Notable People


Notable People from the German-speaking World

In this section you will find full and mini biographies of German-speakers – past and present – who have played a significant role in the fields of politics, education, science, the arts and technology. Few of these people are as famous as Albert Einstein (mini bio) or Angela Merkel (full bio), but all of them are persons we should know more about.

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Das Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany, where Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Jump to | A, B, C | D, E, F | G, H, I | J, K, L | M, N, O | P, Q, R | S, T | U, V | W, X, Y, Z


An A-to-Z Index of Notable Austrians, Germans and Swiss

A-B-C

  • Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) First chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • African Americans and Germany – US black history connections
  • Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) > Mini bio
  • Ursula Andress (1936- ) Swiss actress, Bond girl (Honey Ryder) in Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond film
  • Manfred von Ardenne (1907-1997) German physicist and inventor (TV)
  • Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American writer and political theorist

Featured Bios | Notable people with full biographies

  • Arminius (Hermann der Cherusker) > Mini bio
  • Fred Astaire (F. Austerlitz, 1899-1987) US film actor and dancer born to an Austrian father in Omaha, Nebraska – Also see: The German-Hollywood Connection
  • John Jacob Astor (Johann Jakob, 1763-1848) German-American business magnate, merchant and investor; America’s first multi-millionaire
  • Nadja Auermann (1970- ) Former German fashion model > Mini bio
  • Rudolf Augstein (1923-2002) German co-founder of the news magazine Der Spiegel in Hanover in 1947 (based in Hamburg since 1952). Noted for his efforts to make German politics more transparent, Augstein was jailed for 103 days as a result of the “Spiegel affair” (1961-62) that forced the resignation of Franz Josef Strauß as German defense minister.
  • Andreas Baader (1943-1977) of the infamous Baader-Meinhof gang. See Terrorism in Germany for more about Baader.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) > Mini bio
  • Karl Baedeker (1801-1859) created the first tourist guidebooks. > Mini bio > Baedecker and German Reiselust
  • Michael Ballhaus (1935- ) German former cinematographer in Hollywood
  • Albert Ballin (1857-1918) German shipping magnate (Hapag) who invented the ocean cruise.
  • Felix Baumgartner (1969- ) is the Austrian skydiver and daredevil who set three world records in the Red Bull Stratos project, in which he jumped from a capsule attached to a helium balloon in the stratosphere on October 14, 2012. The three records he set: (1) the altitude record for a manned balloon flight, (2) parachute jump from the highest altitude, and (3) greatest free fall velocity. Baumgartner (“Fearless Felix”) was born in Salzburg on April 20, 1969.
  • Franz Beckenbauer (1945- ) “Kaiser Franz” (Emperor Franz) is a German football (soccer) hero (world champion in 1974) who went on to coach the German national team to victory in 1990.
  • Boris Becker (1967- ) Former German tennis champ of the 1980s and ’90s. Also see: Steffi Graf and Sports in Germany
  • Jurek Becker (1937-1997) Polish-born German writer, film-author and GDR dissident who wrote the novel Jacob der Lügner (Jacob the Liar)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was born in Bonn, Germany
  • Peter Behrens (1868-1940)
  • Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger, 1927- ) German-born pope from April 19, 2005 to February 28, 2013. Benedict XVI became the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. The former cardinal was born in the Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn. See our Marktl am Inn Photo Gallery.
  • Karl Benz (1844-1929) and Gottfried Daimler (1834-1900) – Co-inventors of the automobile
  • Heinrich Berger (1844-1929) Berlin-born musician and leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band in Honolulu.
    See: The German/Austrian-Hawaii Connection (GW Expat Blog)
  • Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) Sometimes controversial German artist and sculptor
  • Wolf Biermann (1936- ) German singer-songwriter who was expelled by East Germany
  • Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) – Prussia’s “Iron Chancellor” > Mini bio
  • Roy Black (1943-1991) Famous German singer and pop star of the “Golden ’60s” (real name: Gerhard Höllerich). His early death at 48 made him a legend.
  • Moritz Bleibtreu (1971- ) German film actor: Lola rennt, World War Z
  • Karl Heinz Böhm (1928- ) Austrian film actor
  • Curt Bois (1901-1999) German film and stage actor: Casablanca (1942), Wings of Desire (1987)
  • Heinrich Böll (1917-1985) German novelist, writer; Nobel Prize 1972
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) Protestant theologian famous for his resistance to the Third Reich. As early as 1933 he was speaking out publicly against Hitler and the Nazi regime. He was arrested by the Gestapo in April 1943 and spent time in various concentration camps. He was executed by the Nazis on April 9, 1945, shortly before the end of the war.
  • Robert Bosch (1861-1942) German entrepreneur whose top-notch automotive spark plugs (1897) helped him build Robert Bosch GmbH into one of Germany’s largest companies.
  • Max Born (1882-1970) German physicist, 1954 Nobel Prize in physics
  • Robert Bosch (1861-1942) German engineer, industrialist, and inventor who in 1886 founded the company that would later be known as Robert Bosch GmbH. Bosch did pioneering work in automobile electrical systems.
  • Klaus Maria Brandauer (1943- ) Austrian film and stage actor (Out of Africa, Jedermann)
  • Willy Brandt (1913-1992) – German chancellor, mayor of West Berlin
  • Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) was the German-American rocket scientist who led the US space program in the 1960s.
  • Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, theater director
  • Clemens Brentano (1778-1842) German novelist and poet
  • Martin Buber (1878-1965) Austrian Jewish philosopher, writer, translator, and educator > Mini bio
  • Horst Buchholz (1933-2003) German film actor (One, Two, Three, The Magnificent Seven). – Gravesite > Buchholz’s Grave
  • Sandra Bullock (1964- ) American film actress who has a German mother and speaks German
  • Vicco von Bülow (Loriot, 1923-2011) German humorist, cartoonist
  • Robert Bunsen (1811-1899) was a German chemist best known for his eponymous gas burner. Working in part with fellow German chemist Gustav Kirchhoff, Bunsen discovered the elements caesium and rubidium. He was also a pioneer in gas and spectrochemical analysis.
  • Elias Canetti (1905-1994) Bulgarian-born Swiss and British novelist, playwright, and non-fiction writer who wrote in German; 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature. When Canetti was seven the family moved to Vienna, Austria, where Elias lived and later attended university.
  • Georg Cantor (Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor, 1845-1918) German mathematician and inventor of set theory, now a fundamental theory in mathematics
  • C.W. Ceram (Kurt Wilhelm Marek, 1915-1972) A German journalist and author known for his popular works about archaeology, Marek used his C.W. Ceram pseudonym (Marek spelled backwards with a C) to distance himself from his earlier work as a propagandist for the Nazis. His most famous book, Gods, Graves, and Scholars, first published in 1949, has sold millions of copies and has been translated into 28 languages.
  • Charlemagne (Karl der Große, 742-814)
  • Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780-1831) German-Prussian soldier and military theorist who stressed the psychological and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), was unfinished at his death.

SPECIAL FEATURE
Donna Summer and the Spago-Moroder-Puck Connection – No, Boston-born Donna Summer, the “Queen of disco,” was not German, but she spoke German and her music career got its start in Munich, Germany in the 1970s. More…

D-E-F

  • Bruce Darnell (1957- ) Afro American TV personality in Germany
  • Adolf (Adi) Dassler (1900-1959) German inventor, entrepeneur > Mini bio
  • Doris Day (Kappelhoff, 1924- ) Former US Hollywood film star of German heritage
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (1974- ) German-American film actor with a German mother; his middle name is Wilhelm.
  • Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) German film actress – Gravesite > Dietrich’s Grave
  • Alfred Döblin (1878-1957) German novelist: Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929)
  • Klaus Doldinger (1936- ) German jazz musician, composer (“Tatort”)
  • Christian Doppler (1803-1853) Austrian mathematician and physicist
  • Doris Dörrie (1955- ) German film director, Männer, Nackt
  • Ruth Dreifuss (1940- ) Swiss politician; first woman to serve as president (1999) > Mini bio
  • Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848) German writer
  • Rita Frances Dove (1952- ) US black history + Germany
  • W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) US black history + Germany
  • Konrad Duden (1829-1911) – Former German teacher and author of the first German spelling guide (1872). The name “Duden” in Germany would soon be similar to “Webster” in the US.
  • Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) German artist > Mini bio
  • Rudi Dutschke (1940-1979) – German student activist in the 1960s and ’70s
  • Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) – Austrian writer
  • Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) – German bacteriologist, physician – Gravesite > Ehrlich’s Grave
  • Bernd Eichinger (1949-2011) German film producer in Hollywood
  • Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and his Theory of Relativity > Mini bio
  • Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898), better known as Sisi in Austria > Mini bio
  • Michael Ende (1929-1995) German author: The Neverending Story
  • Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), Karl Marx’ friend and collaborator > Mini bio
  • Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977) – German economic minister (1949-1963), father of the German “economic miracle” of the 1950s and ’60s, German chancellor from 1963-1966 (after Adenauer).
  • Erik H. Erikson (1902-1994) – German psychoanalyst, author, professor
  • Harmut Esslinger – German-American industrial designer who helped Steve Jobs design the Apple IIc and the Mac SE.
  • Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) German physicist and inventor of the temperature scale named for him > Mini bio
  • Falco (Hans Hölzel, 1957-1998) Austrian pop singer: “Rock Me Amadeus”
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982) German director, “New German Cinema”
  • Roger Federer Swiss tennis star. More on our Sports in Germany page
  • Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) – German-American artist > Mini bio
  • Emil Fischer (1852-1919) German chemist, Nobel Prize 1902
  • Joschka Fischer (Joseph Martin “Joschka,” 1948- ) German politician (Alliance ’90/The Greens), German Foreign Minister (1998-2005)
  • Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) German poet, novelist > Mini bio – Gravesite > Fontane’s Grave
  • Marc Forster (1969- ) Swiss-German Hollywood film director (World War Z, Quantum of Solace).
  • Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) Austrian-born US Supreme Court Justice from 1939 to 1962
  • Franz Joseph I (Kaiser Franz Joseph, 1830-1916) Austrian emperor, 1848-1916, House of Habsburg
  • Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) – The Austrian father of psychoanalysis
  • Friedrich Barbarossa (Frederick Barbarossa, Frederick I, 1122-1190) Barbarossa was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt and crowned in Aachen in 1152. He served as Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 until his death in Anatolia (now Turkey). One legend says he is not dead, but asleep with his knights in a cave in the Kyffhäuser mountain in Thuringia, Germany.
  • Friedrich der Große (Frederick the Great, Frederick II, 1712-1786) Prussian king from 1740 to 1786
  • Gert Fröbe (Karl Gerhart Fröbe, 1913-1988) German actor (“Goldfinger”) > Mini bio
  • Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852) was a German pedagogue, a student of Pestalozzi who laid the foundation for modern education. > Mini bio
  • Anton Fugger (1493-1560) German banker > Mini bio
  • Cornelia Funke – German author of books for children and teens (Inkheart, Thief Lord)


G-H-I

  • Bruno Ganz (1941- ) Swiss film actor who played Professor Bruckner in The Boys from Brazil, Damiel in Wings of Desire, Adolf Hitler in Downfall, and Professor Rohl in The Reader
  • Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) German mathematician, astronomer and physicist
  • Hans Geiger (1882-1945) German inventor of the Geiger counter
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1927- ) German politician of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). Genscher served as Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany from 1974 to 1992, longer than anyone for either post.
  • H.R. Giger (Hans Rudolph Giger, 1940-2014) was the Swiss artist and designer who created the monster for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi film Alien (1979). His terrifying film beast influenced the design of other film monsters, and Giger’s art was also seen on rock-album covers and in video games.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is Germany’s most famous poet and writer.
  • Thomas Gottschalk (1950- ) German TV personality who is as famous in Germany as Jay Leno is in the USA
  • Steffi Graf – German tennis star Stefanie Maria Graf shared the world tennis stage with fellow German Boris Becker until they both retired in 1999. Graf is now married to former American tennis champion Andre Agassi.
  • Günter Grass (1927-2015) Nobel Prize-winning author > Mini bio
  • Reri Grist (1932- ) US black history + Germany
  • Jacob Grimm (1785-1863) Best known for Grimms’ Fairy Tales
  • Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859) Best known for Grimms’ Fairy Tales
  • Herbert Grönemeyer (1956- ) German musician, singer, actor (Das Boot) > Mini bio
  • Walter Gropius (1883-1969) founded the futuristic Bauhaus school of design in 1919.
  • Franz Gruber (1787-1863) Austrian composer of “Stille Nacht” – with lyrics by Josef Mohr
  • Johannes Gensfleisch zum Gutenberg (ca. 1397-1468) The German inventor of movable type and printing > Mini bio
MORE at THE GERMAN WAY
Birthday and Holiday Calendar
A special downloadable calendar with birth dates of notable people, plus holidays and observances in the German-speaking world
  • Fritz Haber (1868-1934) German chemist, Nobel Prize in chemistry, 1918
  • Nina Hagen (1955- ) German punk-rock singer; related to Wolf Biermann
  • Gunther von Hagens (1945- ) German anatomist, artist, creator of “Body Worlds” > Mini bio
  • Peter Handke (1942- ) Austrian novelist and playwright > Mini bio
  • Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946) German dramatist and novelist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912
  • Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) > Mini bio
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) – German philosopher > Mini bio
  • Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) German philosopher
  • Heinrich Heine (Christian Johann Heinrich, 1797-1856) German poet, journalist, and essayist
  • Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-1976) German physicist; quantum mechanics > Mini bio
  • Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) German physician, physicist and philosopher known for the Helmholtz equation and his work in thermodynamics
  • Hermann der Cherusker (Arminius in Latin, ca. 18B.C.-19A.D.) > Mini bio
  • Alfred Herrhausen, director of Deutsche Bank killed in a terrorist car-bomb attack in 1989
  • Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857-1894) – German physicist > Mini bio
  • Roman Herzog (1934- ) German politician (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) who served as President of Germany from 1994 to 1999.
  • Werner Herzog (1942- ) German film director: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982), Queen of the Desert (2015)
  • Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known novels include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game.
  • Martina Hingis is mentioned on our Sports in Germany page.
  • Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) Austrian-born German Führer whose 1000-year Reich only lasted 12 years
  • Andreas Hofer (1767-1810) Tyrolean (Austrian) patriot > Mini bio
  • E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) German writer (early fantasy/sci-fi) > Mini bio
  • August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1874) August Heinrich Hoffmann was a German poet known by the pen name “Hoffmann von Fallersleben.” He is best known for writing the lyrics to the German national anthem (“Das Deutschlandlied” or “Das Lied der Deutschen”). Hoffmann was born in Fallersleben (present-day Wolfsburg).
  • Erich Honecker (1912-1994) was East Germany’s leader when the Berlin Wall fell > Mini bio
  • Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) – Prussian explorer, scientist, writer and philosopher. See this book review and bio: The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
  • Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) Noted Austrian architect, artist > Mini bio | Posters > Hundertwasser art posters from Art.com
MORE at THE GERMAN WAY
Famous Graves in Germany
Where are they buried?


J-K-L

  • Helmut Jahn (1940- ) German-American architect > Mini bio
  • Sigmund Jähn (1937- ) East German cosmonaut (Soyuz 31, Soyuz 29)
  • Emil Jannings (1884-1950) German film actor, winner of first Oscar in 1929
  • Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975) US black history + Germany
  • Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) Austrian psychiatrist > Mini bio
  • Curd Jürgens (Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz, 1915-1982) Jürgens was an Austrian stage and film actor. His Hollywood films (often as Curt Jurgens) include The Enemy Below (1957), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), The Longest Day (1962), Miracle of the White Stallions (1963), and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
  • Udo Jürgens (Udo Jürgen Bockelmann, 1934-2014) Austrian-born (Klagenfurt) ‘Schlager’ singer who had many hit songs over the years: “17 Jahr, blondes Haar” (1965), “Griechischer Wein” (1974), “Aber bitte mit Sahne” (1976), “Mit 66 Jahren” (1978), “Ich war noch niemals in New York” (2001).
  • Bert Kaempfert (1923-1980) German songwriter and orchestra leader
  • Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Austrian writer > Mini bio
  • Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher > Mini bio
  • Karl der Große (Charlemagne) > Mini bio
  • Erich Kästner (1899-1974) German writer whose works have been turned into films by Disney: The Parent Trap and Emil and the Detectives – Gravesite > Kästner’s Grave
  • Martin Kaymer (1984- ) German golf pro
  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German astronomer and mathematician best known for his laws of planetary motion > Mini bio
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (1926-1968) – He wasn’t German, but he has German connections!
  • Klaus Kinski (1926-1991) German film actor who appeared in more than 130 films, many by director Werner Herzog, including: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Woyzeck (1979), and Fitzcarraldo (1982)
  • Nastassja Kinski (Nastassja Aglaia Kinski, 1961- ) German film actress, daughter of Klaus Kinski, whose films include: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Tess (1979), Cat People (1982), and Faraway, So Close! (1993)
  • Henry A. Kissinger (1923- ) German-American advisor to presidents > Mini bio
  • Paul Klee (1879-1940) Swiss artist whose highly individual style was influenced by expressionism, cubism, and surrealism > Mini bio
  • Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) Austrian artist > Mini bio
  • Heidi Klum (1973- ) – German-American fashion model, TV show producer/hostess, actress and business woman
  • Robert Koch (1843-1910) German scientist, physician > Mini bio
  • Helmut Kohl (1930- ) Former German Kanzler (1982-1998) > Mini bio
  • Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) Austrian artist > Mini bio
  • Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) German artist and sculptor
  • Diane Kruger (1976- ) German film actress: Troy, Inglourious Basterds
  • Carl Laemmle (Karl Lämmle, 1867-1939) German-born Jewish founder of Universal Studios (1912) and cinema pioneer
  • Carla Laemmle (Rebekah Isabelle “Carla” Laemmle, 1909-2014) American actress of German Jewish descent, niece of Carl Laemmle
  • Karl Lagerfeld (1933- ) German fashion designer > Mini bio
  • Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) – Austrian-born Hollywood film actress
  • Bernhard Langer (1957- ) German golf pro
  • James Last (Hans Last, 1929- ) German composer and big band leader who had numerous best-selling albums in Germany and the UK. His composition “Happy Heart” was an international success with recordings by Andy Williams and Petula Clark.
  • Niki Lauda (1949- ) Austrian former Formula One race driver
  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) > Mini bio
  • Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) German glider inventor, pilot > Mini bio
  • Charlotte Link (1963- ) Bestselling German novelist
  • Franz Liszt (1811-1886) German-speaking Hungarian composer, pianist and conductor
  • Ernst Litfass (Litfaß, 1816-1874) German inventor, printer, and publisher who invented the free-standing cylindrical advertising column that bears his name in German: die Litfaßsäule
  • Alain LeRoy Locke (1886-1954) US black history + Germany > More…
  • Frederick Loewe (1901-1988) Berlin-born composer of famous musicals, including “Camelot” and “My Fair Lady”
  • Loriot (Vicco von Bülow, 1923-2011) German humorist, cartoonist
  • Peter Lorre (1904-1964) Austrian, German-speaking film actor (M, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days)
  • Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) German film director in Hollywood
  • “Mad” Ludwig II (King of Bavaria, 1864-1886)
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546) Protestant reformer
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (1926-1968) He wasn’t German, but he has German connections!
  • Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) German Marxist philosopher and economist of Polish Jewish descent
MORE at THE GERMAN WAY
Birthday and Holiday Calendar
A special downloadable calendar with birth dates of notable people, plus holidays and observances in the German-speaking world


M-N-O

  • Ernst Mach (1838-1916) Austrian scientist (mach speed) > Mini bio
  • Teobert Maler (1842-1917) was a noted Austrian/German amateur archaeologist who photographed Maya ruins in the Yucatan.
  • Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) German author, brother of Thomas Mann
  • Thomas Mann (1875-1955) German author > Mini bio
  • Karl Marx (1818-1883) and the Communist Manifesto
  • Hans J. Massaquoi (Hans-Jürgen, 1926-2013) was the Afro-German man who later became the editor of the US magazine Ebony. Born to a German mother and a Liberian father in Hamburg, Massaquoi wrote about growing up in Germany in his memoir, Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, was published in the US in 1999, followed by a German translation.
  • Kurt Masur (1927- ) East German orchestra conductor (Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig) who also headed the New York Philharmonic from 1991 to 2002. Masur supported anti-government demonstrators in the period leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • Dietrich Mateschitz (1944- ) Austrian owner of the Red Bull beverage company. Mateschitz lives in Salzburg, Austria when he is not traveling. Also see the German F1 Red Bull racer Sebastian Vettel.
  • Karl May (1842-1912) German writer of westerns and adventure stories > Mini bio
  • Ulrike Marie Meinhof (1934-1976) German terrorist (Baader-Meinhof gang) – For more about Meinhof, see Terrorism in Germany
  • Lise Meitner (1878-1968) Austrian physicist > Mini bio
  • Phillip Melanchthon (Phillip Schwartzerd, 1497-1560) Theologian > Mini bio
  • H.L. Mencken (Henry Louis Mencken, 1880-1956) – The German-American “Sage of Baltimore” was an author, journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, and a controversial critic of American life and culture. More > H.L. Mencken Bio
  • Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) Austrian naturalist noted for studies in genetics
  • Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854-1899) Invented the famous Linotype typesetting machine, first used in 1886 for the New York Tribune. > Mini bio
  • Angela Merkel (1954- ) German chancellor (since 2005)
  • Franz Johann Mesmer (1734-1815) Austrian physician who gave us the word “mesmerize.” After being accused of practicing magic rather than medicine, Mesmer was forced to leave Austria in 1778. > Mini bio
  • Reinhold Messner (1944- ) One of the world’s most successful mountain climbers, from South Tyrol; author of over 60 books; first solo climb of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen
  • Reinhard Mey (1942- ) German singer, songwriter, Liedermacher
  • Julius Lothar Meyer (1830-1895) was the German chemist who created the first periodic table of chemical elements in 1862. Meyer and his Russian competitor, Dimitri Mendeleev, later fought over who should get credit for the periodic system. Working independently, Mendeleev published his own periodic table in 1869, in which he, unlike Meyer, correctly predicted some missing elements that filled in gaps in the table (in his 1870 revision). Both men attended an 1860 international chemistry convention in Karlsruhe, where the atomic weights, later used in their tables, were standardized.
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (Maria Ludwig Michael, 1886-1969) Born in Aachen, Germany, Mies was known for his trend-setting architecture and the phrase “less is more.” He was associated with Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus, and was one of the masters of modern architecture. He was often referred to and addressed as Mies, his surname. He came to America in 1944.
  • Rosemarie Mittermaier (“Rosi” 1950- ) German Olympic downhill ski champion and 3-time world champion
  • Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) German Expressionist painter
  • Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) Austrian author of the lyrics to “Stille Nacht” – with music by Franz Gruber
  • Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) German poet and author noted for his humorous poems
  • Giorgio Moroder (b. 1940) His mother called him Hansjörg, the German version of his Italian name (Giovanni Giorgio). The music producer and composer is best known for helping Donna Summer become the “Queen of disco.” The two worked together in Munich, Germany in the 1970s. Today Moroder, now in his 70s, is enjoying a bit of a comeback. MORE > Donna Summer and the Spago-Moroder-Puck Connection
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Austrian composer > Mini bio
  • Armin Mueller-Stahl (1930- ) German film actor: The House of the Spirits (1993), The Thirteenth Floor (1999), Eastern Promises (2007), Angels and Demons (2009)
  • F.W. Murnau (Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, 1888-1931) German-born Hollywood film director whose grave is near Potsdam
  • Robert Musil (1880-1942) Austrian writer, novelist
  • Anne-Sophie Mutter (1969- ) Internationally acclaimed German violinist
  • Xavier (Kurt) Naidoo (1971- ) German soul and R&B singer
  • Thomas Nast (1840-1902) German-American political cartoonist, creator of Santa Claus image
  • Nena (Susanne Kerner, 1961- ) German singer > Mini bio
  • Henri Nestlé (Heinrich, 1814-1890) German founder of the Swiss Nestlé company
  • Richard Josef Neutra (1892-1970) Austrian-American architect who came to the US in 1923 to work in Chicago with Frank Lloyd Wright and other American architects. > Mini bio
  • Helmut Newton (1921-2004) Berlin-born German-Australian fashion photographer who helped revolutionize fashion photography in the 1970s by foregoing the studio in favor of natural outdoor settings. He was infamous for his stylish photos of leggy women (often in the nude) and erotic, kinky fashion photos. Newton died following an auto accident in Los Angeles. His ashes are buried next to Marlene Dietrich at the Städtischer Friedhof III in Berlin. > Mini bio
  • Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German witer, philosopher > Mini bio
  • Emmy Noether (Amalie Emmy Noether, 1882-1935) – Influential German Jewish mathematician (born in Erlangen, Bavarian) known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics. In 1933 she left Göttingen and accepted a position at Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania. > Mini bio
  • Emil Nolde (1867-1956) German-Danish painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists, a member of Die Brücke, and is considered to be one of the great oil painting and watercolor painters of the 20th century. He is known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive choice of colors.
  • Dirk Werner Nowitzki (1978- ) German-born NBA basketball star with the Dallas Mavericks. Born and raised in Würzburg, Dirk Nowitzki (“Dirkules”) is the first German/European player to be voted MVP in the NBA (2007 and 2011). > Mini bio
  • Auma Obama (1960- ) is the US president’s half-sister. > Mini bio
  • Hermann Oberth (1894-1989) German/Austro-Hungarian rocket scientist
  • Georg Simon Ohm (1789-1854) German scientist > Mini bio
  • Adam Opel (1837-1895) German founder of the company that bears his name
  • Carl Orff (1888-1931) German composer – “Carmina Burana”
  • Otto I (912-973) Otto the Great was German king from 936 and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 962 until his death.
  • Nicolaus Otto (1832-1891) German co-inventor of the four-stroke internal combustion engine (der Ottomotor, 1876) still widely used today
  • Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics


P-Q-R

  • Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) – German composer > Mini bio
  • Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) German education pioneer > Mini bio
  • Wolfgang Petersen (1941- ) The German director of Das Boot and Air Force One is just one of many Germans and Austrians who made or are now making The German-Hollywood Connection!
  • Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) Czech-German automotive engineer, best known for creating the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle (Lohner-Porsche), the Volkswagen Beetle, and the Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK, as well as the first of many Porsche automobiles.
  • Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (1935-2012) Son of Ferry Porsche, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche; he was a German designer whose best known product was the first Porsche 911 (pron. PORSH-uh, not PORSH).
  • Ferry Porsche (Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, 1909-1998) Austrian technical automobile designer and automaker-entrepreneur; born in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, Ferry was the son of Ferdinand Porsche.
  • Franka Potente (1974- ) German film actress: Lola rennt, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy
  • Pötzsch, Oliver (1970- ) German author (The Hangman’s Daughter) born in Munich
  • Alfred Preis (1911-1993) Austrian-born architect who designed the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
    See: The German/Austrian-Hawaii Connection (blog)
  • André Previn (Andreas Ludwig Priwin, 1929- ) German-American film music composer
  • Elvis Presley in West Germany – Presley was a G.I. in West Germany (1958-1960)
  • Jürgen Prochnow (1941- ) German film actor: Das Boot, Air Force One, The Da Vinci Code, NCIS: Los Angeles (2010, TV)
  • Wolfgang Puck (b. 1947) Austrian-born celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck came to America in 1973 and has built up a vast culinary empire of restaurants (Spago, CUT, Postrio, WP24) and food services. – How did his iconic Spago restaurant get its name? See Donna Summer and the Spago-Moroder-Puck Connection
  • Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) Born in Austria-Hungary, the Jewish Pulitzer arrived in the US in 1864 at the age of 17. In 1868 he became a reporter in St. Louis for the German-language newspaper Westliche Post. He endowed the Columbia University school of journalism in 1912 and established the Pulitzer prizes for literature and journalism. > Mini bio
  • Freddy Quinn (Franz Eugen Helmut Manfred Nidl, 1931- ) Famous German “Schlager” singer noted for his seafaring songs
  • Stefan Raab (1966- ) German TV entertainer of “TV total” fame (RTL)
  • Max Raabe (1962- ) The German singer and his Palast Orchester tour Germany and the world. See our blog: Max Raabe in Reno
  • Luise Rainer (1910- ) German film actress, who was the first and only German actress to win an Academy Award (1936/37, The Great Ziegfield, The Good Earth)
  • Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) German historian and a founder of modern source-based history > Mini bio
  • Johannes Rau (1931-2006) Former German president (1999-2004)
  • Red Baron, the – Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”
  • Red Bull – Austrian beverage company. See the F1 racer Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
  • Dean Reed (1938-1986) American-born “Red Elvis” GDR rock star
  • Hanna Reitsch (1912-1979) Pioneering female test pilot for the Third Reich, born in Hirschberg, Silesia. The daughter of an ophthalmologist, she studied medicine and originally planned to become a flying missionary doctor in Africa. > Mini bio
  • Erich Maria Remarque (Remark) (1898-1970) – German writer, poet > Mini bio
  • Ernst Reuter (1889-1953) German politician, West-Berlin mayor during the Berlin Airlift
  • Paul Julius Baron von Reuter (Israel Beer Josaphat, 1816-1899) News gathering pioneer > Mini bio
  • Manfred von Richthofen (1892-1918) The “Red Baron” WWI flying ace
  • Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003) German film director, actress
  • Rainer Maria Rilke (René Karl Wilhelm Johann Joseph Maria Rilke, 1875-1926) – German poet > Mini bio
  • Charlotte Roche (1978- ) is a controversial British-born German novelist (Schoßgebete, 2011 and Feuchtgebiete/Wetlands, 2008) and former TV personality whose novels have been characterized either as worthy literature or thinly disguised pornography.
  • John (Johann) August Roebling (1806-1869) German-American construction engineer, bridge builder > Mini bio
  • Erwin Rommel (Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, 1891-1944) German general known as the “Desert Fox” > Mini bio
  • Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923) – German discoverer of x-rays > Mini bio
  • Nico Erik Rosberg (1985- ) German-born Formula One race driver whose Finnish father, Keke Rosberg, was also a noted F1 driver. After racing for Williams, Rosberg is now with Mercedes.
  • Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) German theologian > Mini bio
  • Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) and the German financial House of Rothschild
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – German architect > Mini bio


S-T

  • Toni Sailer (Anton Engelbert Sailer, 1935-2009) Austrian alpine ski racer, considered among the best in the sport. At age 20, he won all three gold medals in alpine skiing at the 1956 Winter Olympics. Also see our guide to Kitzbühel, Austria.
  • Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) German architect best known for designing the Berlin Philharmonic concert hall (1957-63), the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (1964-78, library interior seen in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire), and the Schminke House in Löbau, Saxony (1933).
  • Frank Schätzing German sci-fi author (The Swarm) > Notable Authors
  • Wolfgang Schäuble (1942- ) German politician (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) who has been Germany’s Federal Minister of Finance since 2009
  • Egon Schiele (1890-1918) Austrian painter > Mini bio
  • Claudia Schiffer (1970- ) German-born fashion model > Mini bio
  • Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) German writer and poet > Mini bio
  • Oskar Schindler (1908-1974) German industrialist, spy, and member of the Nazi party credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust – a story made famous in the 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark, and the 1993 film Schindler’s List.
  • Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) German architect – Gravesite > Schinkel’s Grave in Berlin

Featured Bios | Notable people with full biographies

  • Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) German amateur archaeologist who discovered Troy
  • Bernhard Schlink (1944- ) German author (The Reader) > Notable Authors
  • Max Schmeling (1905-2005) – German boxing champ > Mini bio
  • Harald Schmidt (1957- ) German TV entertainer and talk-show host
  • Helmut Schmidt (1918- ) Chancellor of West Germany (SPD), 1974-1982 > Mini bio
  • Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976) German Expressionist painter > Mini bio
  • Schneider, Romy (1938-1982) Austrian film actress famous for her “Sissi” films
  • Schnitzler, Arthur (1862-1931) Austrian author and playwright
  • Scholl, Hans and Sophie University students (brother and sister) executed by the Nazis in 1943 for their “White Rose” resistance activities.
  • Gerhard Schröder (1944- ) German chancellor from 1998 to 2005 > Mini bio
  • Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1967) Austrian physicist who did pioneering work in the field of quantum theory
  • Franz Schubert (1797-1828) Austrian composer
  • Michael Schumacher (“Schumi,” 1969- ) Retired German seven-time Formula One World Champion, regarded as one of the greatest F1 race drivers ever
  • Schumann, Robert (1810-1856) German composer and influential music critic
  • Carl Schurz (1829-1906) German-born US politician, American Indian advocate > Mini bio
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947- ) Austrian-born bodybuilder, film actor and former two-term governor of California, 2003-2011
  • Alice Schwarzer (1942- ) German feminist advocate, journalist and publisher
  • Elisabeth Schwarzhaupt (1901-1986) First woman German cabinet member, as CDU health minister (1961-1966), under Konrad Adenauer
  • Til Schweiger (1963- ) German actor and filmmaker: Inglourious Basterds
  • Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) Alsatian German doctor and humanitarian > Mini bio
  • Robert Schwentke (1968- ) Schwentke is a German film director and screenwriter born in Stuttgart. He studied film at AFI and Columbia College in Los Angeles. His Hollywood films include: Flightplan (2005, writer/director), The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009, director), Red (2010, director) and R.I.P.D. (2013, director). Schwentke’s first big film was Tattoo (2002, Germany), a police mystery.
  • Scorpions, The (Rudolf Schenker [guitarist and founder], Klaus Meine, Matthias Jabs, James Kottak, Pawel Maciwoda) – Legendary German rock band from Hanover (“Wind of Change,” 1990) > More…
  • Uwe Seeler (1936- ) Legendary German soccer player and official who played for Hamburger SV and also made 72 appearances for the West German national team
  • (Henri) James Simon (1851-1932) German “cotton king” merchant, patron of the arts, amateur archaeolgist, and philanthropist who was among a circle of influential men known as the “Emperor’s Jews” (Kaiserjuden, a group that also included shipping magnate Albert Ballin). Simon co-financed excavations in Egypt that found, among other things, the famous bust of Nefertiti, which he kept for a time in his private collection in his Berlin mansion, and is now on display at the Neues Museum in Berlin.
  • Heide Simonis (1943-) First German female state governor > Mini bio
  • Max Skladanowsky (1863-1939) German filmmaker and inventor of the first motion-picture projector, the Bioskop, in 1895. (See the Boulevard der Stars – Berlin.)
  • Alexander Spoerl (1917-1978) German writer, humorist > Mini bio
  • Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) Swiss author: Heidi’s Lehr- und Wanderjahre (1880)
  • Claus von Stauffenberg (Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, 1907-1944) German military officer who was executed for his attempt to assassinate Hitler
  • Edith Stein (1891-1942) German Roman Catholic philosopher and nun murdered by the Nazis for her efforts to protect Jews
  • Max Steiner (1888-1971) Austrian-born Hollywood film composer
  • Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923) German inventor and mathematician > Mini bio
  • Theodor Storm (1817-1888) German author, poet
  • Franz Josef Strauss (Strauß, 1915-1988) Bavarian politician, chairman of the Christian Social Union, long-time minister-president (governor) of the state of Bavaria
  • Johann Strauss, Sr. (1804-1849) Austrian composer
  • Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899) Austrian “Waltz King,” son of Johann, Sr.
  • Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929) German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor in 1923 and Foreign Minister 1923–1929, during the Weimar Republic.
  • Donna Summer (1948-2012) No, Donna Summer, the “Queen of disco,” was not German, but she spoke German and her music career got its start in Munich, Germany in the 1970s. MORE > Donna Summer and the Spago-Moroder-Puck Connection
  • Rita Süssmuth (1937- ) First female president (CDU) of the German parliament (Bundestag, 1988-1998) > Mini bio
  • Daniel Swarovski (1862-1956) Austrian glass-cutter, jeweler
  • Tarzan in AcapulcoJohnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) was born in Austria-Hungary, in what is today Romania. The Olympic swimming champ later became Tarzan on the silver screen. But why is he buried in Acapulco?
  • Edward Teller (1908- ) Physicist, father of the H-bomb > Mini bio
  • Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) US black history + Germany
  • Gerhard Thiele (Gerhard Paul Julius, 1953- ) German astronaut and scientist who flew on the NASA STS-99 Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. One of nine Germans who have been to space. > Gerhard Thiele
  • Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1829) German painter
  • Margarethe von Trotta (1942- ) German film director
  • Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) – German satirist
  • Tom Tykwer (1965- ) German film director: Lola rennt, Perfume, Cloud Atlas


U-V

  • Beate Uhse (Beate Uhse-Rotermund, born Beate Köstlin, 1919-2001) German pilot, entrepreneur, and champion of sexual freedom. Uhse opened the first sex shop in the world, in Flensburg, starting a new industry. Her company, Beate Uhse AG, is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
  • Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973) East German leader, builder of the Berlin Wall > Mini bio
  • Jan Ullrich (1973- ) German former pro road bicycle racer who won a gold and a silver in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He was later banned from the sport for doping, a violation he admitted to in 2013.
  • Sebastian Vettel (1987- ) German Formula One (F1) race driver from Heppenheim, Hesse. Vettel drives for the Austrian racing team Red Bull Racing and holds several F1 records as one of the sport’s youngest drivers.
  • Conrad Veidt (1893-1943) German film actor who played the evil Major Strasser in Casablanca. He worked in Hollywood during both the silent and talkies eras.


W-X-Y-Z

  • Richard Wagner (1813-1883) German opera composer > Mini bio
  • Christoph Waltz (1956- ) Austrian/German film actor: Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained
  • August von Wassermann (1866-1925) German medical pioneer > Mini bio
  • Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) Austrian-born American Olympic swimmer and “Tarzan” film actor
  • Wim Wenders (1945- ) German film director (Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire)
  • Johnny Weissmuller and Tarzan – Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) was born in Austria-Hungary, in what is today Romania. The Olympic swimming champ later became Tarzan on the silver screen. But why is he buried in Acapulco?
  • Billy Wilder (1906-2002) – Austrian-American director of Hollywood films from Double Indemnity to Stalag 17 and Some Like It Hot.
  • Katarina Witt (1965- ) German former ice skating star
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) Austrian-born philosopher and writer > Mini bio
  • Ron Williams (1942- ) US black history and Germany
  • Lawrence Winters (1915-1965) US black history and Germany
  • Klaus Wowereit (1953- ) Berlin’s openly gay mayor (SPD) from 2001 to 2014
  • Carl Zeiss (1816-1888) German lens maker > Mini bio
  • Renée Zellweger (1969- ) American film actress with a Swiss-German father
  • Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin (1838-1917) Dirigible pioneer > Mini bio
    Gravesite > Zeppelin’s Grave
  • Hans Zimmer (1957- ) German film music composer: The Lion King, Interstellar
  • Konrad Zuse (1910-1995) German inventor of the first programmable, digital computer

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