Bernt Engelmann was born in Berlin and attended school in Duesseldorf. Early in World War II, he joined the Luftwaffe and after an injury, left the service to resume his studies in 1942. He became a member of the anti-Nazi resistance, was arrested by the Gestapo, and sent to the concentration camps of Flossenbürg and Dachau. He survived and after the war, became a well-known journalist. He worked as a reporter and editor at the Spiegel and also as a freelance writer. Between 1966 and 1967, he published the magazine Deutsches Panorama together with Gert von Paczensky.
He wrote two novels based on historical events and nonfiction works on history, including In Hitler's Germany (1986), producing about 50 books in his career, some of which were bestsellers.
From 1977 to 1983, he served as chairman of the Federation of German Writers (VDS). In 1984, he was awarded the Heinrich Heine Prize.