Alfred Döblin was born to an assimilated Jewish family in Stettin, Germany (present-day Szczecin, Poland). He graduated from medical school and became a psychiatrist, with a private practice in the working-class Alexanderplatz district in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, he had to flee Germany for France; in 1940, at the outbreak of World War II, he escaped to the USA, where he converted to the Roman Catholic faith. He returned to Germany at the end of the war to work for the Allies, but settled in Paris in the early 1950s. He began writing while still in medical school, and his third novel Die drei Sprünge des Wang-lun (The Three Leaps of Wang Lun, 1915), the first to be published, won him the Theodor Fontane Prize. His best-known work, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929) is considered an Expressionist masterpiece and an iconic work of the Weimar era. He also wrote other novels, including two trilogies of historical novels, a science fiction novel, as well as essays on political and literary topics, and a travelogue. He recounted his flight from France in 1940 and his observations of postwar Germany in the book Schicksalsreise (Destiny’s Journey, 1949).
Although Döblin's work was critically acclaimed in his lifetime, he is much less famous than his contemporaries such as Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, and Bertolt Brecht. His reputation today rests solely on Berlin Alexanderplatz.