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Heinrich George

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heinrich George
Publicity portrait by Hugo Erfurth, 1930
Born
Georg August Friedrich Hermann Schulz

(1893-10-09)9 October 1893
Died25 September 1946(1946-09-25) (aged 52)
OccupationActor
Years active1912–1945
SpouseBerta Drews
Children2, including Götz George

Georg August Friedrich Hermann Schulz[1] (9 October 1893 – 25 September 1946), better known as Heinrich George (German: [ˈhaɪnʁɪçɡeˈ(ʔ)ɔʁɡə] ), was a German stage and film actor.

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Transcription

Early life

George was born in Pomerania to August Friedrich Schulz, a former Deck Officer in the Imperial German Navy, and Anna Auguste Wilhelmine Glander. He had one older brother. He did not complete school, but instead took acting classes in Stettin. In 1912, he made his stage debut in a production of Die keusche Susanne playing a waiter. His acting career was interrupted by the advent of World War I. He volunteered to fight and was seriously wounded in 1915.

Career

Weimar Republic

After the war, George worked at the Albert Theatre in Dresden and the Schauspiel Frankfurt. He appeared in a production of Oskar Kokoschka's Hiob in Frankfurt which ended up with the audience rioting due to the appearance of a naked woman onstage. In 1921, he moved to Berlin to work at the Deutsches Theater. The same year, he appeared in his first film, Der Roman der Christine von Herre by director Ludwig Berger.

George is noted for having spooked the young Bertolt Brecht in his first directing job, a production of Arnolt Bronnen's Parricide (1922), when he refused to continue working with the director.[2]

In 1923 he founded the Schauspielertheater with fellow actors Elisabeth Bergner and Alexander Granach in order to be able to work more independently as an artist. From 1925 to 1929 he appeared primarily onstage at the Volksbühne. From 1926 to 1938 he also appeared regularly at the Heidelberg Festival.

He appeared in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) and Dreyfus (1930), as well as starring in Berlin Alexanderplatz (1931).

In 1929, George organized a memorial service for his friend and colleague Albert Steinrück at the Staatstheater in Gendarmenmarkt. The purpose of the event was to ensure that Steinrück's descendants made a living through the sale of Steinrück's paintings which were exhibited in the theater.

George was an active member of the Communist party during the Weimar Republic.[3] He worked with theatre director Erwin Piscator and playwright Bertolt Brecht, both of whom identified with the political left.

George in front of his house at Bismarckstraße 34 in Wannsee-Berlin with his mastiff Fellow in 1930

On 12 October 1932, he changed his legal name to his stage name George.[1]

Nazi era

After the Nazi takeover, George was classified as a "non-desirable" actor at first because of his earlier political affiliations and was thus barred from working in cinematic productions. However, he was eventually able to reach an accommodation with the Nazi regime. In 1937, George was designated as a Staatsschauspieler (i.e. an actor of national importance) and in 1938 was appointed director of the Schiller Theater in Berlin. As director, he hired artists who were considered "non-desirable" including the art historian Wilhelm Fraenger (a communist), the Catholic actor Robert Müller, and the graphic artist Karl Rössing (a communist who converted to the NSDAP) and his student Günther Strupp. George actively collaborated with the Nazis and agreed to star in Nazi propaganda films such as Hitler Youth Quex (1933), Jud Süß (1940), and Kolberg (1945) as well as appearing in numerous newsreels.

George had a stocky build and a Berlin accent which made him readily recognizable to German audiences. George's prestige as a leading actor of the day made him an "extraordinarily valuable catch for the Nazis."[4] Cooke and Silberman describe him as "the actor most closely tied with fascist fantasies of the autocratic and the populist leader".[5]

On the occasion of his 50th birthday, Adolf Hitler awarded George the title of Generalintendant. Joseph Goebbels personally presented George with a portrait of Hitler to commemorate the event.

After firebombs severely damaged the Schiller Theater in September 1943, Goebbels presented him with a Verdienstkreuz 2. Klasse (Cross of Merit, 2nd Class) for helping to extinguish the fire.

Postwar

On 14 May 1945, according to his wife, George was arrested for the first time by Soviet officers with the words "He won't stay long" and was released the next day. He was given meat and wine for his family. A week later he was imprisoned again for one day, and on May 26 for the third time for five days. He is said to have told his interrogators "Please shoot me" and his wife reported in her memoirs (1956/1986) that he said:

"They should take away everything I have, starve me and humiliate me. But if they forbid me to act, I will die".

On May 31, George received a certificate from the mayor of Charlottenburg stating that he was not allowed to be involved in clean-up work "as he must be available to the authorities for questioning at any time". At the beginning of June, the Soviet city commander Nikolai Berzarin issued him a letter of protection which appeared in his KGB file as a "passport" confiscated during his last arrest. After the death of Berzarin in a motorcycle accident on June 16, George was arrested again.

George's KGB file includes an undated report from five informers, three of them with legible signatures. The letter states: "Just 14 days before the Red Army liberated us from the Nazi yoke, he made himself available to the NSDAP and tried to incite Berliners to active resistance in the form of a call in the Berlin press. The entire German people can stand as a witness against George. If George were put on any German stage, in our opinion he would be lynched."

A Lieutenant Bibler reported to his boss Pyrin on 28 July 1945 that George was “one of the most respected fascist artists" who "contributed to the continuation of the war through his pro-fascist agitation in radio and newspapers". The day before, Bibler's Soviet colleague had ordered George's transfer to the NKVD special camp in Hohenschönhausen, citing NKVD Order No. 0016 of 11 January 1945.

George managed to set up a prison theater at the camp and put on Faust. His wife was allowed to speak to him at the gate once a week for five minutes and also bring him textbooks and music. On December 6 he was allowed to hug his son Götz; it was the last time his wife saw him. In February 1946, communist writer Friedrich Wolf (the father of the later Stasi head Markus Wolf) tried to facilitate George's release; other attempts by his theater friends to get him released were unsuccessful.

George was transferred to the Soviet special camp No. 7 Sachsenhausen.[6] According to a fellow prisoner, George continued to perform at Sachsenhausen in front of 12,000 prisoners and the Soviet guards.

Grave of George at the Zehlendorf Cemetery in Berlin

The once massive man lost weight rapidly - a record from February 1946 documented a weight loss of 80 pounds (40 kilograms) - and was now completely exhausted. On September 22, during preliminary rehearsals for a dramatization of the ballad Death of Tiberius, George went to the internal medicine outpatient clinic, according to a fellow prisoner. The examining doctor diagnosed appendicitis. The next morning he was taken to the hospital on a stretcher by the paramedics. As a result of the appendix operation, George died on 25 September 1946. The death certificate, signed by Soviet and German doctors, shows the diagnosis as "laparotomy, bronchopneumonia, cardiac atrophy." The cause of death is given as "bronchopneumonia and heart failure". However, his cause of his death was likely starvation, despite official reports.[7]

Through the intercession of one of the camp staff who admired his acting, George was buried in an individual grave at the camp rather than in the customary mass grave. According to a fellow prisoner, his bones were found in an overgrown forest near Sachsenhausen in 1994. The remains were identified using DNA from his two sons and his body was moved to Berlin to the Zehlendorf Cemetery. His tombstone is topped by a bronze bust and an inscription commemorating his wife who died in 1987. In 1995, the Senate of Berlin declared the grave an Ehrengrab des Landes Berlin (Honorary Grave).

Personal life

In 1930, George was playing the role of Götz von Berlichingen in the play of the same name and needed to find an actress to play Adelheid von Walldorf. Ernst Legal suggested actress Berta Drews for the role based on her work as Adelhaid at Reinhardt-Schule. The couple's first child Jan George was born the following year and they were married in 1933. They had a second son in 1938 who was named Götz George after his father's character. Götz became an actor while Jan George worked as a photographer.

Filmography

References

  1. ^ a b "Transscription of birth certificate of Georg August Friedrich Hermann Schulz, born 1893-10-09" (in German). Stettin: Civil registry, Stettin (Szczecin), Poland. 5 November 1934 [1893-10-14]. 3600. Retrieved 27 June 2016. (NB. This document documents Georg August Friedrich Hermann Schulzs birthday on 1893-10-09, as well as the change of his legal name from Schulz to George on 12 October 1932.)
  2. ^ Thomson, Peter; Sacks, Glendyr (1994), The Cambridge Companion to Brecht (2 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 22–39, ISBN 978-0-521-41446-3
  3. ^ Škvorecký, Josef. "JUD SÜSS". Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  4. ^ Fritzsche, Peter (2008). Life and death in the Third Reich. Harvard University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-674-02793-0. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  5. ^ Cooke, Paul; Silberman, Marc (30 July 2010). Screening war: perspectives on German suffering. Camden House. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-57113-437-0. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  6. ^ Fuchs, Anne; Cosgrove, Mary; Grote, Georg (2006). German memory contests: the quest for identity in literature, film, and discourse since 1990. Camden House. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-57113-324-3. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  7. ^ Neimi, Robert (2006), History in the Media: Film and Television, ABC-CLIO, p. 6, ISBN 978-1-57607-952-2

Further reading

  • Berta Drews: Wohin des Wegs: Erinnerungen. Langen Müller, 1986. ISBN 978-3-7844-2098-1
  • Peter Laregh: Heinrich George. Komödiant seiner Zeit. Langen Müller (Herbig), München 1992, ISBN 978-3-7844-2363-0
  • Werner Maser: Heinrich George. Mensch, aus Erde gemacht. Quintessenz Verlag, 1998, ISBN 978-3-86124-351-9
  • Kurt Fricke: Spiel am Abgrund. Heinrich George – eine politische Biographie. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2000, ISBN 978-3-89812-021-0
  • Kurt Fricke: Heinrich George, in: Bernd Heidenreich/Sönke Neitzel (eds.): Medien im Nationalsozialismus. Schöningh Paderborn, 2010, S. 83–107, ISBN 978-3-506-76710-3
  • Michael Klonovsky, Jan von Flocken: Stalins Lager in Deutschland 1945–1950. Dokumentation – Zeugenberichte. Ullstein-Verlag, 1991, ISBN 978-3-550-07488-2
  • Horst Mesalla: Heinrich George. Rekonstruktion der schauspielerischen Leistung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der zeitgenössischen Publizistik. Dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin, 1969.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 June 2024, at 04:45
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