Black History Month: Afro-German Actor & Singer: Günther Kauffman
Günther Kaufmann, Afro-German Actor & Singer
(June 16, 1947 – May 10, 2012)
Günther Kaufmann (16 June 1947 – 10 May 2012), was what the Germans call a “Besatzungskind” (war or occupation child), one of thousands of children born between 1945 and 1949 as a result of relationships between German women and American soldiers. The son of an African American soldier and a German mother, Günther Kaufmann was born in June 1947 in the Hasenbergl district of Munich. Kaufmann’s father, whom he never knew, returned to the US before he was born in Munich. As a Mischlingskinder (mixed race child), he faced a difficult childhood and youth in postwar West Germany.
“The White Negro of Hasenberg, is the title of his autobiography. In the 70s and 80s, he starred in 16 Rainer-Werner Fassbinder films, including “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” “The Marriage of Maria Braun” and “Querelle”. In the ’90s he had roles in TV series including “Derrick” and “The Old Man”.
In November 2002, for the love of his terminally ill wife, he falsely confessed to causing the death of his accountant, Hartmut Hagen, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He confessed to the deed even though he was not guilty because he wanted to protect his cancer-stricken third wife, Alexandra, who had induced three accomplices to carry out the crime. By deception, she had received a loan of 850,000 marks from the accountant, who later pressed for its return. He was later killed after three men entered his house to destroy incriminatory evidence; Kaufmann wanted to spare his wife the ordeal of dying in prison.
After spending almost three years in prison, he was released in 2005 after the real criminals were exposed. The following year he was in court again because his original false statement had resulted in two others being held on remand. He was given a suspended sentence of 22 months.
After his release, he resumed his career, notably performing in the German children’s films “Vicky the Viking” (2009) and Michael “Bully” Herbig’s, the “Terrible Sven.”
Kaufmann, was a singer as well, which was showcased in three of Fassbinder’s films. He sang the opening theme song for Whity. However, his best song was, “So Much Tenderness,” written by Peer Raben and Fassbinder.
Kaufmann died on the evening of 10 May 2012 at the age of 64 having suffered a heart attack while out for a walk in the Grunewald locality of Berlin. A passer-by and paramedics tried to resuscitate him on site for two hours.
He is survived by his son, Davy and daughter Eva.
Tribute to Günther Kaufmann by Tyron Ricketts, Black German Actor, Musician & Activist
Günther Kaufmann & son David Kaufmann, a Musician and Entertainer