Actress, Singer. Born in the South German city of Ulm she began studying acting in 1940. She appeared in several films even before the fall of the Third Reich, but most were not released until after the war. She dressed like a young man, to avoid being raped by the Soviet soldiers, and was sent to a POW camp. She escaped and returned to her first stage parts in Berlin. Mörder Sind Unter Uns, Die (1946) (The Murderers Are Among Us), which was the first German movie after WW II , made her a star. David Selznick invited her to Hollywood, but she refused to agree to the conditions of the contract which included changing her name to "Gilda Christian" and that she should pretend to be Austrian instead of German. She provoked a great scandal when she appeared naked on the screen in the movie Sünderin (1951). When the Roman Catholic Church protested vehemently she responded "I can't understand all that tumult - five years after Auschwitz!” Her first husband, an American, Kurt Hirsch, encouraged a second effort at Hollywood and she changed her name from Knef to Neff (to help the American pronunciation). She achieved a certain stardom on Broadway as Ninotchka in the play "Silk Stockings." She began a new career in 1963 as a singer and surprised her audiences with the deep, smoky quality of her voice and the many lyrics which she wrote herself. She had one daughter by her second husband David Cameron and after two divorces her third marriage to Paul von Schell was to last the remainder of her life. Fans around the world rallied in her support as she defeated cancer several times. She returned to Berlin after the reunification.
Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm
Frieda Auguste Gröhn