Therese Giehse (6 March 1898 – 3 March 1975), born Therese Gift, was a distinguished German actress. Born in Munich to German-Jewish parents, she first appeared on the stage in 1920. She became a major star on stage, in films, and in political cabaret. In the late 1920s through 1933, she was a leading actress at the famous Munich Kammerspiele.

Early career

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Giehse left Germany for Zürich, Switzerland, where she continued to act in exile, playing leading roles in Zürich, including in Erika Mann's acclaimed political cabaret, Die Pfeffermühle (de) (which was itself also an exile, having been transported from Munich to Zürich in 1933 as well). During her exile, she traveled throughout central Europe with Pfeffermühle. On 20 May 1936 she married the homosexual English writer John Hampson, in order to obtain a British passport and thereby avoid capture by the Nazis. She returned to Germany after World War II, and performed in theatres on both sides of the Iron Curtain, but mostly in her native Bavaria, until her death in 1975.

With Bertolt Brecht

In exile, Giehse played the first Mother Courage in the world premiere of Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children, in 1941 at the Schauspielhaus Zürich.[1][2]

After the war, Giehse returned to Munich and to the Munich Kammerspiele, where, in 1950, she again played the role of Mother Courage, this time directed by Brecht himself. This production became documented as the second "Model production" of Brecht's play (the first "Model production" had been performed by Brecht's wife, Helene Weigel in 1949 in Berlin). Giehse and Brecht would often converse in their strong Bavarian (southern German) dialect during rehearsals, making Brecht's wife jealous of their kindred spirit.[3]

In the 1950s, Giehse played several roles as a member of Brecht's theatre, the Berliner Ensemble. In the mid-1970s, she returned to the Berliner Ensemble to perform several Brecht Evenings of the poems, plays, and writings of her lifelong friend and colleague. As a member of the Berliner Ensemble and collaborator with Brecht, she was a much-sought-after interpreter of his work and recordings of her reciting and singing his work appeared on records in both East and West Germany.

Other roles

German stamp issued 1988 in the Women in German history series

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Giehse continued to perform many lead roles in various theatres in Germany, often using her considerable comic skills to play character roles, as well as great dramatic roles, such as the leads in several landmark productions by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the world premiere of The Visit in 1956, and The Physicists in 1962. Later, she also worked with Peter Stein's renowned Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer (de) in Berlin.[4]

She also appeared in over 20 films and a number of television productions.

In 1988, a commemorative stamp was printed in her honour as part of the Women in German history series. In the same year a commemorative exhibition took place at the Deutsches Theatermuseum in Munich [5]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ Silberman, Marc (29 March 2006). "Brecht Chronology". University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of German. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2007. 
  2. ^ "Therese Giehse – Tscharlies jüdische Oma" (in German). Bayerischer Rundfunk. 27 January 2005. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Therese Giehse: Ich hab nichts zum Sagen. Monika Sperr, (C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1972), p. 112.
  4. ^ Therese Giehse: Ich hab nichts zum Sagen. Monika Sperr, (C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1972), pp. 146–149.
  5. ^ Piekenbrock, Marietta,Therese Giehse 1898 – 1998, Exhibition, Munich 1998, Deutsches Theatermuseum,