Hildegard Knef: Chronology of her life 1970 – 1979

The author is not responsible for the correctness of the following information.



February 1970:

Release of the LP KNEF  – her best album, in her opinion.

March 30, 1970:

German magazine “Jasmin” begins its advance publication for Der geschenkte Gaul (titled “Menschenskind”); Hildegard Knef receives DM 370,000 for the preprint rights, although about 150 pages of the books have not yet been delivered to her publisher.

May 1970:

After finishing her work on the book, Knef and her family spend 3 months at a friend’s house near St Tropez, France ; her publisher Fritz Molden visits her in early July and hands over the first printed copy.

August 4, 1970:

Her first book, Der geschenkte Gaul – Bericht aus einem Leben, is published in Germany; it becomes a phenomenal success (reaching the number one spot on the bestseller list of “Der Spiegel”) and sells approximately 280,000 copies within the first 6 weeks; Knef receives a basic fee of DM 250,000 plus 17 % of each copy sold above 100,000; the book will eventually be translated into 17 languages and becomes an international success, too (in 2002, worldwide sales are estimated at around 4 million); in the US, the English version (translated by her husband David Anthony Palastanga),The Gift Horse, spends a whole year on the bestseller list of the New York Times, 18 weeks alone at number one; in the UK, the book reaches number 2, just ten days after publication.

September 1970:

Hildegard Knef presents her book at the Frankfurt book fair; in 6 further presentations throughout Germany she reaches a total of 3,000 book sellers, each of whom was sent a specimen copy including a recording with Knef reading excerpts; in autumn and winter, she continues promotion with book-signings and readings in 26 towns in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (reaching Berlin on October 20); in 1984, Fritz Molden says in his book, “Der Konkurs”, Knef did more than 200 of such events, signing about 60,000 copies - resulting in calluses on her hands.

October 20, 1970:

“Bunte” magazine publishes a survey to determine Germany’s most popular singers; Hildegard Knef is at number 6 with 48 % having a positive opinion about her, 30 % are negative and 22 % are undecided; Udo Jürgens is the number one star (71 % positive, 15 % negative, 14 % undecided).

November 1970:

Release of the double album Der geschenkte Gaul – a reading of excerpts by Knef.


January 1971:

In a private clinic in Munich , Hildegard Knef has to undergo a blood transfusion, due to postnatal complications.

First half of 1971:

Promotes her book throughout Europe ( Helsinki , Stockholm , Copenhagen , Amsterdam , Brussels , Paris ).

June 1971:

Begins a PR tour in the US for The Gift Horse; appears on the David Frost Show and twice on the Dick Cavett Show (34 TV appearances altogether); at a reception in her honour at the German embassy, ambassador Rolf Pauls says, “What you accomplished in just one week, we didn’t achieve in 25 years.”

June 27, 1971:

Takes part in New York City ’s Gay Pride march.

Summer 1971:

Guest of honour at the annual conference of the American TV academy.

August 21, 1971:

In an interview with the magazine “Das Neue Blatt” she says, “I am fed up with doing theatre, films and concerts. (…) I don’t care anymore for this superficial work”.

September 3, 1971:

Concert appearance at the annual Garden Party by federal president Gustav Heinemann at Berlin ’s Schloss Bellevue, on the night of the signing of the Berlin Four-Power Agreement.

October 1971:

Knef’s new album, Worum geht’s hier eigentlich?, is released immediately after an accompanying TV show, Ich brauch Tapetenwechsel, got on the air; shortly afterwards her record company, Decca, ends the DM 2 million contract with her.

Autumn 1971:

The “British Translator’s Association” awards her husband David Anthony Palastanga with the “Schlegel Tieck prize” for his English translation of Der geschenkte Gaul.

December 1971:

Her daughter Christina is being treated in a Hamburg hospital for a connective tissue disorder caused by preterm birth; temporarily, the family moves to Hamburg ’s Pöseldorf district, Harvestehuder Weg 19.

December 29, 1971:

US film magazine “Variety” quotes Hildegard Knef as saying, “I shall never do another movie unless poverty forces me to”.


April 1972:

In Samedan , Switzerland , Knef writes the preface to the book An Outline of Spiritual Healing by her friend, Gordon Turner.

September 1972:

Hildegard Knef’s third book, Ich brauch Tapetenwechsel: Texte, is published – containing 70 song lyrics, poems and short stories written between 1965 and 1972; on October 1st, “Der Stern” writes a scathing review (“obtrusive perfume” … “platitudinous”).

October 1972:

Her first records on the new Philips label are released: Texte - geschrieben und gelesen, with 32 excerpts from her new book, recited by herself – and the album Und ich dreh’ mich  nochmal um.

November 19, 1972:

In an interview with women’s magazine “Frau im Spiegel”, Knef discloses that for her daughter’s sake she wants to regain German citizenship: “Because I am connected to England just as much as to, say, Thailand . Germany has always been my homeland – and my [English] husband feels, he is by now a German citizen, too.”

December 1972:

Honouring the BBC’s fiftieth birthday, a 7” single, Auntie, is released in several European countries (though not in the UK ), featuring Knef, Vicky Leandros, Demis Roussos, among others.


April 10, 1973:

The family temporarily relocates to Jagdschloss Hubertushof, the country house of the Prince of Fürstenberg, in Strobl beside Lake St Wolfgang , Austria .

April 18, 1973:

Hildegard Knef suffers from a haemorrhage; her husband rushes her by car to Basle, Switzerland, where she is operated twice: first, her uterus is removed, then – on May 3rd – parts of her bowel are removed, too, after an acute inflammation of her abdominal cavity led to an intestinal obstruction; the surgery is impaired by problems in blood clotting from which she suffers since the delivery of her child; the doctors considered that second operation as life-threatening; she gets her first strong doses of morphine; shortly afterwards, she is diagnosed as having breast cancer.

April 19, 1973:

Knef `73 is aired on German television, a show featuring many famous contemporaries and companions giving statements on Knef (Willy Brandt, Henry Miller, Carroll Righter among others); Knef herself sings 17 songs; musical director: Hans Hammerschmid.

August 6, 1973:

In Salzburg , her left breast is amputated; in her 1975 book Das Urteil Knef writes, it was the 56 surgical operation in her life; she suffers from burns caused by cobalt irradiation.

Late summer 1973:

The family moves to the “Mühle zum Feld” near Traunkirchen beside Lake Traun , Austria ; the mill – dating from 1449 – is still being converted to a house with about 35 rooms; Knef resumes painting.

Autumn 1973:

She delivers her second novel to publisher Fritz Molden; however, shortly afterwards she destroys the work (ca. 360 pages); in April, 1975, she tells “Stern” magazine that it was a non-autobiographical novel about “two very different men with very different backgrounds”, with one of the characters being a “notorious liar”.


February 1974:

Her album Ich bin den weiten Weg gegangen hits the record stores; its song Ich gebe alles aufis the only song ever released that Knef has written and composed herself.

February 1974:

She begins to write Das Urteil whose first drafts she wrote in the winter of 1973.

Spring 1974:

Shooting for a 90-minute TV show in Holland and a 2-hour personality show in Belgium .

Summer 1974:

Hilde Heilmaier, a Bavarian spiritual healer, claims to have made contact to a Lord Mikaal, said to have been a dead re-incarnation of the archangel Michael, and she puts Knef on a “diet on cosmic rays” (fasting for a day, no drinking); she thus manages to relieve her from post-operative pains.

October 1974:

Convalescent Knef shoots the TV show Hildegard Knef und ihre Lieder in Traunkirchen, Gmunden and environs; the show is aired on April 12, 1975.


January 13, 1975:

In Vienna , the German ambassador to Austria awards her the “Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse” (Federal Cross of Merit, First Class) for her “merits to Germany ’s appreciation in the world”.

March 23, 1975:

An article in the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper reveals that her surgeries in summer were related to cancer – although the German press had covered Knef’s hospitalisation extensively, the word “cancer” was never mentioned; in an interview as late as September 1975, Hildegard Knef herself tells “Bunte” magazine, “As we still don’t know what kind of condition I have, I cannot call myself healed.”

June 1975:

Publication of her book Das Urteil oder Der Gegenmensch (working title: “Judgement of God”); the first print has a circulation of 120,000 copies; in the book, Knef recalls her suffering from cancer and critically describes the way she has been treated by doctors; this subject causes a controversy in the German press with many asking if it is acceptable to talk publicly about cancer; advance excerpts of the book were published in “Stern” magazine, in a series starting April 30, 1975 (costing “Stern” DM 360,000 – of which Knef received 90 %); illegally obtained passages were published by competing magazines “Bunte” and “Quick” before April 30; the book is translated into 15 languages.

June 1975:

A double LP with a reading of excerpts by Knef is released.

Promotes the book in several countries, among them the US (TV interviews with Rex Reed and Barbara Walters).

August 1975:

The LP Applaus is released – an album featuring songs from American musicals (translated into German by Gerhard Bronner).

September 10, 1975:

In Berlin’s Wedding district, shooting starts for her first movie in 8 years, Jeder stirbt für sich allein, of which Knef says, “It will probably be my last film”; in the coming months she lives in suite “Bellevue”, No. 1148/1150 of Kempinski Hotel whose owner, Rudolf Münster, is a friend of hers; she suffers heavily from morphine detoxification – the press gets wind of it, resulting in headlines such as “Knef a drug addict?”, “Evil rumours about her state of mind”.

October 24, 1975:

The German press reports in lurid detail that Knef threw out her husband from her hotel suite; they quarrelled about bad contract conditions for the international rights to Das Urteil which David Cameron had negotiated without consulting Knef; moreover, Cameron demanded to leave the suite with their common child; as a result, a bodyguard is posted in front of the door.


January 1976:

The book’s English edition, The Verdict, reaches Number 2 on the US bestsellers’ list.

January 21, 1976:

Grand première of Jeder stirbt für sich allein at Berlin ’s “Filmbühne Wien” cinema; the film fails with critics and audiences (Knef herself considered it one of her best movies); asked on opening night, Knef denies any intention of divorce.

February 6, 1976:

In an interview with “Bild”, Knef discloses that she has moved back to the “Mühle” – together with husband David; asked whether they have reconciled, she answers, “That doesn’t work just like that, after the kind of fights we’ve had, does it? In 16 [sic] years of marriage a potential for tension builds up which has to slowly dissipate first. – Question: No divorce then? – Knef: Let’s say, the matter’s put on ice.” (The divorce is executed 4 months later).

At the international film festival in Karlovy Vary , then Czechoslovakia , she is awarded the “Golden Reel” as best actress in Jeder stirbt für sich allein.

In San Francisco , The Verdict – again, translated by her husband David Anthony Palastanga – is awarded the Mark Twain Prize; the trophy later gets stolen.

June 4, 1976:

After 14 years of marriage the couple is divorced by a court in Wels , Austria .

June 1976:

While moving away from the mill beside Lake Traun, she makes the acquaintance of baron Paul von Schell zu Bauschlott, an American citizen and Hungarian exile; Schell – 15 years her junior – had worked as actor in minor parts, as dubbing actor, translator, and was once an assistant to film director Robert Aldrich; together with him and her consultant, American Robert Kingsley, Knef moves to a 300 square meter flat in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Clausewitzstraße 4 (3rd floor); in summer 1977, she and Paul relocate to a 14-room villa in Berlin-Grunewald, Bettinastraße; during those months, she is in constant fear that her former husband David might take Christina away from her.

Knef records a reading of The Rights of Children, for UNICEF.

August 1976:

The album Bei dir war es immer so schön is released – an LP with new versions of famous German standards.

November 1976:

Hildegard Knef meets reknowned clairvoyant Gabriele Hoffmann for the first time.

December 1976:

Schell proposes to Knef to become his wife.


January 1977:

Just 5 months after her last album, the LP Lausige Zeiten is released; the record sells poorly.

January 1977:

Guest at the international press ball in Berlin .

April 1977:

Fritz Molden, her book publisher, sells 200,000 hard cover copies of Der geschenkte Gaul to coffee shop chain “Eduscho” (a deal worth 1 million D-marks); the books are sold at a price of just DM 7,95.

June 1, 1977:

Marriage to Paul von Schell in Berlin-Charlottenburg; Carroll Righter is one of the witnesses; 8 days before, her ex-husband David also married (Austrian countess Dorothea “Pumpi” Lamberg).

June 1977:

The newly-weds Hildegard and Paul have to spend their honeymoon on the Greek island of Lefkas where Knef shoots Billy Wilder’s last film, Fedora; more shooting work follows at Bavaria studios in Munich, and in Paris; a special make-up injures her eye, requiring surgery.

Summer/Autumn 1977:

Works on her new book, Nichts als Neugier.

August 1977:

Receives the Bundesfilmpreis (Federal Film Prize) for life achievement.

Autumn 1977:

Guest of honour in the TV show Musik ist Trumpf.

October 20, 1977:

A public fight erupts between Knef and her former husband on the upcoming surgery on their daughter Christina; in an interview with “Das Neue Blatt”, Cameron – who rejects the operation’s necessity – criticises Knef harshly: “I deeply despise Hilde for what she’s doing to our child. This way, Tinta will eventually go to the dogs. (…) Only hell can be worse than an abandoned wife”; for her part, Hildegard Knef deplores Cameron’s statements in interviews.

October 1977:

In Bern , Switzerland , 9 year old Christina has to undergo very difficult surgery on her pelvis that takes 9 hours; in 1980, Knef said that those hours made her 10 years older “and that’s the reason why I did my face-lifting.”.

October 27, 1977:

Advance excerpts of Nichts als Neugier are printed in “Bunte” magazine, titled “Beyond Tomorrow”.

December 8, 1977:

Knef and Schell are interviewed by gossip magazine “Das Neue Blatt”; they report that Christina has to be protected by bodyguards day and night; her operation had cost them DM 50,000 altogether; the move to Bettinastraße took another DM 50,000; regarding their running costs, Knef says, “4,000 marks for rent each month, heating charges, expenses for employees, agents and taxes – there’s not much left on our bank account”; Schell adds, “We need money. That is the reason why we didn’t buy our house in Berlin , we’re only renting it. Financially, a buy was out of the question. (…) Tinta’s private teacher is not paid by us, but by the city of Berlin . Why doing without something that every citizen and taxpayer is entitled to?”

Hildegard Knef falls out with long-time secretary Ingrid Goll and fires her.


January 1978:

Her new album Heimweh-Blues is released, a commerical flop; in August, a book is published under that name featuring texts by Knef (and others) describing paintings by Hans Kossatz.

March 22, 1978:

At Berlin ’s Zoo-Palast, guest at the opening ceremony of the 28 International Film Festival (“Berlinale”).

May 1978:

Her book Nichts als Neugier is published by German publishing house Goldmann; in it, she interrogates several celebrities on the subject of parapsychology: Leni Riefenstahl, Lilli Palmer, Bruno Kreisky, Françoise Sagan, Niki Lauda, Henry Miller (among others).

May 29, 1978:

Knef is present at the première of Fedora at the Cannes film festival; that night, she discovers that her voice had been dubbed by another actress; the film receives bad reviews and is no commercial success either; in an interview in 1995, Knef said about the film, “it is so atrocious – I cannot find words for it.”

July 14, 1978:

Guest at federal president Walter Scheel’s state banquet for US president Jimmy Carter at Schloss Augustusburg, near Bonn .

August 29, 1978:

Her half-brother Heinz Wulfestieg dies in Berlin , aged 43; he was suffering from testicular cancer; shortly before, he survived an assassination attempt, but was badly injured.

October 7, 1978:

Celebrating the 75 birthday of actor colleague Hans Söhnker, she writes the article Unsere Zusammenarbeit war Lachen for TV magazine “Gong”.

October 1978:

Her second album of the year is released, Überall blühen Rosen, on which she sings French chansons in German translation; the LP is a flop.


March 19, 1979:

Knef is hospitalised for gall surgery at Berlin ’s Schlossparkklinik.

June 1979:

Christina’s godmother Vera Kálmán – widow of operetta composer Emmerich Kálmán – announces that after her death she will bestow Christina with a large share of her fortune.

In Berlin, shooting takes place for the documentary Hildegard Knef’s Berlin from the series “Cities” in which celebrities portray cities close to their heart (e.g. Peter Ustinov – Leningrad, Glenn Gould – Toronto, Melina Mercouri – Athens); it is a project by the Learning Corporation of America intended for US high schools; in 1981, an accompanying book is published.

August 1979:

Release of Eins & Eins, an LP produced in collaboration with Bert Kaempfert and his orchestra.

Autumn 1979:

Tumultous reception for Knef, the guest of honour at the “Berliner Tuntenball” (“pansys ball”); it is her first concert appearance in 10 years; she is accompanied for the first time by pianist and composer Kai Rautenberg; the concert is managed by her new friend and assistant Axel Andree (in later years, author of 2 books on her).

Autumn 1979:

In Berlin , shooting takes place for Warum die Ufos unseren Salat klauen (later re-named Checkpoint-Charly); after its release in April 1980, the film disappears from the screens after just 3 days.

December 11, 1979:

In a 5-hour operation in Lausanne , Switzerland , Hildegard Knef undergoes plastic surgery on her face (after her skin was damaged on the set of Fedora); in an interview with “Bunte” magazine in July 1980, Knef explains, “I owe it to my public that I look presentable when getting on stage.”

December 28, 1979:

Guest appearance on the successful TV detective series Der Alte.