Günther Kaufmann

Günther Kaufmann (16 June 1947 – 10 May 2012) was a German film actor best known for his association with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Fassbinder directed Kaufmann in a total of 14 films, casting him in leading and minor roles. Kaufmann was also romantically involved with the director for a time.[1]

Günther Kaufmann
Kaufmann on 29 January 2009
Born(1947-06-16)16 June 1947
Munich, Germany
Died10 May 2012(2012-05-10) (aged 64)
Berlin, Germany
Resting placeNordfriedhof
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1970–2012
Alexandra Von Herrendorf
(m. 1986; died 2002)

Patrizia Kaufmann
(m. 2005; div. 2010)

In 2002, Kaufmann was accused of murder in relation to the 2001 death of Hartmut Hagen, a 60-year-old accountant whom Kaufmann's wife had defrauded.[2][3] The death was ruled accidental, but Kaufmann was sentenced to prison for lesser crimes relating to the incident. In 2005, a new police investigation discovered that Kaufmann was innocent, and had confessed to the crimes to cover up for his late wife, who may have been the perpetrator. He was subsequently released from prison and resumed his acting career.[4]

Early lifeEdit

Günther Kaufmann was born on 16 June 1947 in Munich's Hasenbergl neighborhood. His mother was German and his father was an African-American soldier stationed in Germany after World War II.


Not an actor by training, Kaufmann was discovered by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. His first role was in 1970, a bit part in a made-for-television production of Bertolt Brecht's play Baal, directed by Volker Schlöndorff. Fassbinder played the title role. The same year, Fassbinder cast Kaufmann in his film Gods of the Plague as a character named Günther.

Relationship with FassbinderEdit

Though Kaufmann was married when he met Fassbinder, the two men began a romantic relationship. Kaufmann is often described as Fassbinder's first major love interest. Like many of Fassbinder's relationships, it was troubled, and the director would often try to buy Kaufmann's affection with expensive presents, particularly cars. During their relationship, Fassbinder married Ingrid Caven, an actress who, like Kaufmann, regularly appeared in the director's films and was a member of his tightly knit circle of friends.

By 1971, Fassbinder and Kaufmann had split up, and the director began an even more troubled relationship with a Moroccan immigrant, El Hedi ben Salem. Kaufmann continued to appear in Fassbinder's films, sometimes also contributing songs to the soundtracks. He appeared in Fassbinder's last movie, Querelle (1982).

Later careerEdit

After Fassbinder died of a drug overdose in 1982, Kaufmann played bit roles in films. In 1986, he married for a third time to Alexandra von Herrendorf, to whom he remained married until her death from cancer in 2002.

In the 1990s, he began to act more frequently, appearing in recurring roles on many television shows. But around 2000, acting jobs began to dry up. His wife's cancer was getting worse, and it was to pay for her treatment that the Kaufmanns defrauded their accountant, Hartmut Hagen, of almost $500,000.

Kaufmann in 2008

Death of Hartmut Hagen, conviction and exonerationEdit

In 2001, Hagen was found dead, apparently suffocated. Kaufmann and von Herrendorf had defrauded Hagen of $500,000,[2] and Kaufmann was accused of murder. In 2002, the death was ruled accidental after Kaufmann, who weighed close to 260 pounds (118 kg) at the time of the incident, confessed that he had fallen on Hagen during a fight.[4] He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for blackmail and robbery in relation to the incident.[2] In 2005, a police investigation revealed that Kaufmann had not committed the crimes, but had confessed in order to protect his dying wife.[4] The investigation also revealed that Hagen was killed by three men likely hired by von Herrendorf, without his knowledge, who had broken into Hagen’s home to retrieve incriminating evidence against von Herrendorf.[5][6]

Kaufmann was released from prison in 2005. He then resumed his acting career, which had been waning around the time of Hagen's death, appearing in supporting roles in films and on television.

Personal lifeEdit

Kaufmann was married four times and had two children, Eva and Davy.[6][7] His son Davy (born 1969) is a rock and soul singer and reached the final of the 2009 version of Germany's Got Talent.[8]


Kaufmann died on 10 May 2012 at age 64, having suffered a heart attack while out for a walk in Berlin's Grunewald area. A passer-by and paramedics tried to resuscitate him on site for two hours.[9][10][11]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Zölzer, Franziska (September 2008). "Biographie Rainer Werner Fassbinder". www.film-zeit.de (in German). Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "German 'crush killer' jailed". BBC News. 28 November 2002. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Tod eines Steuerberaters – Muss Günther Kaufmann erneut vor Gericht?". Berliner Morgenpost. 10 July 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "Actor in German detective series caught in murder whodunnit". accessmylibrary.com. 28 August 2003. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  5. ^ Koehl, Christine (16 January 2005). "Plot thickens in Teuton case". Variety. variety.com. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b Childs, David (22 May 2012). "Gunther Kaufmann: Actor who was a favourite of Fassbinder". The Independent. independent.co.uk. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  7. ^ Bergen, Ronald (15 May 2012). "Günther Kaufmann obituary". The Guardian. theguardian.com. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Das Supertalent 2009: Davy Kaufmann im Finale". topnews.de (in German). 2 December 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  9. ^ "Herzinfarkt auf der Straße: Schauspieler Günther Kaufmann ist tot" [Heart attack in the street: actor Günther Kaufmann is dead]. Focus (in German). 11 May 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Günter [sic] Kaufmann stirbt nach Herz-Attacke auf der Straße" [Günter [sic] Kaufmann dies on the street after heart attack]. Hamburger Abendblatt (in German). 11 May 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  11. ^ Schultejans, Britta (11 May 2012). "Ein Leben wie ein Film". heute.de (in German). Archived from the original on 12 July 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2012.

External linksEdit