The young child actor Klaus Detlef Sierck was born on 30 March 1925 to Detlef and Lydia Sierck (née Brinken) in Berlin. When Klaus was four years old, the Siercks divorced. Detlef Sierck then married a second time, to actress Hilde Jary, who was Jewish. After the Nazis came to power, Sierck was under some pressure to divorce his non-Aryan wife, which he did not do, but she was given a passport to exit Germany in 1936. In 1937, Sierck was given a passport for two months to film the Zarah Leander film La Habanera on the Spanish Canary Islands, had the passport extended for a further six months for a scouting trip to Rome for his next Ufa production, and there met up with his wife in Italy, where on a pretext of his falling seriously ill, he entered hospital in Rome. There he fooled Gestapo agents as to his medical condition, and with his wife was able to sneak away for Holland and then to the USA. There Sierck became Hollywood director Douglas Sirk. He died in Switzerland in 1987.
Young Klaus, almost eight years old when Hitler came to power, was brought up by his mother Lydia, who was a member of the NSDAP, and she encouraged Klaus to join the Hitler Youth and to start a film career as a child actor.
Lydia and Klaus Sierck lived in an old artist’s colony apartment complex from the Weimar era, at Steinrückweg 1, Berlin, which still stands today. Lydia taught acting lessons to earn a living, advertising for instance in the Reichsfilmkammer’s publication Der Deutsche Film during the war years. Lydia Sierck died on August 25, 1947, reputedly a suicide. Another source, Tom Ryan's THE FILMS OF DOUGLAS SIRK, says that she died ' in 1945' from cancer. We tend to believe the 1947 death, as it is specific. Why would anyone make up a specific death day for an otherwise forgotten woman?
In 1935, young Claus appeared in his first film, called Die Saat geht auf. He played the son of a farmer. Lydia Sierck played a small role in the film as a waitress. This was the only time both mother and son appeared in the same film.
Die Saat geht auf (The seed opens) was a short film made by Euphone Film GmbH in Berlin for the Reichspropagandaleitung der NSDAP and the federal offices of the Reichsbaurenführer, Walter Darré. The film was 1,333 meters long, according to the censorship card for it in our Collection. This is just shy of 15 minutes of 35mm film projected at 24 fps.
In 1937 Klaus starred in Streit um Knaben Jo and made feature films under Veit Harlan (Verwehnte Spuren, Das unsterbliche Herz, Der Große König), as well as two features made for Hitler Youth audiences, Karl Ritter’sKadetten and de Kowa’s Kopf Hoch, Johannes! Other films included Die Saat geht auf, Serenade, Aus erster Ehe. Das Recht auf Liebe, Preußische Liebesgeschichte, andSchatten über St. Pauli. He was one of six Hitler Youth boys who starred in Georg Zoch and Bengt Berg's 1938 adventure semi–documentary film, Sehnsucht nach Afrika.
According to Harlan’s autobiography, Goebbels took a strong dislike to Klaus and cut some of his scenes from Der Große König and ‘pursued him, completely unjustified, for homosexuality, brought him so before the Gestapo, forbade him to film and sent the unusually delicate and sensitive boy to the military.’ (Noack, Frank; VEIT HARLAN, p.555, belleville, 2000). Klaus Detlef Sierck was a conscript in the Großdeutschland Division, and fell in battle, aged just 19, on 22 May 1944 at Novo Alexandrovka, Russia. Burial: Soldatenfriedhof Iwaniwka Lutsk, Volyns'ka, Ukraine. (Undoubtedly, Goebbels also was infuriated that Klaus' father not only managed to flee Nazi Germany via Italy with his Jewish wife, but that he in 1942 produced the Hollywood film Hitler's Madmen.)
The German film industry's newspaper of record, the Film–Kurier Tageszeitung in Berlin reported his death in their 6 June 1944 issue (in our Zeitschriften Collection):
Not knowing his boy’s fate, his father returned to Germany after the war and searched for his son. Once he learned years later that Klaus had died in Russia, as he later indicated to interviewer John Halliday, he had hoped his son had had a chance to find some love before he died. Sirk’s melancholy and shattering 1957 Cinemascope film A Time to Love and a Time to Die was, Sirk said, ‘one possible’ story of what perhaps had happened to young Klaus.
Photographs of Klaus Detlef Sierck
BELOW are some photographs from the Collection:
1. Official Ufa studio portrait 2. Lyia Sierck's ad in Der Deutsche Film, 1941
3. Steinrückweg "Künstler Kolonie" land, Berlin
4. Roßkarte with signature 5. Klaus as Kadet Hohenhausen in Karl Ritter's Kadetten(filmed 1939)
6. With Maria Langrock, Aus erster Ehe (1940)
7. Klaus in Kunstler Almanach für Bühne und Film, Ton Film-Führer, 1941, Berlin
8. Klaus in Kopf Hoch, Johannes! (1941)
9. Klaus as Kadet Hohenhausen as depicted on the film poster for Kadetten (released 1941).
10. Klaus as Sefan von Salurn in Das Recht auf Liebe ( 1939), when he was fourteen years old, and five years before he died fighting in Soviet Russia.
11. Klaus in his HJ uniform, with armband (his armband cropped out in the "Programm von Heute" cards of the same photograph), from the Tobis Filmkunst pressbook of Kopf hoch, Johannes! found in our Collection.