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A Bridge Too Far star Hardy Krüger is dead at 93: Actor passes away in Calfornia


Actor Hardy Krüger has died at the age of 93.

The actor, known for his roles in A Bridge Too Far, The Flight of the Phoenix, and The Wild Geese, who was nearly executed by the SS when he refused to ambush a group of US soldiers during World War II, died at his home in California on Wednesday.

In a statement released by Kruger’s agency, paying tribute, Krüger’s family lauded his ‘warmth of heart’ and ‘unshakable sense of justice,’ after he became  one of few German actors to become known for his roles globally.

Tragic news: Actor Hardy Krüger has died at the age of 93 (pictured in 2015)

Tragic news: Actor Hardy Krüger has died at the age of 93 (pictured in 2015)

Krüger’s Hamburg-based literary agent, Peter Kaefferlein, said that he died ‘suddenly and unexpectedly’ in California, where he lived with his third wife writer Anita Park. 

The statement said: ‘”The fight against racism and the education of young people was his personal mission in life, his warmth, his joy for life and his unshakable sense of justice made him unforgettable’

Krüger had a leading role in 75 films over a career that spanned 40 years, and famously appeared in the epic war film A Bridge too Far, which boasted a star-studded cast including James Caan, Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

He took on the role of Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Karl Ludwig in the film which focused on the failed World War II Operation Market Garden, which saw the European allies attempt to create an invasion route into northern Germany.

Sad: The actor, known for his roles in A Bridge Too Far (pictured), The Flight of the Phoenix, and Wild Geese, died at his home in California on Thursday

Sad: The actor, known for his roles in A Bridge Too Far (pictured), The Flight of the Phoenix, and Wild Geese, died at his home in California on Thursday 

Iconic: In a statement released by Krüger's agency paying tribute, Kruger's family lauded his 'warmth of heart' and 'unshakable sense of justice' (pictured in 1971 Soviet film The Red Tent)

Iconic: In a statement released by Krüger’s agency paying tribute, Kruger’s family lauded his ‘warmth of heart’ and ‘unshakable sense of justice’ (pictured in 1971 Soviet film The Red Tent)

Hardy Krüger: The German soldier who escaped Nazi influence to become a Hollywood star 

Born in Berlin under the growing influence of Adolf Hitler’s regime, Hardy Krüger began his life hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, and join the Nazi Party. 

He made his acting debut in the German film The Young Eagles, before his experience working on a propaganda film helped him to realise the brutal impact of Hitler’s dictatorship.

Krüger’s budding acting career was paused when he was drafted to fight in the German Army during World War II, and he abandoned his post after being nearly executed by the SS when he refused to ambush a group of US soldiers.

Krüger deserted his post, and was later captured by the Allies and spent time as a prison-of-war, before escaping and hiding in Italy until the war’s end.

He eventually gained the attention of worldwide audiences with a role in the British film The One That Got Away in 1957, and became synonymous for his appearances in various war films.

Krüger later starred in the French picture Sundays and Cybèle, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1962. 

His defining role came in the 1977 war epic A Bridge Too Far, where he starred alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as James Caan, Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

He took on the role of Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Karl Ludwig in the film, which focused on the failed World War II Operation Market Garden.

In 1975 Krüger also starred as Captain Potzdorf in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon opposite Ryan O’Neal, and The Wild Geese With Richard Burton in 1978.

Hardy eventually retired from acting in the late 1980s, and went onto publish 16 books, and direct several documentaries about his travels round the world

He is survived by his wife Anita Park, and his three children, including Hardy Krüger Jr, and Christiane Krüger, who have become actors in their own right. 

Blast from the past: Having been raised under Adolf Hitler's rule, for years Hardy wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and join the Nazi party

Blast from the past: Having been raised under Adolf Hitler’s rule, for years Hardy wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Nazi party

Born in Berlin in 1928, Krüger’s father, an engineer, was a supporter of Adolf Hitler and an early member of the Nazi Party.

Having been raised under Hitler’s rule, for years Hardy wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but while attending an elite Nazi boarding school he appeared in the 1944 film Junge Adler, which was intended to be a propaganda piece.

Krüger later detailed how his experience with older actors on the set helped him realise the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship.

He made his acting debut in the German film The Young Eagles, but his career was interrupted when he was drafted by the German Wehrmacht – one of the Nazi armed forces – in 1944 when he was 16. 

Star: Hardy (left) made his acting debut in German film The Young Eagles, before being drafted into the army age 16 to fight in World War II

Star: Hardy (left) made his acting debut in German film The Young Eagles, before being drafted into the army age 16 to fight in World War II

Scary: After refusing to ambush US soldiers, Krüger was sentenced to death, but after escaping execution became a POW, before escaping to Italy (above in The Wild Geese)

Scary: After refusing to ambush US soldiers, Krüger was sentenced to death, but after escaping execution became a POW, before escaping to Italy (above in The Wild Geese) 

Praised: Hardy became known to worldwide audiences when he starred in The One That Got Away (pictured) in 1957

Praised: Hardy became known to worldwide audiences when he starred in The One That Got Away (pictured) in 1957

He went onto fight for the 38th SS Division Nibelungen, but when he was ordered to ambush a group of US soldiers, he refused, and was nearly executed after being sentenced to death for cowardice, before another SS officer overturned the ruling.

In an interview for German daily publication Bild in 2006, Hardy recounted how he and his school friends were sent to the front ‘as cannon fodder’ in Hitler’s futile attempt to halt the Allies’ advance.

‘I knew the war was lost,’ he said. ‘I knew that there were concentration camps and that the Nazis were a bunch of criminals.’

Krüger deserted his post, and was later captured by the Allies and spent time as a prison-of-war, before escaping and hiding in Italy until the war’s end. 

He went onto speak out in favour of democracy and against extremism, at an array of events throughout his career.  

When asked if he was afraid of death in 2018, ahead of his 90th birthday – Krüger told German press agency DPA: ‘I grew up with death, I got used to it.’ 

Praised: He also starred in 1965's The Flight Of The Phoenix, alongside stars including John Wayne and Richard Attenborough

Praised: He also starred in 1965’s The Flight Of The Phoenix, alongside stars including John Wayne and Richard Attenborough

Target practice: Krüger starred in an array of war films, including The Wild Geese in 1978 opposite Richard Burton

Epic: In 1975 he also starred as Captain Potzdorf in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon opposite Ryan O'Neal

Epic: In 1975 he also starred as Captain Potzdorf in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon opposite Ryan O’Neal

After the war, Krüger struggled to pay for acting school, and so resumed his career with small stage roles, before gaining the attention of worldwide audiences with a role in the British film The One That Got Away in 1957. 

The film sees Krüger play a German Luftwaffe pilot shot down over Britain in 1940, and documents his attempts to escape captivity, and the actor perfectly fit the criteria of the blond German solder.

Speaking to German magazine Der Spiegel in 2003, he said: ‘I had no interest in playing the war criminal’ and said he wanted to portray one of the many Germans who were unwilling participants in the war.

Fluent in German, English and French, Hardy later starred in the French picture Sundays and Cybèle, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1962. 

In 1975 he also starred as Captain Potzdorf in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon opposite Ryan O’Neal, and The Wild Geese With Richard Burton in 1978.

Famous pals: Throughout his career Krüger appeared alongside some of Hollywood's biggest stars (pictured second right at Roger Moore's 50th birthday party in 1977)

Famous pals: Throughout his career Krüger appeared alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars (pictured second right at Roger Moore’s 50th birthday party in 1977)

Upset: Following the news of Krüger's death, several users took to social media to pay tribute

Upset: Following the news of Krüger’s death, several users took to social media to pay tribute

Hardy eventually retired from acting in the late 1980s, and went onto publish 16 books, and directed several documentaries about his travels round the world, and even owned a farm in Tanzania at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Speaking to German regional newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine, he said: ‘I was already on the road a lot when I was a child. Always new places, new school, new friends. this was my life I was in the USA early on, did an apprenticeship there. 

‘Back in Germany, I started my acting career and experienced quite a bit of hype with the series Against the Wind. 

‘As a result, I was booked for international films and was on the road. Also as a Unicef ​​ambassador I got around a lot in the world, in Laos, Thailand and god knows where else.’

Former flames: Krüger was married three times; Renate Densow from 1950 to 1964, Francesca Marazzi from 1964 to 1977, and most recently Anita Park, who he wed in 1978 (pictured in 2015)

Former flames: Krüger was married three times; Renate Densow from 1950 to 1964, Francesca Marazzi from 1964 to 1977, and most recently Anita Park, who he wed in 1978 (pictured in 2015)

Family: He is pictured with his son Hardy Krüger Jnr who he shared with his second wife Francesca Marazzi, in 1971

Family: He is pictured with his son Hardy Krüger Jnr who he shared with his second wife Francesca Marazzi, in 1971

Illustrious: Krüger is pictured at the 60th Bambi Awards in 2008, where he was awarded a Lifetime Acheivement prize for his decades-long career

Illustrious: Krüger is pictured at the 60th Bambi Awards in 2008, where he was awarded a Lifetime Acheivement prize for his decades-long career

Krüger was married three times; firstly to Renate Densow from 1950 to 1964, after they had daughter Christiane Krüger in 1945.

His second wife was Italian painter Francesca Marazzi from 1964 to 1977, and they had two children, Malaika in 1967, and Hardy Krüger Jnr in 1968.

Most recently Krüger was married to Anita Park, who he wed in 1978.

His son Hardy Jnr, 53, has become a well-known actor in his own right, starring in various European TV films and dramas, and his daughter Christiane, 76, has landed roles in German TV shows.

One of Hardy’s German followers took to Twitter to pay tribute, writing: ‘Ad Astra Hardy Krüger. Thank you for the countless adventures and trips.’

BBC’s Patrick Jackson added: ‘Thanks also for giving us the scariest officer ever in Barry Lyndon.’ 

Outspoken: Having refused to ambush US soldiers while fighting for the Germany army in World War II, Krüger became a public advocate for democracy (pictured in 2013)

Outspoken: Having refused to ambush US soldiers while fighting for the Germany army in World War II, Krüger became a public advocate for democracy (pictured in 2013)



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