Johannes Robert Becher was a German politician, novelist, and poet. He was affiliated with the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) before World War II. At one time, he was part of the literary avant-garde, writing in an expressionist style.
With the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, modernist artistic movements were suppressed. Becher escaped from a military raid in 1933 and settled in Paris for a couple of years. He migrated to the Soviet Union in 1935 with the central committee of the KPD, but got caught up in Stalin's Great Purge. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Becher and other German communists were evacuated to internal exile in Tashkent.
He returned to favor in 1942 and was recalled to Moscow. After the end of World War II, Becher was allowed to leave the Soviet Union and returned to Germany, settling in the Soviet-occupied zone of what became known as East Berlin. As a member of the KPD, he was appointed to various cultural and political positions and became part of the leadership of the Socialist Unity Party. In 1949, he helped found the Akademie der Künste, and served as its president from 1953 to 1956. In 1953 he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize (now the Lenin Peace Prize). He was the cultural minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1954-1958.
Although the party praised Becher after his death as the "greatest German poet in recent history", his work was criticised by younger East German authors as backward and politically embarrassing. Examples include Katja Lange-Müller who called him a "Neanderthal minister of culture [Neandertaler von Kulturminister]".
Official awards and honours include the following:
1953 Stalin Peace Prize (later renamed the Lenin Peace Prize)
The Institut für Literatur Johannes R. Becher was founded in 1955 in Leipzig and named in his honor.