HILDEGARD KNEF
IN MEMORIAM
Singer-Actress
born 28 December 1925
died 1 February 2002
BIOGRAPHY (from the Internet Movie Database):  Hildegard Knef was born in 1925 in the South German city of Ulm. In 1940 she began studying acting. Even before the fall of the Third Reich she appeared in several films, but most of them were only released after the war. To avoid being raped by Soviet soldiers she dressed like a young man and was sent to a camp for prisoners of war. She escaped and returned to war-shattered Berlin where she played her first parts on stage.

The first German movie after WW II, Die Moerder Sind Unter Uns (1946) (The Murderers Are Among Us), made her a star.  David O. Selznick invited her to Hollywood and offered her a contract - with two conditions: Hildegard Knef should change her name into Gilda Christian and should pretend to be Austrian instead of German. She refused both and returned to Germany. In 1951 she provoked one of the greatest scandals in German film history when she appeared naked on the screen in the movie Suenderin (1951). The Catholic Church protested vehemently against that film but Hildegard just commented:  "I can't understand all that tumult - five years after Auschwitz!"

With the support of her first husband, the American Kurt Hirsch, she tried a second time to launch a Hollywood career, changed her family name from Knef to Neff (because Americans couldn't pronounce Knef), but the only worthwhile part she got was a supporting role in the Hemingway adaptation of The Snows Of Kilimanjaro (1952). She became a leading lady in German, French and British films. Finally America offered her another chance, this time on the stage. She achieved a kind of stardom as Ninotchka in the very popular Broadway play, "Silk Stockings".

In 1963 she began a new career as a singer and surprised the audience with her typical, deep, smoky voice and the fact that many lyrics of her songs were written by herself. In 1970 she wrote the autobiographical bestseller Der Geschenkte Gaul (The Gift Horse).

She got sympathy from all over the world for her fight against cancer, which she defeated several times. After the German reunification she moved back to Berlin.
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Hildegard Knef was my favourite singer from the first time I heard that deep, smokey voice.  Lale Andersen might have made "Lili Marleen" a huge hit, but Hildegard's version is the one that's playing in my mind when I think of the song.  Among my favourite treasures are some 45's of her songs that I've kept since I first bought them in the sixties.  This plucky woman has been an inspiration to many, with her daring attitude but especially in her fight against cancer.  Rest in peace, Hildegard, you will be remembered fondly and with great admiration!
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