Henrik Eger, 1941–2021

Henrik and Niko
Henrik in 2019 with his cocker spaniel Niko.

Phindie is mourning. The performing arts lost a vocal supporter and the world lost a vibrant presence last weekend. Editor-at-Large Henrik Eger died on Sunday, January 3, 2021, after being admitted to hospital for a heart condition several days earlier. He was 79.

Henrik was born in German-occupied Paris during World War II. His father, a journalist, served as a propaganda officer in occupied France before being sent to the Eastern Front, where he was killed. Henrik was raised by his widowed mother in Bavaria and then Wuppertal in West Germany. Encouraged by a British soldier, Henrik learned English and moved to England in the early 1960s.

Henrik age 3 with his mother.

Friends of Henrik in his later life would frequently hear stories detailing his early years. His father’s membership in the Nazi Party inspired a lifelong interest in Jewish literature and theater and a commitment to human rights, pacifism, and anti-fascist politics. His uncle helped him obtain his first job, as a book store apprentice, a position that solidified his love of writing and literature. His experience as a young homosexual in conservative postwar Germany was formative, as was a longtime relationship with an aristocratic English partner.

He spent much of his life in academia, earning bachelor degrees in England and Germany, three master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1991 for the thesis Writer Perception, Writer Projection: The Influence of Personality, Ideology, and Gender on Letters of Recommendation. He wrote numerous articles, chapters, and textbooks, and taught English, writing, and ESL in six countries—Germany, England, India, Sri Lanka, USA, and Iran—amassing several lifetimes’ worth of experiences and stories along the way.

Among these, he was proud to have worked as a German translator for Martin Luther King, Jr., in the mid-1960s, he corresponded with Noam Chomsky in the late 1970s as he edited a book of linguistic poetry dedicated to the famous professor, and he was teaching in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution.

He moved to the Philadelphia area in 1992 and worked until retirement as a professor of English and Communication at Delaware County Community College in Media. A lifelong lover of creative arts, he became an enthusiastic booster for local theater. He gave speeches and workshops at the Media Theatre and Hedgerow Theatre, served on the board of Theatre Ariel (Philadelphia’s Jewish theater company), was active for many years with the Alliance for Jewish Theatre, spent five years as a judge for the Barrymore Awards, and wrote reviews and features for such publications as the Armenian, Broad Street Review, Broadway Stars, Broadway World, Classical Voice, Dance Journal, DCMetroTheaterArts, The Forward, Jewish Voice, Jewish Post & Opinion, Philadelphia Gay News, New Jersey Stage, Talkin’ Broadway, and Windy City Times.

Henrik Eger
Henrik Eger in front of a poster from a performance of his play METRONOME TICKING in Hamburg, Germany, held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9, 2008.

After retirement, he focused on his own creative writing, which he published along with academic and popular articles on his website Drama Around the Globe. His most successful play, Metronome Ticking, juxtaposed extracts from his father’s wartime diary and correspondence with contemporary remembrances by a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor. Premiered in 2006, it was performed in the United States and Germany, most recently in 2015.

Henrik lived in an elaborately and idiosyncratically furnished house in Upper Darby, where he was a frequent host to writers, actors, creatives, and a cast of international friends, and where he celebrated a joyful annual “Victorian Holiday” party. He will be warmly remembered for his sincerely welcoming greetings, his supportive and attentive generosity, his intelligence and insight, his unignorable cheerful presence, and his gentle, loving spirit. Over 400 people left testimonials to his life on his frequently updated Facebook page, including former students, members of the Philadelphia theater community, and people who had only casual encounters with the remarkable, singular gentleman.

Henrik began writing for Phindie in 2012 and contributed over 160 articles. His final piece was published the day he went to the hospital for emergency aortic dissection repair. He never recovered from the operation.

He was predeceased by his mother and younger sister, but is survived by a niece and cousins in Germany and by scores of admiring friends across the globe. His adored dog, Niko, has been rehoused with a loving family. Henrik will be much missed.

A virtual memorial service is planned for Sunday, January 17, at 5 p.m. Contact chris@www.gzatno.com for more information and sign up here to attend: lehigh.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QOK-w6P1Sl-2-eOGd29vkA

8 Replies to “Henrik Eger, 1941–2021”
  1. German translation:
    Phindie trauert. Die darstellenden Künste haben am vergangenen Wochenende einen lautstarken Unterstützer und die Welt eine lebendige Pr?senz verloren. Der Chefredakteur Henrik Eger starb am Sonntag, den 3. Januar 2021, nachdem er einige Tage zuvor wegen eines Herzleidens ins Krankenhaus eingeliefert worden war. Er wurde 79 Jahre alt.

    Henrik wurde w?hrend des Zweiten Weltkriegs im von Deutschland besetzten Paris geboren. Sein Vater, ein Journalist, diente als Propaganda Offizier im besetzten Frankreich, bevor er an die Ostfront geschickt wurde, wo er get?tet wurde. Henrik wurde von seiner verwitweten Mutter in Bayern und dann in Wuppertal (Nordrhein-Westfalen) aufgezogen. Ermutigt durch einen britischen Soldaten, lernte Henrik Englisch und zog Anfang der 1960er Jahre nach England.

    Freunde von Henrik in seinem sp?teren Leben h?rten h?ufig Geschichten über seine frühen Jahre. Die Mitgliedschaft seines Vaters in der Nazi-Partei inspirierte ein lebenslanges Interesse an jüdischer Literatur und Theater und ein Engagement für Menschenrechte, Pazifismus und antifaschistische Politik. Sein Onkel verhalf ihm zu seinem ersten Job als Lehrling in einer Buchhandlung, eine Position, die seine Liebe zum Schreiben und zur Literatur festigte. Seine Erfahrungen als junger Homosexueller im konservativen Nachkriegsdeutschland waren pr?gend, ebenso wie eine langj?hrige Beziehung mit einem aristokratischen englischen Partner.

    Er verbrachte einen Gro?teil seines Lebens in der akademischen Welt, erwarb Bachelor-Abschlüsse in England und Deutschland, drei Master-Abschlüsse und promovierte 1991 an der University of Illinois in Chicago mit der Arbeit Writer Perception, Writer Projection: The Influence of Personality, Ideology, and Gender on Letters of Recommendation. Er schrieb zahlreiche Artikel, Kapitel und Lehrbücher und unterrichtete Englisch, Schreiben und ESL in sechs L?ndern – Deutschland, England, Indien, Sri Lanka, USA und Iran – und sammelte auf diesem Weg Erfahrungen und Geschichten aus mehreren Leben.

    Unter anderem war er stolz darauf, Mitte der 1960er Jahre als deutscher übersetzer für Martin Luther King, Jr. gearbeitet zu haben, er korrespondierte mit Noam Chomsky in den sp?ten 1970er Jahren, als er ein Buch mit linguistischer Poesie herausgab, das dem berühmten Professor gewidmet war, und er lehrte in Teheran w?hrend der iranischen Revolution.

    1992 zog er in die Gegend von Philadelphia und arbeitete bis zu seiner Pensionierung als Professor für Englisch und Kommunikation am Delaware County Community College in Media. Als lebenslanger Liebhaber der kreativen Künste wurde er ein begeisterter F?rderer des lokalen Theaters. Er hielt Vortr?ge und Workshops am Media Theatre und Hedgerow Theatre, sa? im Vorstand des Theatre Ariel (Philadelphias jüdische Theatergruppe), war viele Jahre bei der Alliance for Jewish Theatre aktiv, verbrachte fünf Jahre als Juror für die Barrymore Awards, und schrieb Kritiken und Features für Publikationen wie den Armenian, Broad Street Review, Broadway Stars, Broadway World, Classical Voice, Dance Journal, DCMetroTheaterArts, The Forward, Jewish Voice, Jewish Post & Opinion, Philadelphia Gay News, New Jersey Stage, Talkin’ Broadway und Windy City Times.

    Nach seiner Pensionierung konzentrierte er sich auf sein eigenes kreatives Schreiben, das er zusammen mit wissenschaftlichen und popul?ren Artikeln auf seiner Website Drama Around the Globe ver?ffentlichte. Sein erfolgreichstes Stück, Metronome Ticking, stellte Auszüge aus dem Kriegstagebuch und der Korrespondenz seines Vaters den zeitgen?ssischen Erinnerungen eines jüdisch-?sterreichischen Holocaust-überlebenden gegenüber. Es wurde 2006 uraufgeführt und in den USA und Deutschland gespielt, zuletzt 2015.

    Henrik lebte in einem aufwendig und idiosynkratisch eingerichteten Haus in Upper Darby, wo er h?ufig Gastgeber für Schriftsteller, Schauspieler, Kreative und eine Reihe internationaler Freunde war und wo er jedes Jahr eine fr?hliche “Victorian Holiday”-Party feierte. Man wird sich gerne an ihn erinnern wegen seiner aufrichtigen Begrü?ung, seiner unterstützenden und aufmerksamen Gro?zügigkeit, seiner Intelligenz und Einsicht, seiner unübersehbaren fr?hlichen Pr?senz und seines sanften, liebevollen Geistes. über 400 Menschen hinterlie?en auf seiner h?ufig aktualisierten Facebook-Seite Zeugnisse zu seinem Leben, darunter ehemalige Studenten, Mitglieder der Theatergemeinde aus Philadelphia und Menschen, die nur zuf?llige Begegnungen mit dem bemerkenswerten, einzigartigen Gentleman hatten.

    Henrik begann 2012 für Phindie zu schreiben und steuerte über 160 Artikel bei. Sein letzter Artikel wurde an dem Tag ver?ffentlicht, an dem er zur Behandlung einer Aortendissektion ins Krankenhaus kam. Er erholte sich nie von der Operation.

    Seine Mutter und seine jüngere Schwester sind bereits verstorben, aber er hinterl?sst eine Nichte und Cousinen in Deutschland sowie zahlreiche bewundernde Freunde auf der ganzen Welt. Sein geliebter Hund Niko wurde bei einer liebevollen Familie untergebracht. Henrik wird sehr vermisst werden.

    Ein virtueller Gedenkgottesdienst ist für Sonntag, den 17. Januar, um 17 Uhr geplant. Bitte kontaktieren Sie chris@www.gzatno.com für weitere Informationen und melden Sie sich hier an, um teilzunehmen: lehigh.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QOK-w6P1Sl-2-eOGd29vkA

  2. I feel very sad losing Henrik . He was a good and gentle friend and a valuable and respected associate on all my Human Rights Facebook pages and in my Facebook groups .His interesting comments and posts educated and informed over 60,000 friends on my pages from all over the world on 7 continents over a period of many years . He warned us so often of the immediate danger that Trump posed to our country and to our democracy . I feel happy that he lived to see trump defeated in the election .Only three days after he left us , we miss what would have been his insightful analysis of the recent “coup” on January 6 and the following daily events occurring now.

    A life well lived and generously shared with others .. Respect and Gratitude to our friend , Henrik Eger .

  3. I had the good fortune of meeting Henrik in 2006. He happened to attend a Toastmasters meeting that I spoke at. Henrik asked if I would be interested in hosting meetings in a similar format for his evening class students. I was thrilled and honored to do so. The transformation that I witnessed was nothing short of a miracle. Students who would rarely participate in class found their voice. Henrik encouraged his students to reach for the stars and no one celebrated more than Henrik when another luminary was born. His desire to see his students succeed was greater than they ever realized.

    Little did I know that over the years Henrik would become my mentor, confidant, and most of all friend. Together, we celebrated many Thanksgivings, birthdays, theater events and galas. My Mother and Henrik would often turn to the side and converse in German. I can still hear them chuckle over their shared jokes. I am not sure why she would call him Henry (I guess her hearing was going). Henrik was quite a dancer and loved to be in the spotlight. Henrik and I shared tears as well. He reviewed the eulogies that I would deliver for my Twin Brother, Mother, Father and older Brother. I can still see him out of the corner of my eye watching every word that I spoke and seeing both the sadness for my loss and the pride in how I confidently captured the true essence of those that I lost. Dear Sir, I love you too.

    His command of the written word is legendary, his energy boundless and his life shall live on in the form of his numerous articles, interviews and plays. Henrik NEVER slept! In searching through the hundreds of emails that we exchanged, the vast majority were written between the hours of 11pm and 2am. A brief phone conversation would last 2 hours. As Christine Schmidt mentioned that he reached over 60,000 of her friends all over the world. That speaks on its own accord. He had his finger on the pulse of not only people around the corner, he touched lives around the globe. I have been blessed with a few true friends. I have just lost one. His name, Henrik. I know I did you justice SIR.

    My dear friend, you will be missed…

    Michael J Fiscaro

    1. Very well said. My heart goes out to you Michael. Very honored to have met you and many of Henriks friends over many years. Sending comfort to all during this time of grief.

      He met my son the day of your mother’s funeral. Sadly that was the last day we saw him in person. I will always send well wishes to you. Deepest comfort through the loss of dearest Henrik.

    2. Michael
      A beautifully written and heartfelt account of your time and experience with this amazing man!
      Though I never met Henrik , I was able to know him , though only slightly, through the countless stories and events that created a timeless bound and friendship between both of you, that you shared with me in conversations. For those stories, Michael, I thank you!
      My sorrow and sympathy are felt for you and the countless others who will miss him. Sadly, I missed the opportunity to experience this intelligent and interesting man.. As I’ve said before regarding his passing .. May memories be many.. May tears be few.
      May he Rest in eternal peace.

  4. Thank you, Christopher, for such a perceptive and moving obituary. I send you and all Henrik’s other friends and family my condolences.

    I was very fortunate to meet Henrik in 1977 when he came to teach at the University of Kerman in Iran where I had taken up a post a year earlier. It immediately became apparent that Henrik was a torrent of energy, devoted to his students and their progress and always willing to go the extra mile to help them excel. The Iranians were very friendly, the more so as we were in a relatively small city with only a few Westerners – there was no such thing as an expatriate community! They happily welcomed us into their homes, and Henrik in particular embraced the local life, food and customs. Even then he was a collector of antiques and filled his small house with all manner of weird and wonderful items from the bazaar. We and other colleagues would spend weekends visiting Iranian homes, some in small villages amid spectacular desert scenery, doing our best to learn Farsi.

    When we returned from the summer holidays in 1978 it became apparent that all was not well, but the official belief was that the revolutionary mutterings would blow over and life would return to normal. When demonstrations and attacks on the symbols of the Pahlavi regime grew more frequent, we kept a low profile, though in fact the local people were as friendly as ever. Shortages became more common; I remember going with Henrik one chilly winter evening on a search for naft (paraffin) which was the standard heating fuel. We joined a queue and eventually got our ration. We had stopped teaching by then as the students were on strike, despite efforts to exhort them to finish the semester, and waited uneasily for developments. Eventually it was clear that we would have to leave, though we were all sad to do so. Henrik and the rest of us did our best to pack up and sell or give away household items. We could take only what we could carry. A group of us ended up in Bombay, having travelled overland, but eventually went our separate ways.

    I corresponded with Henrik for a while, then lost contact; eventually he rediscovered me on Facebook. Back in touch again, we resumed our conversations about the world and shared reminiscences of Iran and our colleagues. Henrik invited my husband and me to stay in Philadelphia, and, but for the virus, we probably would have gone last year. We hoped to meet this year instead, but now it is not to be.

    I will always remember Henrik for his exuberance, his compassion and concern for others and his eagerness to immerse himself as much as possible in Iranian life. He was a ray of light in often difficult days. I feel privileged to have known him, and only wish that we could have met again for one last conversation. Rest in peace, Henrik, and may your memory inspire others as it does me.

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