Grete Weil was born Margarete Elisabeth Dispeker in Munich, Germany, the daughter of a prominent Jewish lawyer. She studied German literature at universities in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, and Paris. In 1932, she completed her first short story, "Erlebnis einer Reise" (Experience of a Trip) and began writing her PhD dissertation. That same year, she married Edgar [Erich] Weil, a playwright and director. After the Nazi regime came to power in 1933, her husband lost his job and the couple emigrated to the Netherlands. While her husband established a pharmaceutical business, Grete trained as a photographer and later ran a photo studio. In 1941, after the Nazis occupied Holland in World War II, Weil was arrested and later killed at Mauthausen concentration camp. Grete went into hiding and during this time she wrote theater pieces and fiction. She survived the war and returned to Germany. In 1949, her short novel Ans Ende der Welt (To the End of the World), which she had written in hiding in Amsterdam, was published in East Berlin. She wrote librettos for works by composers Hans Werner Henze (Boulevard Solitude, 1951) and Wolfgang Fortner (Die Witwe von Ephesus, 1952), and articles for the theater periodical Das neue Forum. She also translated books from English for the Limes publishing house in Wiesbaden. In 1960, she remarried to Walter Jockisch, an opera director and her longtime friend. She was the author of five acclaimed novels, a memoir, and several collections of short fiction.