Domenica Niehoff: Prostitute and social activist who campaigned for the legalisation of her profession

Known to her clients and her many fans as "Hamburg Domenica", Germany's best-known prostitute, Domenica Niehoff, has died at the age of 63. Niehoff, who retired from prostitution in the 1990s, campaigned for the legalisation of well-regulated prostitution and turned her attention to a number of social causes. In some ways she was Germany's Cynthia Payne; perhaps surprisingly, some even likened her to Christine Keeler.

Niehoff was born in Cologne in 1945. Her mother, Anna, fled with her children from an abusive Italian husband and fed her children through practising fortune-telling and petty fraud. Given the chaotic conditions in Germany at the end of the Second World War, she had some success, but before long she was arrested. Niehoff and her brother, Amando, spent their childhood in a Catholic orphanage.

At 14, Niehoff took up an apprenticeship as an accounts clerk, but three years later she got involved with a 42-year-old brothel keeper, whom she later married. When she was 27, in 1972, her husband of 10 years shot himself in front of her. In the same year she began to work as a prostitute in Palais d'Amour, a bordello in Hamburg's St Paul red light district. She later set up her own studio as a dominatrix.

With changing attitudes towards sex and prostitution in the 1970s and 1980s, Niehoff became a familiar figure on TV talk shows. She was always instantly recognisable for her 48-inch bust and outrageously revealing outfits. She gradually found herself moving in celebrity circles, with Tomi Ungerer, known for his children's books and anti-war posters, the artist Horst Janssen and the aristocrats Johannes and Gloria von Thurn und Taxis among others.

Niehoff appeared in several feature films and television plays, including Messalina – Kaiserin und Hure (Messalina – Empress and Harlot, 1977), Desperado City (1981), Taxi nach Kairo (Taxi to Cairo, 1987) and Der Hurenstreik – Eine Liebe auf St Pauli (The Whores' Strike – a Love Story in St Pauli, 1998). In 1993, Peter Kern directed a documentary about her life. Her autobiography, Körper mit Seele – Mein Leben [Body and Soul – My Life] appeared in 1994.

Niehoff left prostitution in the 1990s to open a bar in Hamburg's red light district. From 1998 to 2000 she owned a bar at the Fischmarkt in St Pauli, but this was closed down when she had difficulties with the tax authorities. She also turned her attention to a number of social causes: in 1991 she co-founded Ragazza e.V., a project which helped young prostitutes, and she could often be found on the streets helping drug addicts with hot drinks and even money.

During the visit of Pope John Paul II to Berlin in 1996, she caused a stir when she spoke at a demonstration of transvestites. Dressed in religious vestments, she called the controversial transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf "holy", which led to an outcry from some of Bavaria's Christian Democrats.



Domenica Anita Niehoff, prostitute and social activist: born Cologne, Germany 3 August 1945; married; died Hamburg 12 February 2009.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?