There is so much that sets Hardy Krüger apart from the norm of post-war German film that it's hard to know where to start - and so perhaps it's best to just start at the beginning, with Hardy Krüger's very first film.

He was fifteen when they shot it, he looked younger, and with all his blondness and straightness he seemed to fit perfectly into the neatly staged and flawlessly told youth film Junge Adler, the whole purpose of which was to make propaganda for the Hitler Youth and total National Socialist drill.

Walter Kempowski, who was there as an extra, described the shooting in his novel "Tadelloser&Wolff".

Claudius Seidl

Editor in the Feuilleton.

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The script was written by Herbert Reinecker, the film was directed by Alfred Weidenmann - and both then managed, without any major breaks becoming visible, to dominate the moving images and self-images of the Federal Republic, from the film thriller "Alibi" to the endless series "Derrick “.

Unwanted as a German

Hardy Krüger, on the other hand, whom the film team had recruited in the National Socialist Ordensburg Sonthofen and whose parents were convinced Nazis, Hardy Krüger, then still called Eberhard, met the great (and wrongly almost forgotten) actor Hans Söhnker during the shooting; and, as Krüger later said, confronted him with the truth about National Socialism. When Krüger was drafted into the Waffen SS in the spring of 1945, he refused to shoot at American soldiers. He was sentenced to death, but was soon pardoned: because he looked so young, almost childlike, Krüger suspects today. And it is probably because of this history that Krüger was so different from most of the heroes of German post-war film, different from those menwhose presence seemed so weak and shallow mainly because they were not allowed to have any history, no historical depth. They feared nothing more than the question: Where were you, ten or fifteen years ago?

Krüger acted in some of the most interesting German films of the fifties and sixties, in Weidenmann's "Alibi", in Helmut Käutner's idiosyncratic Hamlet variation "Der Rest ist Schweigen", which takes place in an industrial family in the Ruhr area, was considered a failure at the time and has become historic today , is very worth seeing. And what is perhaps the most beautiful of his German films, in Victor Vicas' and Wieland Liebske's "Zwei unterMillionen", a nouvellevague-like true-to-life love film shot in real streets from Berlin after the Wall was built. And yet Krüger always wanted to get out of the intellectual and aesthetic narrowness of German post-war film.

Krüger recently told Spiegel Online that he went to Paris in 1954 to see if there were any roles for him there.

The Nouvelle Vague hadn't even started yet, but the old cinema de qualité was still better than German cinema - and it was the director Yves Allégret, André Gide's nephew and allegedly temporary secretary of Leon Trotsky, who personally sent him back : “We had enough Germans like you here, hundreds of thousands, in gray uniforms.

We don't need you here, go away."

Always a humanitarian

He had more success in England, and if you see the opening scene of his first international hit, "One came through," today, in which a German plane is shot down over England, makes a crash landing, and then the pilot climbs out of the wreck, in very well-fitting uniform, friendly, good-looking, German: Then you are reassured that it is Hardy Krüger and no one else - that a good German is playing the good German.

An actor doesn't have to be what he plays - but the special thing about Hardy Krüger's cinema presence was always an attitude, as he had already demonstrated as a very young person, and a thoughtfulness that cannot be simulated with purely theatrical means.

So he asserted himself, alongside James Stewart in "The Flight of the Phoenix", alongside John Wayne in "Hatari!".

It almost goes without saying that someone like him didn't get any airs from it. Hardy Krüger remained a philanthropist and wrote friendly and clever books.

And his stance and thoughtfulness have, almost inevitably, led him to still be active against right-wing extremism.

This Thursday he will be ninety years old;

he says he has everything he needs, but he would like a little more time.