Willy Birgel (Willy Birgel)

Willy Birgel

Willy Birgel began his acting career before World War I on the stage in his native city of Cologne, and came to movies rather late. He was about 43 years old before he got his first major film role as the English Camp Commandant in Paul Wegener’s Ein Mann will nach Deutschland (roughly translated A German Wants to Get to Germany or A German Wants to Go Home). This UFA-production that premiered on 26 July 1934, portrays a German engineer living in South America who hears in 1914 of war in Europe. Realising his obligation for his fatherland, he sets out for Europe, joined by a German comrade. The journey to Germany involves physical hardships, treacherous terrain, and hostile seas, obstacles faced by patriots who have only one thought: to return home to Germany to help a fatherland under attack. The film spoke of the kind of German values that were emphasized in Nazi Germany. Similar films made by Birgel for the National Socialist Regime include Unternehmen Michael (1937), Feinde (1940) and Kameraden (1941). In 1937, Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels named Birgel Staatsschauspieler or roughly Actor of the State, the highest honor Germany had for actors at the time. Besides the propaganda films, Birgel starred in a number of popular movies such as Der Fall Deruga (1938), becoming an unlikely public favorite.

After World War II, Willy Birgel was on the Allied black-list and did not make another film until 1947. By the 1950s, he was back to his pre-war popularity, often appearing with German film superstar Hans Albers. In the 1960s, Birgel was able to make the transition to television. Willy Birgel died in 1973 of heart failure at Dübendorf near Zürich. He was buried at the Melaten Cemetery in his birth city, Cologne.

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  • September, 19, 1891
  • Cologne, German Empire


  • December, 29, 1973
  • Dübendorf, Switzerland

Cause of Death

  • heart failure


  • Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • Cologne, Germany

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