Inge Meysel

Actress known as 'mother of the nation'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The actress Inge Meysel was known in Germany as the "mother of the nation", a title she both scorned and was proud of. She had a remarkable career on the stage, in films and, most notably, in television, starting in the Weimar period and ending only last year.

Inge Meysel, actress: born Berlin 30 May 1910; married first Helmut Rudolph (marriage dissolved), second 1956 John Olden (died 1965); died Hamburg 10 July 2004.

The actress Inge Meysel was known in Germany as the "mother of the nation", a title she both scorned and was proud of. She had a remarkable career on the stage, in films and, most notably, in television, starting in the Weimar period and ending only last year.

The daughter of a Jewish tobacco merchant, Julius Meysel, and a Danish mother, Margarete Hansen, she was born in Berlin in 1910. Her first appearance on the stage was at the age of three in the opera Hansel and Gretel. After acting school, she started her professional career in 1930.

This promising start was abruptly terminated by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in 1935, two years after Hitler's rise to power. This was because of her father's Jewish background. The family moved to Danzig, then offically a free city outside the jurisdiction of the Nazis. However, that safe haven was taken over in 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War.

At the age of 35, in 1945 Meysel had the courage to start again in the Thalia Theatre, Hamburg, not knowing what kind of reception she would get in this heavily bombed city. In 1949 she entered the film world in Liebe '47 ( Love '47), perhaps surprisingly, because the film's director was Wolfgang Liebeneiner, who had directed a number of political films in the Third Reich. She played in one of the most critical films of the conservative 1950s, Rosen für den Staatsanwalt ( Roses for the Prosecutor, 1959), which targeted the former Nazi judges prominent in the West German judiciary.

In the early 1960s, she appeared in a number of films directed by the Austrian John Olden, whom she married in 1956. However, the foundation for her highly successful television career was laid with her part in Das Fenster zum Flur ("The Window to the Corridor", 1960), as Frau Wiesner, a mother highly ambitious for her children. It was in the role of the Käthe Scholz in the TV serial Die Unverbesserlichen ("The Incorrigible Ones"), which ran from 1965 to 1971, that she became known as the "mother of the nation". Her last part was in the crime series Polizeiruf 110 (2003).

Inge Meysel felt she had a citizen's responsibility to support good causes and was prepared to be controversial. In 1978 she joined other women in attacking the weekly Stern for its "sexist" approach. She advocated the right of women to decide on abortion. She defended gays when they were still struggling for acceptance in Germany, and worked for public understanding on Aids. The last cause that she championed was the right to die.

David Childs

Comments