Composers & Actors & Shoe Eaters
1. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Germany has spawned a ludicrous number of famous composers, but few would argue that Beethoven is the most famous. He’s best known for his symphonies, piano concertos, piano sonatas, and string quartets, but also dabbled in song-writing. He was born in Bonn, west Germany, and made his name there before moving to Vienna. Most remarkably, he composed some of his finest works after going deaf.
Other famous German composers: Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Georg Friedrich Handel, Felix Mendelssohn, Richard Wagner, Engelbert Humperdinck.
2. Otto von Bismarck (1815 – 1898)
Bismarck became the Imperial Chancellor of Germany after he led Prussia to victory in three wars that ended with the defeat of his arch-enemy France, and saw the dawn of the German Empire. He created the very first welfare state in the modern world and, when he was finished war-mongering, he kept peace in Europe for a couple of decades, which was nice.
3. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
A German philosopher who continues to inspire soul-searching adults and angsty teenagers alike, Nietzsche, to drastically paraphrase his career, believed in the concept of ‘life-affirmation,’ which involves embracing the realities of our world rather than the notion of a world beyond. He was probably a lot of fun at parties.
Other famous German philosophers: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Martin Heidegger, Arthur Schopenhauer
4. Hugo Junkers (1859 – 1935)
You should probably thank Hugo Junkers for your ability to travel around the world. He was an engineer and aircraft designer who pioneered all-metal planes and flying wings. He played a crucial role in designing multi-engined passenger planes that helped establish airlines all over the world. Travelling today probably wouldn’t be the same without him.
5. Max Ernst (1891 – 1976)
If you like your surrealist art dark and nightmarish, Ernst is probably for you. He lived through both World Wars, and this undoubtedly influenced the increasingly unsettling nature of his work. He was also one of the pioneers of the Dada artistic movement.
Other famous German artists: Paul Klee, Gerhard Richter, Tomma Abts
6. Werner Herzog (1942 – )
Herzog is arguably the leading figure in New German Cinema, and his films are unabashedly idiosyncratic and unforgettable. He’s best known for Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Grizzly Man. He’s also a screenwriter, actor, and opera director. He once ate his own shoe live on stage.
Other famous German directors: Uwe Boll, Fritz Lang, Roland Emmerich, Wolfgang Peterson, Leni Riefenstahl, Wim Wenders.
7. Hansi Kursch (1966 – )
There’s a big metal music scene in Germany, and power metal band Blind Guardian is very much at the forefront. Kursch is the lead singer, songwriter, and sometime-bass player for the band. He’s also made a huge number of guest appearances with bands like Gamma Ray, Ayreon, and Iced Earth.
8. Steffi Graf (1969 – )
Steffi Graf holds the record for the most Major wins by a tennis player (male or female) since the introduction of the Open Era. During her career she won 22 singles titles, and is the only player to win at least 4 singles titles at each Grand Slam. Basically she’s a better tennis player than you.
Other famous German sportspeople: Michael Schumacher, Boris Becker, Miroslav Klose,
9. Claudia Schiffer (1970 – )
Arguably one of the world’s most famous supermodels, Claudia Schiffer has appeared on over 1000 magazine covers and as a result is incredibly rich. She has her own clothing label, and continues to be the face for numerous fashion advertising campaigns. She’s also appeared in a number of films and fitness videos.
Other famous German models: Heidi Klum.
10. Diane Kruger (1976 – )
Another model, but Diane Kruger is probably better known for her work in film. You might recognise her from National Treasure, Troy, and Inglourious Basterds. She’s also been the face of L’Oreal and Calvin Klein, and speaks fluent English and French alongside her native German.
Other famous German actors: Daniel Bruhl, Klaus Kinski, Marlene Dietrich, Franka Potente, Christoph Waltz