Paul Celan was born Paul Antschel in Czernovitz, Romania, to a German-speaking Jewish family. In 1938 Celan went to Paris to study medicine, but returned to Romania before the outbreak of World War II. During the war Celan worked in a forced labor camp for 18 months; his parents were deported to a Nazi concentration camp, where they eventually died. After escaping the labor camp, Celan lived in Bucharest and Vienna before settling in Paris. In Paris, he translated poetry and taught German language and literature at L’École Normale Supérieure.
Celan was familiar with at least six languages, and fluent in Russian, French, and Romanian. Though he lived in France and was influenced by the French surrealists, he wrote his own poetry in German.
Celan received the Bremen Prize for German Literature in 1958 and the Georg Buchner Prize in 1960. He suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1970.