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Untimely death

September 1, 2011

German actress Rosel Zech has died aged 69 in a hospital in Berlin. She was a well-known face on German TV, in the theater and in films by directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Zech and Fassbinder
Zech rose to fame with help from Fassbinder (r.)Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Rosel Zech, a well-known face on German television screens, in the theater and in German-language cinema, died of cancer of the bone in a Berlin hospital on Wednesday night. She was 69.

"She knew she was dying and she met death with her head held high," Juliane Lorenz, a friend and head of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, told German press agency DPA.

Zech, who was born on July 7, 1943, in Berlin, rose to fame in the early 1980s by starring in two films by German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

The Fassbinder connection

In 1981, she starred alongside well-known German actors Armin Mueller-Stahl and Mario Adorf in "Lola," a critical portrait of 1950s Germany. The following year she played the lead role in Fassbinder's penultimate film "Veronika Voss," about the life of one of his favorite actresses.

Fassbinder died the same year.

Zech said she had "never felt so comfortable with any other director."

"Acting in his films was child's play, as he always had everything mapped out in his head from the start," she said.

Zech and Jutta Speidel dressed as nuns
Zech's most recent role saw her don a nun's habitImage: Picture-Alliance

Theater was her first love

Although playing Veronika Voss is considered her breakthrough role, she started her career treading the boards in German theaters, and it was German director Peter Zadek who kickstarted her career in 1976, with a role in Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" in the western town of Bochum. Zech described the theater as the "supreme discipline" in acting.

She was also a popular face on German television, acting in the long-running detective series "Tatort" and "Der Alte," amongst others. Most recently, many Germans would have recognized her as the mother superior in the light detective series "Um Himmels Willen" ("For heaven's sake").

Zech was never married and had no children.

Author: Nicole Goebel (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson