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Hildegard Knef

Hildegard Knef, aged 69, at her last concert (March 5, 1995) in Berlin
Born December 28, 1925(1925-12-28)
Ulm, Germany
Died February 1, 2002 (aged 76)
Berlin, Germany
Occupation Actress, singer, writer

Hildegard Frieda Albertine Knef was born in the German city of Ulm (December 28, 1925 - February 1, 2002) and was a German actress, singer and writer. She was billed in some English language films as Hildegard Neff or Hildegarde Neff.


Early years

She began studying acting in 1940, aged 14. She appeared in several films even before the fall of the Third Reich, but most were not released until after World War II. She was forced to dress as a young man to avoid being raped by the Soviet soldiers and was sent to a POW camp.

Her best-known film roles were as:

  • Susanne Wallner in Wolfgang Staudte's film Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us) (the first film released after the Second World War in East Germany and produced by the Soviet filmmaking enterprise DEFA-Studio für Spielfilme)
  • Marina in Die Sünderin (The Sinner), in which she performed the first nude scene in German film history, in 1950. The nude scene caused one of the largest scandals in German filmmaking history up until that time. When the Roman Catholic Church protested vehemently she responded “I can't understand all that tumult - five years after Auschwitz!”[1]

She also appeared in a number of 1960s low budget films such as Hammer films The Lost Continent.

United States

Hildegard Knef's hand and footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood

David Selznick invited her to Hollywood, but she refused to agree to the conditions of the contract which reportedly included changing her name to Gilda Christian and pretending to be Austrian rather than German.[2]

Years later, Knef's first husband, an American named Kurt Hirsch, encouraged her to try again for success in the USA. She changed her name from Knef to Neff and achieved a measure of stardom on Broadway as “Ninotchka” in the Cole Porter musical, Silk Stockings.


She began a new career in 1963 as a singer and surprised her audiences with the deep, smoky quality of her voice and the many lyrics, which she wrote herself. Fans around the world rallied in her support as she defeated cancer several times. She returned to Berlin after the reunification.

In the 1960s and 1970s she enjoyed considerable success as a singer of German chansons, which she often co-wrote. The song she is mostly remembered for is "Für mich soll's rote Rosen regnen" ("It shall rain red roses for me"). She is also known for her version of the song "Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin" ("I've got a suitcase left in Berlin"). She sold more than three million records in total.


She published several books. Her autobiography Der geschenkte Gaul - Bericht aus einem Leben (The Gift Horse - Report of a Life) from 1970 was a candid recount of her life in Germany during and after World War II. It became the best-selling German book after World War II. Her second book "Das Urteil" ("The Verdict") from 1975 was a moderate success. It dealt with her struggle with breast cancer.


She was married three times and had a daughter, Christina (born May 16, 1968) by her second marriage, to David Cameron.


Knef died from emphysema, aged 76, on February 1, 2002.

Selected filmography


External links



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