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Ulrich Plenzdorf, German film and theater writer; at 72

ULRICH PLENZDORF ULRICH PLENZDORF (AFP/Getty Images/file 2004)

NEW YORK -- Ulrich Plenzdorf, an East German film and theater writer whose works include "The New Sufferings of Young W.," died earlier today in a Berlin clinic, the Academy of Arts said in a statement. He was 72.

Mr. Plenzdorf's most famous play was first performed in Halle in 1972 and became a success in East and West Germany. It tells the story of a young apprentice rebelling against his everyday existence in East Germany. He discovers parallels to his own life in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Sorrows of Young Werther."

The novel version appeared a year later. Since then, more than 4 million copies have been published in over 30 languages.

"Ulrich Plenzdorf was an exact observer of social realities and had a keen sense of attitudes to life, of the young especially," the academy said in the statement issued from Berlin. "With a mixture of poetry and sarcasm, he became an irreplaceable author for many readers and cinemagoers."

Mr. Plenzdorf was born in 1934 in the working-class Berlin district of Kreuzberg, according to a biography on the website of his publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag. His parents were active members of the German Communist Party and were persecuted and arrested by the Nazis. After the war, they moved to East Berlin.

After breaking off his studies in Marxism and Leninism in Leipzig, Mr. Plenzdorf became a stagehand at the DEFA film studios in Babelsberg, near Potsdam, where he also studied.

Mr. Plenzdorf's screenplays included the 1973 film "Die Legende von Paul und Paula" ("The Legend of Paul and Paula"), a story of love between a single mother and a married bureaucrat that featured the music of East German cult rock band the Puhdys.

After German reunification, Mr. Plenzdorf wrote screenplays for television, translated literature, and became a guest lecturer at the University of Leipzig, according to the Suhrkamp biography.

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