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Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies

Hardy Kruger starred in a number of English-language action and war films, including Barry Lyndon (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), and The Wild Geese (1980). (1978).

Hardy Kruger, regarded as one of Germany’s best actors after WWII, has died. He was 93 years old when he died. Kruger died “suddenly and unexpectedly” Wednesday in California, where he lived with his third wife, American-born writer Anita Park, according to his Hamburg-based literary agent Peter Kaefferlein.

Kruger starred in The One That Got Away, a 1957 British film about a captured German fighter pilot who makes a series of daring attempts to flee the Allies before finally succeeding, as the title suggests.

Kruger’s charisma, good looks, and the fact that he deserted the Nazi army near the end of WWII helped him land more roles at a time when Germans of his generation were still viewed with suspicion in other countries.

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Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies
Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies

Kruger starred in a number of English-language action and war films, including Barry Lyndon (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), and The Wild Geese (1980). (1978).

Later in life, he concentrated on making travel films for German television, writing books, and performing on stage.

Franz Eberhard August Krueger was born in Berlin on April 12, 1928.

He intended to follow in his engineer father’s footsteps, but while attending an elite Nazi boarding school, he appeared in the 1944 film Junge Adler.

While the film was meant to be a propaganda piece, Kruger’s interactions with older cast members on set exposed him to the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship.

Kruger’s Hitler Youth unit was drafted into the newly formed SS division Nibelungen as the war turned against Germany.

Kruger, who was 16 at the time, found himself in southern Germany fighting experienced American troops.

He described how he and his classmates were sent to the front “as cannon fodder” in Hitler’s futile attempt to halt the Allies’ advance in a 2006 interview with German daily Bild.

He told the newspaper, “I knew the war was lost.” “I was aware that concentration camps existed and that the Nazis were a gang of criminals.”

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Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies
Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies

Kruger deserted, was captured by the Allies, and served as a prisoner of war for a time. He returned to acting after the war, first in theatres and then in Germany’s resurgent film industry.

Kruger’s ambition led him to Paris and London, where he studied French and English and dropped the umlaut from his surname in order to land more glamorous roles in foreign films.

Kruger made his breakthrough when English director Roy Baker cast him as Luftwaffe ace Franz von Werra in The One That Got Away. Kruger avoided being cast as the villain in the war movie roles that would inevitably follow by fitting the archetype of the blond German soldier without appearing cold and superior.

In a 2003 interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Kruger stated, “I had no interest in playing the war criminal.” He went on to say that he wanted to portray the many Germans who found themselves unwilling participants in the war. Kruger later supported campaigns in postwar Germany to educate younger generations about Nazi crimes and confront neo-Nazi groups.

Kruger’s agent said in a statement that “fighting racism and educating young people was his personal mission in life.” “His warmth, joy for life, and unwavering sense of justice made him unforgettably memorable.”

Kruger reprised his role as a former fighter pilot in the French film Les Dimanches de Ville d’Avray, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film in 1963. Years later, Claude Martin, a former French ambassador in Berlin, said the film inspired sympathy for the Germans among French moviegoers who still remembered the war.

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Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies
Hardy Kruger, A German Actor Who Starred in Adventure Films, Dies

Kruger appeared in a number of international blockbusters during the 1960s and 1970s, including Hatari (1962), in which he co-starred with John Wayne, and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), in which he co-starred with James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Peter Finch.

He used to own a farm in Tanzania at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, and he was an avid traveller.

In a statement, Germany’s culture minister, Claudia Roth, said, “He was one of the first German actors to gain international recognition after World War II.” “Hardy Kruger’s power as an artist will be missed, as will his clear stance against right-wing violence,” she said.

Kruger is survived by Park and his children from previous marriages, Christiane, Malaika, and Hardy Jr.

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