Heinz Rühmann

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Heinz Rühmann
Heinz Rühmann in 1937
Born Heinrich Wilhelm Rühmann
(1902-03-07)March 7, 1902
Essen German Empire Germany
Died October 3, 1994(1994-10-03) (aged 92)
Berg  Germany
Occupation Actor, Director

Heinrich Wilhelm "Heinz" Rühmann (March 7, 1902 – October 3, 1994) was a German film actor. He is one of the most popular and famous German actors of the 20th Century. He starred in famous films like Die Feuerzangenbowle (1944), Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (1956) and It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958).


Rühmann was born in Essen. His role in the 1930 movie Die Drei von der Tankstelle (Those Three from the Gas Station) led him to film stardom. He remained highly popular as a comedic actor (and sometime singer) throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. He remained in Germany and continued to work during the Nazi period, as did his friend and colleague, Hans Albers.

Career during the Third Reich

After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Rühmann did not speak openly about German politics, but instead kept himself as neutral as possible. In 1938, he divorced his Jewish wife, who married a Swedish actor, and before World War II broke out, traveled to Stockholm and as a result, survived the Holocaust.1 The divorce caused Rühmann to be accused of wanting to secure his career; however, the marriage had probably already fallen apart. His second wife, whom he married shortly after, had a Jewish grandfather, a fact that caused Rühmann problems with the Nazi cultural authorities. Rühmann retained his reputation as an apolitical star during the entire Nazi era.

Heinz Rühmann as director (behind the camera), 1942

During the war years, Rühmann increasingly let himself be co-opted by the Third Reich. During the Nazi era, he acted in 37 films and directed four. His role as lead actor in the comedy Quax, der Bruchpilot was supposed to distract the populace from the war. In 1941, under the direction of Reichsfilmkammer president Carl Froelich, Rühmann played the title role in Der Gasmann, about a gas meter reader who is suspected of foreign espionage. In 1944, the premiere of Die Feuerzangenbowle'' was forbidden by the Nazi film censor for "disrespect for authority". Through his good relationships with the regime, however, Rühmann was able to screen the film in public. He brought the film to the Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze for a private screening for Hermann Göring and others. Afterward, Göring was able to get the ban on the film lifted by Adolf Hitler. A nostalgic comedy of mistaken identities, the film was probably the most popular film of his career and later became a cult hit among college students. As a "state actor", the highest title for an actor during the Nazi era, Rühmann was not drafted into the Wehrmacht. He did have to take the basic training to become a military pilot, but for the Third Reich, Rühmann was more valuable as an actor and he was spared having to take part in the war effort. In August 1944, Joseph Goebbels put Rühmann on the Gottbegnadeten list of indispensable actors.2

Postwar career

Rühmann had a difficult time resuming his career after the war, but by the mid-1950s, the former comedian had established himself again as a star, only this time as Germany's leading character actor.citation needed In 1956, Rühmann starred in the title role of the internationally acclaimed picture Der Hauptmann von Köpenick (The Captain of Köpenick), the true story of a Prussian cobbler, Wilhelm Voigt, who dressed up as an army officer and took over the town hall in Köpenick. In the days of the German Empire, the army had an exalted status and Voigt embarrassed the army officers and civil servants who obeyed him without question. Rühmann was also the leading man in the 1960 film version of The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik, after the novel by Czech author Jaroslav Hašek. In 1965, Rühmann was brought to Hollywood by producer Stanley Kramer for a supporting role in his all-star movie Ship of Fools.

Rühmann was a favorite actor of Holocaust diarist, Anne Frank, who pasted his picture on the wall of her room in her family's hiding place during the war, where it can still be seen today. The enormous range of Rühmann's popularity during the Nazi era is illustrated by the fact that he was also a favorite actor of Adolf Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

Rühmann died in 1994 and was buried in Berg-Aufkirchen, Bavaria.


Partial filmography



  • Franz J. Görtz, Hans Sarkowicz: Heinz Rühmann 1902 - 1994. Der Schauspieler und sein Jahrhundert. Beck, Munich (2001) ISBN 3-406-48163-9
  • Torsten Körner: Ein guter Freund: Heinz Rühmann. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin (2003) ISBN 3-7466-1925-4
  • Hans-Ulrich Prost: Das war Heinz Rühmann. Bastei, Bergisch Gladbach (1994) ISBN 3-404-61329-5
  • Fred Sellin: Ich brech die Herzen..., das Leben des Heinz Rühmann. Rowohlt, Reinbek (2001) ISBN 3-498-06349-9
  • Gregor Ball, Eberhard Spiess, Joe Hembus (de) (Hrsg.): Heinz Rühmann und seine Filme. Goldmann, Munich (1985) ISBN 3-442-10213-8
  • Hans Hellmut Kirst, Mathias Forster, et al.: Das große Heinz Rühmann Buch. Naumann & Göbel / VEMAG, Cologne o.J., ISBN 3-625-10529-2


  1. ^ Franz Josef Görtz, Hans Sarkowicz (2001) p. 193
  2. ^ Ernst Klee: Das Kulturlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main (2007) p. 502 (German)

External links

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