Anti-nazi Actor Honored; Chose Death Rather Than Abandon Jewish Wife

In the lobby of the municipal theater here, a bronze sculpture has been dedicated of Joachim Gottschalk, the German actor who committed suicide in 1941 rather than obey Nazi instructions to divorce his Jewish wife.

Created by sculptor Knud Knudsen, the bust of Gottschalk commemorates a star of stage and screen whose life was portrayed in one of the first films produced in East Germany after the war, “Marriage in the Shadows.” As a young and unknown actor, Gottschalk had taken Meta Wolff for his wife in 1931.

To avoid encounters with the Nazi hierarchy, the Gottschalks kept away from social affairs but one day after a triumphant Berlin premiere of a film starring Gottschalk, they attended a party at an artists’ club. Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels dropped in and, captivated by Meta Gottschalk, kissed her hand. Upon learning that she was Jewish, he stamped out in a rage and vowed vengeance.

A few days later, Gottschalk was called to the Propaganda Ministry and curtly informed that he would have to obtain a divorce. When he refused, he was told that otherwise his wife and their child would be transported to a concentration camp forthwith. A few days later, the whole family took poison and turned on the gas. Joachim Gottschalk was then 37 years old.

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