The actor died in Hamburg on April 9 at the age of 90, as announced by the publishing house Rowohlt. Today, in many columns of soap operas, one can read words of admiration and greeting about him and his work: the FAZ calls him an actor of melancholy elegance and the mirror a reconciler and a gentleman in the country. executioners.
Theater saved Degen
At the time, Michael Degen only narrowly escaped the terror of the National Socialists in Berlin. Even as a young man, therefore, he could not shake hands with an older man. The fear of facing a follower or an executioner was too great. The theater saved him in a way, writes the FAZ in its obituary, because on stage he could be someone other than himself.
Not All Were Murderers – What Michael Degen Told a Jewish Boy About His Childhood
Brecht brought Degen to the Berliner Ensemble in 1954
It was Bertolt Brecht who brought him to the Berliner Ensemble in 1954. Engagements in Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna followed. He always created his characters in an ambiguous way. An actor with melancholy elegance, as FAZ nicknames him. And a person with attitude. Michael Degen appropriated his characters in a sensitive, precise and flexible way, to which he always gave an oppressive agitation, so that his acting never quite made us forget the moment of tipping into darkness.
Between the bold and the difficult, Mackie Messer and Don Juan, his spectrum was immense, says WELT. And above all his plastic figures, even the most positive ones, had a discreet melancholic line around the slightly curled lip in a mocking way. From then on, the newspaper was convinced that more was known about the people than it wanted to reveal on stage.
Heaviest role in “Ghetto” directed by Peter Zadek
He interpreted his most difficult role in 1984 at the Freie Volksbühne in Berlin in the play “Ghetto” reminiscent of the Berlin Tagesspiegel. In Peter Zadek’s production, Michael Degen was the Jewish liaison man who negotiated with the Nazi guards at the camp. He then received death threats and strangers ransacked his home. The Daily Mirror knows that brown barbarity has never let go of Michael Degen.
Also “Derrick”, “Klinik unter Palmen” and “Rosamunde Pilcher” are not shy
Unlike many theater actors of his stature, he never shunned the lowlands of television entertainment, the Süddeutsche Zeitung recalls: Whether it’s “Derrick”, “Klinik unter Palmen” or “Rosamunde Pilcher ” – Degen has ennobled these formats like a beautiful drop of water. almost a food menu and that didn’t hurt its reputation either. He himself called much of it “trash” and spoke of his role as the breadwinner of four children from two marriages. The money has to come from somewhere, he says.
It wasn’t until his mid-60s that Degen opened up about his childhood in Nazi Germany.
It wasn’t until his mid-sixties, as SPIEGEL says in his obituary, that Michael Degen began to speak and write publicly about his life. He did it in a concrete and touching way. “Not All Were Murderers” is the name Degen gave to his book, published in 1999 and later turned into a film, about a childhood in Nazi Germany which he, the Jewish boy, had survived with his mother in various hiding places in Berlin. .
The magazine calls him a reconciler and a gentleman in the land of executioners. The affection the author and playwright received from a large German audience was significant and gratifying. Der Spiegel quotes a Stern reporter as saying, “Michael Degen is someone who makes women want to cook him chicken soup and knit him wrist warmers”
With Michael Degen, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung is certain that not only a contemporary witness has died, but also a great artist.