One of post-war Germany's most influential entertainers, Dieter Hildebrandt, has died aged 86 - just hours after publicly announcing his prostate cancer. He was among the country's best funnymen ever since the 1950s.
Dieter Hildebrandt's wife Renate said on Wednesday that her husband had died in hospital overnight, he had been fighting prostate cancer. News of the cult entertainer's illness only hit German newsstands on Wednesday morning, in an interview with the Munich-based "tz" daily.
Only diagnosed this summer with prostate cancer, Hildebrandt was forced to cancel his public engagements. His personal website featured a caricature of him in pajamas waiting outside a hospital clinic with the caption: "I must head in… for repairs."
Hildebrandt underwent several operations in hospital but was ultimately allowed to return home in better health. He returned to the clinic after a severe relapse, however, and died.
Born in 1927 in what is now Poland, Hildebrandt lived in Munich for most of his life. He also spent more than half a century making Germany laugh, succeeding as often as anybody would dare hope. He was perhaps best known as co-founder of the "Münchener Lach- und Schießgesellschaft" (roughly: Munich's laughter and shooting club) troupe of political satirists and comedians in 1956, but remained on stage and screen until the year of his death.
An outspoken and opinionated figure, Hildebrandt never joined a German political party ("because I would have been kicked out again quickly"), but famously described himself as a "Social Democrat sympathizer" in a state dominated by the Christian Democrats. In football he was also a fan of 1860 Munich, not Bayern.
He was an outspoken critic of Germany's leading politicians, mercilessly pointing out their many empty promises. "A broken promise heals quickly," he said once.
One of his last public appearances was taking part in an online video appeal ahead of this year's German elections, where celebrities, sports stars and other noteworthy individuals appealed for a high voter turnout.
"With Hildebrandt we lose one of the most accurate and witty commentators of German politics and society," Bavarian songwriter Hans Well told the news agency dpa on Wednesday.
Renate Hildebrandt was the comedian's second wife; they tied the knot in 1992 after the death of Irene Hildebrandt, Dieter's first wife and mother of Ursula and Jutta Hildebrandt.
msh/rg (AFP, dpa)