Goodbye to a Legend | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 02.02.2002
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Goodbye to a Legend

Hildegard Knef, one of Germany's most famous divas has died. The 1950s Broadway and Hollywood star kept her success rolling in later years, writing books that became international best-sellers.


"Irritable, impatient, charming, humorous, fascinating and enchanting."

Hildegard Knef was a legend, a woman who excelled in many fields and made the best of the blows life dealt her. She was born in 1925 in the southern-German town of Ulm. On Friday, she died of a lung disease at a Berlin hospital, aged 76.

Knef was an actress, a singer and a writer. Her personality was said to be as complex as the characters she portrayed on stage and in the movies. She was described as "irritable, impatient, charming, humorous, fascinating and enchanting."

First post-war movie star

In 1946, Knef became the star of the very first movie made in Germany after the Second World War: Wolfgang Staudte's classic Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us).

The film was shot in the rubble of post-war Berlin and deals with the issue of German guilt. However it doesn't concentrate on Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis, but on the majority of ordinary Germans who blindly followed their orders.

In this exceptional movie, Knef played a young woman who survives a concentration camp and then runs into one of her tormentors after the end of the war.

Scandals and Praise

In the 1950s, Knef caused a scandal in Germany when she played a nude-scene in Die Sünderin (The Sinner), a movie about a prostitute. It was the first glimpse of nudity in a mainstream German film and came as a shock to the bourgeois audiences of those days.

Conservatives held rallies in front of movie theaters and Knef received death-threats from morally outraged movie-goers. Germany's catholic church called on the faithful to boycott the film -- giving it all the more publicity.

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