Ulla Lenze

Ulla Lenze, born in Mönchengladbach in 1973, studied Music and Philosophy in Cologne and now lives in Berlin and Buckow (Märkische Schweiz). Her debut novel Schwester und Bruder (Sister and Brother) has won several awards, including the Jürgen Ponto Prize for the best debut novel in 2003, the Rolf-Dieter-Brinkmann-Förderpreis and the Ernst-Willner-Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann-Competition. The novel Archanu was published in 2008, followed in 2012 by Der kleine Rest des Todes (What Little Remains of Death) and in 2015 by Die endlose Stadt (The Endless City), in which Lenze finds connections among the metropolises of Berlin, Istanbul and Mumbai. With her novel "The Radio Operator", based on the life story of her great-uncle, she achieved an international breakthrough; the novel has been translated into more than 12 languages. Lenze has been Writer-in-Residence in Damascus, Istanbul, Mumbai and Venice. In 2016 she received the Literature Prize of the Cultural Committee of German Business for her complete oeuvre up to date and in 2020 the Krefelder Literaturpreis. In spring 2023, Ulla Lenze will take up the Max Kade Professorship at Dartmouth College (USA).

»Based on a true story, The Radio Operator is a marvelous period piece from a unique perspective.« 

New York Journal of Books

»An extraordinary author.« 


»With her fourth novel The endless city Ulla Lenze has written an amazingly thrilling romance that at the same time is an essay on art and ethics.«

Eva Behrendt, taz


The Radio Operator


A powerful novel about history‘s darkest chapter, the German secret service in New York City and the activities of Nazis in Manhattan in the late 1930s.
Based on a true story.

End of the ’30s: Before the Americans entered the war,the streets of New York are in a tumult. Pro- and Anti-Semitic as well as racist groups are eager for the sympathy of the masses. German nationalists celebrate Hitler as the man of the hour, whereas the pro-war movement advocatesthe American intervention in Europe.

Josef Klein, himself an immigrant from Germany, lives relatively untouched by all this. His world is the multicultural streets of Harlem, where in summer there are tables on the sidewalk and chess is played. His great passion is the amateur radio. That is how he meets Lauren, Miss Doubleyoutwo, a young activist who has great sympathy for the calm German. But Josef‘s technical abilities as a radio operator attract the attention of influential men, and even before he can interpret the events correctly, Josef is already a little cog in the big wheel of the espionage network of the German defense.

After the spy ring is uncovered by the FBI, Josef is detained and sent to the internment camp on Ellis Island, although he pleads innocent.
Shortly after the end of the war, he is deported to Germany. His fateful path leads him to his brother Carl‘s family, a family father and soap merchant in Neuss, who experienced the rise and fall of the National Socialists from an inner perspective; and finally to South America, where Josef becomes José. But how long can you really hide from your own past, before it catches up with you?

Ulla Lenze delivers a smart and gripping novel about the history of the Germans in America during the Second World War. The incredible life story of the emigrant Josef Klein, who is targeted by the world powers in New York, reveals the widely unknown espionage activities of the Nazi regime in the US and tells about political entanglements far away from home.

Buy The Radio Operator

Further Reading in English:

Review of the novel „The endless city“: http://www.litrix.de/en/buecher.cfm?publicationId=829