  with the pen name  Alan D. smith ) is  called in translation  Olamot Mitnakshim ” worlds in collision “  in German

  Die Botschaft des Panergon

  The novel  describe a world in which there are two  super powers , one of which is the west    and the other one is a united Africa ruled from Egypt (!) by Arab dictator very clearly modeled on real life Egyptian dictator  Gamal Abdel Nasser .

The war between those super powers  is decided by superior aliens which come to earth and decide to help to the west .

Another such book was :

“SPACE TREASURES “ by DIRK FICHERGRALD (again a israeli invented pen name to German sf writer  "Clark Darlton" )   from 1963  and described the adventures of miners in the asteroids who are fighting corrupt space police men.

The original German  SF book  by  Darlton is   "

UTOPIA SF # 271, Clark Darlton – Die strahlende Mach

The best of thos books  which was published at 1963  is called in translation INVASION FROM SPACE  by “Sherman Denver “( Yet another  Israeli invented  pen name for  sf  German writer Walter Erensting best known as "Clark Darlton"  to which the israeli publisher seemed to have some fondness ) Based on the GERMAN SF BOOK Zurück aus der Ewigkeit(Back from eternity)from  Terra Sonderband 03, 13.06.1958

The novel describe how  a human crew from Earth discovers on Sirius a  ancient alien base still manned by robots survivors of ancient war ,in which the enemies were the fathers of the present human race , The ideas there  of  the “Ancient astronauts"   are  German.

Perry  Rhodan in Hebrew

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Ramdor was not the only Hebrew publisher of  German Pulp literature

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AT 1965 A publisher called SHACHAK had published the first 4 Perry rhodan issues and promised a fifth which was never published . the translation was from the original German as were the covers . Apparently this was the first translation of Rhodan stories to any language as the first translation known to the German publishers , French was at 1966 ,. Obviously it was a piratical translation and of very limited quantity . today those issues are among the rarest Hebrew sf items. I know on Just one collector which actually have all the 4 issues and nobody else has even one . even the national library ofIsraelwhich suppose to have all books published in Hebrew have only the first issue !

Rhodan had appeared in Hebrew again at 1979 and this time from RAMDOR. But the  translations were not from the original  German this time but from the American editions . There were Four  volumes each includes 2 stories as in the first volumes of the American editions . As a result the stories of the first 2 volumes are actually the same  of the 4 already published by shachak at the 60s only in different translation ,and the rest of the 2 volumes published published 4 more stories .

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And with this is finished the story of Perry Rhodan in Israel,apparently it wasn’t successful enough .there is a curious side light to it though :THE WORLD ENCYCLOPEDY A OF COMICS claims that there is a Hebrew version of the  German Rhodan comics . I however as a expert on Israeli comics know nothing about it ,and I think that either this info was a mistake  or perhaps the rights of the German comics were sold to some Israeli who did nothing with them .

 The closest thing to a Rhodan comics story in Hebrew was published at 1985 in children magazine called MISHMAR LEYLADIM . it was a space opera called in translation “The mysterious planet “ based on a sf novel  Eisenfresser" (The Iron-Eater)  written by Darlton (  the writer of Perry Rhodan ) and  illustrated  by Zorad a comics artist from Hungary.

The story was a typical space adventure of Darlton but Rhodan and Atlan dident appeared there.

More German pulp in Israel

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The most successful German pulp series in Israel ever was the Larry Brent series of Dan shocker . 114 titles of which were published in Israel between 1971-1982 . some of which were actually Hebrew originals by Israeli writer which had wrote his own adventures of Larry Brent and co . these books are fondly remembered today and much sought after as they are quite rare.  A whole chapter in my Hebrew book  FROM TARZAN TO ZBENG  )2003) devoted to this popular series And  link to Hebrew article about them in the web  is below .


Meanwhile German western continue to appear in the 70s from RAMDOR  and perhaps some sf  by writer called “roll birkanse “ 3 of his books appeared at 1979  may have been  either by anonymous  Hebrew writer or translations from German  till the beginning of the 80s

The matter is still unknown.

At  1994 Shalgi  who long stoped publish “regular” pulp for many years  ,decided to try again with several reprints of his old pulp series this times as Hard backs  not in the paperback format as was usual and those included a reprint of one of the  ( worst ) Shocker books,it dident succeded .

A year latter at 1995 he tried yet again with new translations of G.P.UNGER  westerns this time in a different format the “big” German pulp format , but again  it didn’t succeeded and there were only  some four such titles.

Also at 1995 Shalgi had published four  new hard backs of Jery Koton  which also dident got much notice .  Shalgi  ( who is still active after 45 years )   published  since no more such stories This was really the end of Both  westerns and pulp literature industry in general inIsrael.

German fantasy writer Michel Enda is quite popular inIsrael particularly in “never ending story “ as well  as his other books.

German literary writer Gunter Grass is also well known in Israel  and his fantasy works won much attention there though as works of literature not of fantasy . Another well known work of German literary fantasy in Israel is THE WANDERING JEW by Stefan Heim.

Also in recent years there were translated two historical fantasies of Harald Braem HEM –ON DER EGYPTER  and his historical fantasy about Gilgamesh.

There were translated two fantasies of Christoper Ransmayar THE LAST WORLD and 2 mytological novels of Christa Wolf About Casandra and Madea  as well the fantasy of  Austrian writer about a woman cought in a glass sphere . ,but those are rare cases.  Other wise new  German and Austrian  sf and. fantasy is  almost unknown in Israel/

So it can be said that   while many years  High German literature  was frown upon and actually forbidden i    Israel   , “low” pulp literature from Germany from  Karl May and down  to Dan Shocker was incredibly popular in Hebrew translation and had a decisive influence on original Hebrew pulp literature and art.  For example   there are much more German western in Hebrew then American westerns ,though most  or all of the readers were unaware of the German origin of the stories and assumed that they were translation from English .the publisher chose never to enlighten them on this subject , though in the 70s it was “safe “ to admit that the Shocker series is “European “ that is German .

Thus, while quality German literature was still viewed as suspect and untouchable, light German literature flourished in Hebrew, although, for the most part, its true origin From Germany  was not revealed.

Recently, another German series for youth, this time on soccer, was translated, but this series was Hebraized, with its setting and characters being made Israeli, and it no longer had any connection with Germany. Thus, it continues a long tradition of concealing the German origin of  translated to  of  .popular literature translated to Hebrew

 see also

This arfticle in German

Article in hebrew




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