Hardy Krüger was born in Wedding, Berlin, Germany in 1928. Known for his acting, having appeared in films with Richard Attenborough, Richard Burton, Ryan O’neal and John Wayne, he got his start in life in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Starting in 1941, he attended an Adolf Hitler School at the Ordensburg Sonthofen. When he was 13, he joined the “Hitler Jugend” (Hitler Youth) as required by all 13-year-old German boys of the time. The Hitler Youth was an organization devoted to preparing young men for military service.
At the age of 15, Hardy made his film debut in a German film called “Young Eagles” which was released in 1944. At 16, he was drafted into the army and assigned to an infantry unit. In 1945, he was conscripted by the 38th SS Division Nibelungen. He was part of heavy fighting before being captured by the Americans.
After the war, Hardy returned to acting. Eight years later, J. Arthur Rank discovered him and cast him in three British films: “The One That Got Away” (1957), “Bachelor of Hearts” (1958), and “Blind Date” (1959). Typically, he was cast as a German due to his prototypical Nordic looks with blond hair and blue eyes.
In spite of heavy anti-German sentiment in the West, Hardy’s rugged good looks made him an international favorite and led to a role co-starring with John Wayne in “Hatari!” (1962). Hardy was so taken with the beauty of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) where the film was shot that he purchased a home for himself there and a small hotel where tourists could come to see the animals. Hunting was prohibited on his property. He eventually added a cattle farm and sold the meat to local hotels.
He referred to his home as an “African Walden” where he could get away from the world.
In 1979, the business parts of his property were closed due to political unrest in the region. Tanzania closed its borders which killed off the tourism industry.
Hardy is fluent in German, English and French and found himself in demand by producers in America, Britain, France and Germany. He became much more selective in choosing parts to play. He said, “I would rather sit out a picture than take a role I don’t think is right for me.”