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Heinrich Heine Prize refers to two different awards named after the 19th century German poet Christian Johann Heinrich Heine:
  • Heinrich Heine prize of D├╝sseldorfmarker
  • Heinrich Heine prize of the Ministry for Culture of the former GDRmarker, which was assigned until 1990

Heinrich Heine prize of the city of D├╝sseldorf

The Heinrich Heine prize of the city of D├╝sseldorfmarker was established on the occasion of Heine's 175th birthday. The honor is awarded to personalities who through their work in the spiritof Heine's emphasis on the basic rights of man, advance social and political progress, mutual understanding of the peoples, or spread the idea that all people belong to the same group: mankind.

Beginning in 1972, the Heine prize was awarded every three years; since 1981 it was awarded every two years. The assignment of the Heine prize 1995 was shifted to the year 1996. Since that time the Heine prize is again awarded every two years. It is endowed with 25.000 euro; starting from the year 2006, the 150th after the death of the poet, the city of D├╝sseldorf has doubled the prize sum to 50.000 euros.


Controversy concerning Peter Handke

The jury that decided the prize consisted of 5 members of the city government, 1 representative of the state of North Rhine-Westphaliamarker, the rector of the Heinrich Heine Universitymarker, and 5 other members (critics and literary experts). The 5 members from the city government have 1 vote each, the others 2 votes each.

On May 20, 2006, the jury voted 12:5 to award the prize to Peter Handke (the state representative was not present). The mayor congratulated Handke, and Handke accepted the award.According to press reports, a majority of the city council of Düsseldorf did not want to award the prize to Handke, arguing that his (perceived) support of Slobodan Milošević's oppressive regime was in blatant conflict with the spirit of the prize.
According to the statutes of the Heine prize, "the city council awards the prize based on the decision of the jury". On 2 June 2006, jury members Siegrid L├Âffler and Jean-Pierre Lef├Ębvre declared to leave the jury in protest.

In a letter to D├╝sseldorf's Mayor Joachim Erwin dated 2 June 2006, Mr Handke refused the award, as he did not want himself and his work to be "exposed again and again to the scorn of party politicians". In a reply of 7 June 2006, Mr Erwin expressed his solidarity with Handke.

Heinrich Heine prize of the Ministry for culture of the GDR

The Heinrich Heine prize of the Ministry for culture of the GDR 1950 donated and once annually awarded for lyric works and works of literary journalism. The height of the prize amounted to 15,000 Marks.


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