Erich Kästner

The writer Erich Kästner was a close companion of Jella Lepman. They met in Munich in the publishing rooms of the Neue Zeitung and the magazine Heute. Erich Kästner was senior editor of the feature section of the Neue Zeitung, while Jella Lepman worked as deputy editor-in-chief for the magazine Heute. Erich Kästner wrote enthusiastically in the Neue Zeitung about the exhibition Das Jugendbuch (The Book for Young People), which Jella Lepman had organized in 1946 in the Haus der Kunst. At her suggestion, he wrote the peace parable The Conference of Animals, illustrated by Walter Trier, in which he set a literary monument to Jella Lepman's vision of a world peace community of children. In December 1948, together with his partner Luiselotte Enderle and other personalities, he signed the founding charter of the "Association of Friends of the International Youth Library", which became the library's sponsor. When the library was opened on September 14, 1949, he wrote a "Letter to all children of the world" which was printed in the newspaper Münchner Merkur. There he called on children to take possession of the International Youth Library as their home and to enliven it with fun, ideas and a sense of responsibility. He himself founded a theater group for young people in the library.

Erich Kästner was associated with the International Youth Library and Jella Lepman and later also with their successor Walter Scherf throughout his life. He repeatedly gave lectures in the young library and read for children. When Jella Lepman was publicly thanked for her merits by the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main in 1969, he gave the laudation.

Erich Kästner became the first honorary member of the International Youth Library in 1969. After his death in 1974, the Erich Kästner Society was founded, which is still based in the International Youth Library today. An Erich Kästner room in the clock tower, with selected documents and numerous first editions by the author, reminds us of the importance he had for the International Youth Library.

© photos: International Youth Library



Astrid Lindgren

The writer Astrid Lindgren has had great sympathy for the International Youth Library from the very beginning. At the beginning of the 1950s she joined the International Youth Library and remained closely associated with the institution until her death. Jella Lepman vehemently and successfully campaigned for Astrid Lindgren to be awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, which she had initiated. In 1958 Jella Lepman gave the laudatory speech for the Swedish author at the IBBY Congress in Florence.

Still in her lifetime, the International Youth Library converted Astrid Lindgren's membership in the Library Association into honorary membership. On her 75th birthday she was honored with an extensive anniversary exhibition, and in 1985 Lindgren visited the International Youth Library in Schloss Blutenburg and read in public for children. An Astrid Lindgren stele, which was created for her 100th birthday, still commemorates the prominent honorary member in the International Youth Library today.

© photos: International Youth Library

Empress Michiko of Japan

Michiko, Empress Emeritus of Japan, has been associated with international children's and youth literature for many decades. At the beginning of the 1990s she translated Michio Mado's children's poems into English, thereby making him known to a broad international public. Only a few years later Michio Mado became the first author from Asia to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award for his work.

Whenever possible, the Empress visited children's and youth libraries on trips abroad between her official appointments, including the International Youth Library in Munich in 1993, where one of the largest collections of Japanese children's and young people's books outside Asia is to be found. Like Jella Lepman, the library's founder, Empress Michiko is convinced that children's books make a valuable contribution to mutual understanding between people and cultures. This conviction also determines the work of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), also a foundation of Jella Lepman, for whose 50th anniversary congress the empress took over patronage in 2002.

In the spring of 2018, Empress Michiko granted a personal audience with the director of the International Youth Library, Dr. Christiane Raabe. Impressed by the empress's great attachment to international children's and youth literature and her tangible proximity to the ideas of Jella Lepman, the International Youth Library offered the empress honorary membership. The certificate was designed by the German illustrator Binette Schroeder. In April 2019, the Ambassador of Japan in Germany accepted the certificate on behalf of the Empress at a festive ceremony at the Japanese Embassy in Berlin.

© photos: International Youth Library