Mini Bios P-R

Notable Austrians, Germans and Swiss

Biographies of people from the German-speaking countries who have played a significant role in German and world history in the areas of politics, science, the arts, and technology.

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Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Came from Nürnberg (Nuremberg) and held important musical positions as an organist-composer there and in several other German cities as well as in Vienna, Austria. His works include suites, cantatas, and various chorale works. His “Canon” is a very popular classical work to this day.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827)
Born in Zurich. A champion of the poor and underprivileged, he established an orphanage (1774) and later a renowned boarding school in Yverdon, Switzerland (1805), which attracted observers from many countries to witness Pestalozzi’s theories in practice. It was Pestalozzi who first developed educational concepts like teacher training and curriculum innovations like group work, field trips, grade levels, ability grouping, and allowing for individual differences. He had a profound influence on many others in educational theory, including Friedrich Froebel, the German inventor of the kindergarten.

Wolfgang Petersen
The 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!

Elvis Bad Nauheim Elvis Presley (in Germany, 1958-1960)
The King was drafted into the US Army in 1958 and spent 17 months in West Germany, the only time he ever left North America. The town of Bad Nauheim has an annual Elvis festival. (See the poster on the right.) Learn more! More…
Featured Bio | Elvis Presley in Germany

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)
Born in Austria-Hungary. In 1868 he became a reporter for the St. Louis Westliche Post, a German-language newspaper which he came to own three years later. After problems in St. Louis, Pulitzer bought the New York World and turned it into a successful, aggressive newspaper. He endowed the Columbia University school of journalism in 1912 and established the Pulitzer prizes for literature and journalism.


Max Raabe (1962- )
Singer Raabe and his Palast Orchester tour Germany and the world performing classic songs of the 1920s. See our blog: Max Raabe in Reno

Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886)
The father of the modern, scholarly approach to history. Before Ranke, most historical works were based on legend, tradition, and hearsay rather than objective research using original source material. Ranke, a professor of history in Berlin, published his own English, French, German, and world histories drawn on historical documents and other scholarly sources.

Red Baron, The (Manfred von Richthofen)
German World War I flying ace became a legend – some of it true, and some of it not.
Featured Bio | Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron

Book Comrade Rockstar Dean Reed (1938-1986)
Denver-born “Red Elvis” singer and film star who, unknown in his homeland, became hugely successful in Latin America, East Germany and the Soviet Union. Reed lived in East Berlin from 1973 until his mysterious death by drowning in 1986.

Featured Bio | Dean Reed

Hanna Reitsch (1912-1979)
The pioneering female test pilot for the Third Reich was born in Hirschberg, Silesia, on 29 March 1912, the daughter of an ophthalmologist. She studied medicine and originally planned to become a flying missionary doctor in Africa. She set several gliding records before becoming a test pilot for the Nazis. During her glider lessons in Silesia she met the future V2 rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who was also learning to fly gliders. Reitsch was a daredevil pilot who flew almost every kind of aircraft in her career, including a piloted V1 ram jet. Although she offered to die with Hitler, he ordered her to fly out of Berlin as the city was falling to the Russians. She survived the war and outlived her friend von Braun (whom she met again during a 1961 visit to the US), dying of a heart attack at age 67 in Frankfurt am Main. She never married. Movies: Barbara Ruetting portrayed a romantized version of Reitsch in the 1965 film Operation Crossbow. Anna Thalbach played Reitsch in the 2004 German film Der Untergang (Downfall).

Erich Maria Remarque (Remark) (1898-1970)
Born Erich Paul Remark in Osnabrück, Germany, Remarque came to the US in the 1930s after the huge success of his WWI novel Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929), which became an equally big hit movie in 1930. In Hollywood, Remarque was romantically involved with Marlene Dietrich, but he eventually married the American actress Paulette Goddard.

Paul Julius Baron von Reuter (Israel Beer Josaphat, 1816-1899)
Founded a news agency in Aachen, Germany and Verviers, Belgium in 1849, using carrier pigeons to dispatch the news that arrived by telegraph in the two cities. Two years later Reuter moved to London and established the Reuters Telegrams news agency. Today Reuters is one of the largest international news and press agencies. Born in Kassel, Reuter adopted his new name in 1844, later became a British citizen, and received the title of baron in 1871. Also see Reuters auf Deutsch (

Manfred von Richthofen (The “Red Baron”)
German World War I flying ace became a legend – some of it true, and some of it not.
Featured Bio | Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron

Rainer Maria Rilke (René Karl Wilhelm Johann Joseph Maria Rilke, 1875-1926)
The Austrian poet was born in Prague, then part of Austria-Hungary (now in the Czech Republic). He studied there and in Munich. Rilke infused his poetry with the essence of the “thing in itself” (“das Ding an sich,” from Kant’s philosophy) to avoid traditional subjective or objective views. His work had great influence on English poetry and poets such as Auden. – Web: View Rilke’s grave in Switzerland (Find A Grave).
Famous Graves | Rainer Maria Rilke’s is in Switzerland

John (Johann) August Roebling (1806-1869)
Designed and supervised the building of the Brooklyn Bridge (opened in 1883) and other cable spans using his “wire rope” suspension system. Educated in Berlin, J.A. Roebling came to the US from Thuringia in 1831. His company later supplied cable for the Golden Gate and other modern suspension bridges. Washington Roebling, his son, finished the Brooklyn Bridge project following John’s death.

Erwin Rommel (Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, 1891-1944)
The famous “Desert Fox” commander of the North African campaign was born in Heidenheim, near Ulm on Nov. 15, 1891. While earning the respect of both sides in WWII, Rommel became disillusioned with Hitler. Although the Nazis accused him of being involved in the abortive July 20, 1944 bombing/assassination attempt against Hitler, his active role in the plot is doubtful. Two Nazi generals visited Rommel at his home and forced him to choose between suicide by poison or a trial for treason. After saying good-bye to his wife and son, Rommel took the poison the Nazis so thoughtfully provided. Several days later a huge state funeral in Ulm honored the popular field marshal. His suicide and alleged treason were kept quiet. Rommel’s son Manfred would later become the mayor of Stuttgart. – Web: View Rommel’s grave near Ulm, Germany.

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923)
The German word for X-ray is Röntgen, named for the German physicist who discovered them. The very first Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Röntgen in 1901.

Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929)
German Jewish theologian and philosopher born in Kassel. His major work is The Star of Redemption, a philosophical examination of the relationships among God, humanity, and the world. Although the two had major political and philosophical disagreements, Rosenzweig became good friends with Martin Buber and worked with him on the German translation of the Hebrew Torah. Towards the end of his life, Rosenzweig suffered from ALS (later known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and needed help from his wife Edith to write. He died in Frankfurt.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812)
Founder of the famous House of Rothschild and its European banking empire. (Also see Banks and Money.) Mayer was born on Feb. 23, 1744 in his family’s house on the Judengasse in Frankfurt’s Jewish ghetto. The family name comes from that house, known as “das Haus zum roten Schild” (“house at the red shield” = roth + Schild). His five sons later helped spread the Rothschild name beyond Frankfurt to London, Naples, Paris, and Vienna.

Anselm Mayer Rothschild grave

The grave of Anselm (Anschelm) Mayer von Rothschild (1773-1855) in Frankfurt’s Old Jewish Cemetery. Anselm Mayer was the eldest of Mayer Amschel’s five sons. Anselm’s marriage to Eva Hanau was childless. To assure his line of succession, Anselm adopted his nephew Mayer Carl von Rothschild, the son of Carl Mayer von Rothschild in Naples. See more on our Famous Graves (2) page. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976)
One of the leading masters of German Expressionism and a member of the artistic school known as Die Brücke (“The Bridge”). His favored medium was the woodcut. Born near Chemnitz, Schmidt-Rottluff was made an honorary citizen of Berlin in 1970 and he died there six years later. – Web: For more about Schmidt-Rottluff and his art see the Schmidt-Rottluff bio at DHM (in German).

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