Technically German, but born in Sopot, KlausKinski (1926-1991) is arguably the town’s most infamous son. Born into poverty in what was then Zoppot, part of the Free City of Danzig, Kinski found himself flirting with adventure from an early age when he was forced to steal to feed his family. By the time war broke out the family had long moved to Berlin in search of a better life and he was conscripted into the German army, eventually finding himself held as an allied prisoner of war.
Having discovered his gift for entertaining during his days in a British POW camp, Kinski turned to professional acting following the end of hostilities. Ravaged and spooky looking, Kinski combined the intensity of Gary Oldman with the libido of Warren Beatty both on and off screen. Despite his outspoken contempt for the acting profession he never turned down a job and appeared in some of best and worst films of the post-war era: “So I’ve sold myself for another year. I have no idea what I’ve signed. I have to take on any shit. As I’ve said, it’s all the same to me.” The evidence couldn’t be clearer; Kinski’s list of credits spans everything from Dr Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More and Nosferatu to B-grade flops like Revenge of the Stolen Stars.
Describing his head as “one big garbage can,” Kinski’s loopy life witnessed a spell in a lunatic asylum, grisly self-surgery on his throat and hundreds of sexual conquests. His biography, All I Need is Love was originally withdrawn from circulation on account of its pornographic content. Re-released under the title of Kinski Uncut, the book delves into all corners of his life: from his love/hate relationship with director Werner Herzog to the birth of his daughter, actress Nastassja. But there’s no escaping Kinski’s insatiable sexual appetite, and the book veers from early fumblings with his sister to goatish orgies with groupies, whores and actresses: “Our bodies. Our faces. Our genitals. Attack each other dangerously. Painfully.” When Kinski suddenly passed away in 1991, a friend described the cause of death as “a little bit of everything.”
His legacy took a serious blow in early 2013 when his elder daughter Pola published a book alleging that Kinski had abused her for much of the first fourteen years of her life. These allegations were supported by her younger half-sister Nastassja, who claimed Kinski had tried but failed to abuse her and that the family were terrified of the man. She was asked by the German newspaper Bild what she would say to her father if he was alive today to which she replied “I would do anything to put him behind bars for life. I am glad he is no longer alive.”
From the mid-90s up to 2013, Kinski’s childhood home was a previously popular and suitably odd-looking bar. Today the downstairs is home to a burger bar