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Berlin's Top 10 : Famous Berliners

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  1. Marlene Dietrich

    The famous filmstar (1901–92), born in Schöneberg, began her career in Berlin in the 1920s. Her breakthrough came with the film The Blue Angel (1931). She lies buried in the Friedenau cemetery in Steglitz. Her personal possessions are exhibited in the Filmmuseum Berlin in the Sony Center on Potsdamer Platz.

  2. Albert Einstein

    In 1914, the physicist Albert Einstein (1879–1955) became the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his Theory of Relativity, first developed in 1905. Einstein mostly lived and worked in Potsdam, but stayed closely connected with Berlin through his lectures and teaching activity. In 1933 Einstein, who was Jewish, had to emigrate from Germany to the USA where he stayed until his death.

    Albert Einstein taught in Berlin
  3. Bertolt Brecht

    Born in Augsburg, Bavaria, Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956) wrote some of his greatest works, such as the Threepenny Opera, in a small apartment in Charlottenburg. In the Third Reich, the playwright emigrated to the US, but he returned to Germany after World War II and founded the Berliner Ensemble in East Berlin in 1949. Until his death, Brecht lived in Chausseestraße in Berlin-Mitte, with his wife, Helene Weigel. His renovated apartment has been turned into a museum.

    Brechts' tombstone
  4. Herbert von Karajan

    This famous Austrian conductor (1908–1989) was head of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 1954 until 1989. During this time he helped create the orchestra’s unique sound, which remains legendary until this day. Herbert von Karajan was both revered and feared by his musicians because of his genius and his fiery temperament. Berliners still refer to the Philharmonie as “Circus Karajani”.

  5. Robert Koch

    Like few other physicians of his day, Robert Koch (1843–1910) laid the foundations and shaped the face of modern medicine with his pioneering discoveries. The Director of the Institute for Infectious Diseases, Koch also taught and researched at the Charité Hospital. In 1905 he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discoveries in the field of microbiology.

    Robert Koch
  6. Theodor Fontane

    A Huguenot, Fontane (1819–98) was one of the most important 19th-century novelists in Germany. He also worked as a journalist for more than 20 years, penning many of his articles and essays in the Café Josty on Potsdamer Platz. Fontane is particularly well known for his Walks in the Province of Brandenburg, in which he describes the mentality of the people, historic places and the Brandenburg landscapes.

  7. Käthe Kollwitz

    The sculptor and painter Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) portrayed the social problems of the poor, and her work provides a powerful, haunting commentary on human suffering. Kollwitz spent a large part of her life in a modest abode in the square that is now named after her, in the Prenzlauer Berg district. A monument recalls how she captured the lives of poor Berlin families, burdened with large numbers of children, and of social outcasts. Her Pieta now adorns the Neue Wache.

  8. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

    The brothers Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859) Grimm are well known around the world, thanks to their collection of classic fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. Equally important, however, was their linguistic output, the German Grammar and German Dictionary which are standard reference works even today.

  9. Georg Wilhelm Hegel

    The influential philosopher Hegel (1770–1831) taught at Humboldt University from 1818 until his death.

    Philosopher G W F Hegel
  10. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

    The composer (1809–47), a grandson of Moses Mendelssohn, was also the conductor of the Staatskapelle (state orchestra) at the opera house in Unter den Linden. His grave is found in one of the cemeteries in front of the Hallesches Tor in Kreuzberg.

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