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  You are in: Home > Literary Criticism > Werner Krauss  

Werner Krauss
German Film and Theatre Actor, Nazi Propaganda Collaborator
A Fictional Re-imagining of his Life

Gareth Watts

Gareth Watts is a lecturer in English at Richmond-upon-Thames College. He has written for radio, published poetry, reviews and short stories. This is his first book.


This book is a fictional account of the life of German film and theatre actor Werner Krauss, eponymous star of the classic silent film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Upon gaining worldwide recognition in this film, Krauss was co-opted into the Nazi hate campaign of the 1930s and 1940s. He featured in the vicious propaganda film Jud Suss, and he was complicit in giving anti-Semitic performances onstage, most notably as Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

The book focuses on three distinct eras in Krauss’ life: the struggling, exuberant actor of the 1920s; the philandering pragmatist of the 1930s; and the elderly, neurotic outcast of the 1940s. Despite his honourable intentions, Krauss was all-too-often undermined by his inability to say ‘no’ to women, alcohol and the egregious Joseph Goebbels.

In this fictional re-imagining of his life, Krauss’ motives and decisions are explored in an attempt to discover why he collaborated with the Nazis in the way that he did, as well as demonstrating the personal and political consequences of his actions. As someone who was influenced by the Nazi regime, and, in turn, influential in perpetuating their message, Krauss’ story tells the wider story of the role of the arts and media in Nazi Germany. Extensively researched, including contemporary news stories, archived film material, critical essays on Krauss and translated passages from his autobiography, Das Schauspiel Meines Lebens, this fictional reconstruction of Krauss’ life and career is preceded by a substantive Introduction by the author, setting the novel in the context of the genre of Holocaust fiction, emulating and reminiscent of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin and Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark.

‘Never Felt It ’Till Now’ – A Fictional Re-Imagining of the Life of Werner Krauss
Part One                                                                             
Part Two                                                                             
Part Three                                                                          

Source Attribution                                                                                                                                          

Gareth Watts pays attention to the ironies and paradoxes of history. Turning away from history's heroes, he engages imaginatively with the story of one of its anti-heroes - one of its hapless opportunists. The result is a profound, compelling and poignant meeting of history and fiction, criticism and creativity.
Dr Jonathan Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Leicester, and author of Melissa (Salt, 2015), Entertaining Strangers (Salt, 2012), and Take Me Home (Granta, 2007)


Publication Details

Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
October 2017
  Illustrated:   No
Paperback Price:
£24.95 / $34.95

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