Gustaf Gründgens

Posted on October 26, 2010


The German actor Gustaf Gründgens managed a peculiar feat: Though his homosexuality was an open secret, he maintained a high-profile career including a position as the director of the Prussian State theater throughout the Nazi regime with support from Hermann Göring. Following the war, he managed to rehabilitate himself very quickly – after being held by the Russians for a time, he was allowed to return to Germany and by 1946 was back again acting.

Before the Nazis came to power, he was married for a time to Erika Mann, the lesbian daughter of Thomas Mann, and together with her brother Klaus, who was also gay, the three worked together in theater. By 1929, the marriage was over, and Gründgens married German actress Marianne Hoppe.

That same year, Klaus Mann’s book Mephisto was published in Amsterdam where he had been in exile since 1934; the novel was a thinly disguised portrait of Gründgens as an opportunist willing to compromise himself with the Nazis to get ahead. The novel wasn’t published in Germany until 1956, the same year that Gründgen was playing his greatest role: Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust (his interpretation of the part has been described as one of the best ever).

After Gründgens died in 1963 of an overdose of sleeping pills (it’s unclear if it was suicide), his lover and adopted son Peter Gorski sued the publisher of the book, and it wasn’t until 1981 that it became available again in West Germany. That same year, an acclaimed film of the book came out, starring Klaus Maria Brandauer in the title role.

Gustaf Gründgens has a Wikipedia page, here, as well as a page on IMDB, here.