Dutch Nazi actor Heesters dies at 108

24th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The controversial German Dutch-born actor Johannes Heesters has died at the age of 108. He was believed to be the world’s oldest performing singer and actor.

Heesters died in a hospital in the German town of Starnberg near Munich, where he had been living for some time. He had been taken to the intensive care unit there on 17 December.

During World War II he continued to perform in Nazi Germany and visited the Dachau concentration camp near Munich. Mr Heesters admitted visiting Dachau but denied allegations he sang for the camp’s Nazi guards. In 2008 he lost a libel suit over claims he had appeared on stage at the camp. Mr Heesters did admit he performed for Adolf Hitler. After the war, the Allies allowed him to continue performing.

Heesters began his career in Amsterdam in 1920 but in 1935 moved to Nazi Germany, where he enjoyed lasting success. When he tried to stage a comeback in Amsterdam in the early 1960s, he was booed off stage. After that he performed in other countries, notably Germany and Austria. In 2008, a one-off performance in his native town of Amersfoort caused intense controversy.

Early on, he was best known as an operetta singer but later also enjoyed popularity as a stage, film and television actor. After 1996 he performed alongside his second wife, Simone Rethel. His death has prompted mixed reactions in the Netherlands, with praise for his long acting and singing career, and condemnation of his refusal to apologise for his Nazi connections. cl

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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