Rolf Wenkhaus

Rolf Wenkhaus (9 September 1917 – 31 January 1942)[1] was a German child actor who is best remembered for his role of Emil Tischbein in the 1931 film Emil and the Detectives.

Rolf Wenkhaus
Born(1917-09-09)9 September 1917
Died31 January 1942(1942-01-31) (aged 24)
Cause of deathKilled in action
Years active1930–1933

Early lifeEdit

Born in Berlin, Germany, Rolf Wenkhaus was the son of actor Kurt Wenkhaus (1891–1965).[1]

Film careerEdit

Wenkhaus made his film debut at age 14 in 1931 as a child actor in the starring role of Emil in the Gerhard Lamprecht-directed adventure film Emil and the Detectives (German: Emil und die Detektive) for Universum Film AG. The film was based on Erich Kästner's 1929 novel of the same name, and proved to be commercially successful.[2] He won the casting against thousands of other boys.

Emil was followed by the film comedy Spoiling the Game (1932) with Heinz Rühmann, but Wenkhaus' role in this film was only of minor nature. In 1933 he appeared in one of the Third Reich's first propaganda films S.A.-Mann Brand[3] as Erich Lohner, a juvenile member of the Hitler Youth who selflessly sacrifices himself at film's end to save a comrade.[4] Like many Nazi propaganda films of the period, S.A.-Mann Brand was banned from viewing for many years following World War II. S.A.-Mann Brand was his last film.


After the outbreak of World War II, Wenkhaus enlisted in the military. At the time of his death, aged 24, he was in the aircrew of a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, a four-engine bomber that specialized in attacks on shipping. Wenkhaus's plane, with identification code F8 MH 0093, was shot down on 31 January 1942, off the coast of Bloody Foreland in County Donegal, Ireland by HMS Genista, a British Flower-class corvette being utilized as a convoy escort vessel. The entire aircrew of six was killed. The body of the pilot, Werner Bornefeld, washed up at Bunbeg two weeks later, and was eventually reburied at a German War Cemetery at Glencree, Ireland.[5]

Wenkhaus would be one of three young actors from Emil and the Detectives to be killed while serving in the military in World War II. Co-stars Hans Joachim Schaufuß would be killed in action at age 22 in October 1941 in Oryol and Hans Albrecht Löhr would be killed in action at age 21 in August 1942 on the Eastern Front.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1931 Emil and the Detectives' Emil Tischbein
1932 Spoiling the Game
1933 S.A.-Mann Brand Erich Lohner (final film role)


  1. ^ a b Movie Kids
  2. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (2011). "Movies: About Emil und die Detektive". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  3. ^ The New York Times Movies: S.A.-Mann Brand
  4. ^ "Movies: About S. A..-Mann Brand". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2011. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2008.
  5. ^ a b Emil, Lottchen und der kleine Mann. Erich Kästners Kinderwelt. Bearbeitet von Ute Harbusch. Marbacher Magazin 86/1999, ISBN 3-933679-18-4.


  • John Holmstrom, The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, p. 80.

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