Karena Niehoff

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Karena Niehoff (born December 21, 1920 in Berlin ; † September 18, 1992 there ) was a German columnist and critic .

Live and act

Her mother was the actress and singer Rose Niehoff, geb. Brocziner, her father presumably the industrialist Ernst Erich Kunheim. Karena Niehoff attended the Cecilien-Lyceum in Berlin-Wilmersdorf from 1930 until she was relegated from the senior class in 1938. She was refused admission to another school because of her Jewish origins. From 1940 to 1941 she worked as an assistant to the screenwriter Ludwig Metzger; he had written a first version of the script for the film Jud Suess , which was then significantly modified by Veit Harlan (already shot when she started work, but not yet performed). From 1942 to 1944 she worked for the Japanese social scientist and economist Shigeki Sakimura and through him came into contact with anti-Nazi Japanese circles in Berlin.

After Karena Niehoff had manipulated a bread stamp in order to support her starving Jewish family, who had significantly reduced food ration cards, and the attempt to redeem it failed, she was sentenced to six months in prison in February 1943 for “serious forgery of documents and offenses against the War Economy Act”. During her detention in Berlin-Moabit, she and two other inmates wrote little pamphlets against the Nazis, which were sent to unknown recipients with medicines that were packed by the prisoners. After her release, she was persecuted by the Gestapo department under urgent suspicion of "inflammatory writings", which, however, could not prove anything on the basis of the written samples. In 1944 Karena Niehoff was first interned for two months in the Jewish hospital in Berlin-Wedding, then imprisoned for three months in the Fehrbellin “labor education camp”. From the end of August 1944 until the liberation in May 1945, Karena Niehoff lived illegally in Berlin with changing accommodations.

Her first journalistic publication appeared in the Berlin daily Der Kurier in November 1945 . Until September 1948, the focus of her journalistic work was on reviews, reports and reports. For the courier and the youth magazine “Horizont” she reported regularly on the Nuremberg war crimes trial. From September 1948 to the beginning of 1950 she wrote feature articles with a focus on film reviews for Die Welt . In April 1949 she appeared as a witness in the Hamburg jury trial against Veit Harlan. In spring 1950 Karena Niehoff was officially imprisoned for six weeks by the GDR authorities after a journalistic trip to the German-Polish border, officially on suspicion of espionage. She also appeared in the appeal proceedings against Veit Harlan.

From April 1952 until the end of her life, Karena Niehoff worked as a freelance writer for the Berlin daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel . She also worked a. a. also for the Münchner Abendzeitung (until the end of 1958), for the Basler Nationalzeitung (1955–1963), for the weekly newspaper Christ und Welt (1955–1965), for the Stuttgarter Nachrichten (1958–1964), for the magazine Theater heute and for the Berlin program magazine tip (1982–1991). From February 1961, she also reported regularly as a Berlin cultural correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung . Karena Niehoff was u. a. as representative of the state of Berlin, assessor at the Filmbewertungsstelle (FBW) Wiesbaden , founding member of the "Friends of the Deutsche Kinemathek eV", member of the international jury of the Berlin International Film Festival (1965), founding member of the New Society for Fine Arts (NGBK) and became ins PEN Center of the Federal Republic elected. From the Harlan trials up to the 1980s, Karena Niehoff repeatedly received anonymous anti-Semitic threatening letters. Your estate archive is located in the Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin. A smaller, incomplete collection of duplicates of your feature pages and reviews is in the Theater Studies Collection of the University of Cologne.

Karena Niehoff has a daughter from her relationship with Egon Bahr (1922–2015).

Appreciation and evaluation

“She was a cult figure of the West Berlin post-war period. Controversial, mocking, liberal and cosmopolitan, she wrote about films and plays [...] She portrayed famous contemporaries and traveling artists in a way that television was unable to do: with wit and a sense of the revealing moment. She dedicated her biographical miniatures to Marlene Dietrich , Billy Wilder , Klaus Kinski and many others. [...] “She herself was portrayed by Alexander Kluge . Karena Niehoff published "in her unmistakable style with a weird power of observation and arabesque side ideas". [...] "She wrote against hypocrisy and authoritarian behavior, was a challenge for both the yesterday and the Cold Warriors on both sides of the Berlin Wall ." (Claudia Lenssen) "Karena Niehoff was a brilliant critic. [...] She described sensitively, carefully and analytically she tried to decipher conceptions; She made her comment on it with flying colors, irony and chutzpah . ”(C. Bernd Sucher).


  • Dr. Goebbels based on notes from his surroundings. Edited by Boris von Borresholm with the assistance of Karena Niehoff. Journal Verlag, Berlin 1949.
  • Berlin. Photos: Fritz Eschen , texts: Karena Niehoff, graphics: Hans-Joachim Schlameus. Edited by the Senator for Building and Housing in cooperation with the Press and Information Office of the State of Berlin. 1957.
  • Karena Niehoff: Is it true - is it not true? Portraits - Reviews - Essais 1946–1962. Horst Erdmann Verlag, Herrenalb / Black Forest 1962.
  • Heinz Ohff : The brave tongue. On the death of Karena Niehoff. In: Der Tagesspiegel. 19th September 1992.
  • WW [Wiegand, Wilfried]: Karena Niehoff. On the death of the Berlin critic. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. September 21, 1992.
  • C. Bernd Sucher : Where are you thinking ?! On the death of Karena Niehoff. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. September 21, 1992. (also under the title Salto vitale with hat. In: Theater heute. No. 11, November 1992, p. 59).
  • Rai: Impossible brilliantly. On the death of Karena Niehoff. In: Stuttgarter Zeitung. September 22, 1992.
  • Karena Niehoff. Columnist and critic. (= Film & writing. Volume 4). With essays and reviews by Karena Niehoff and an essay by Jörg Becker. edition text + kritik, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-88377-839-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Karena Niehoff. Columnist and critic. (= Film & writing. Volume 4). With essays and reviews by Karena Niehoff and an essay by Jörg Becker. edition text + kritik, Munich 2006, p. 31.
  2. Claudia Lenssen, Deutschlandradio Kultur, July 16, 2007.
  3. Salto vitale with hat. In: Theater Today. No. 11, November 1992, p. 59.