Where was Conrad Veidt really born?

Berlin as it looked during Conrad's youth.

There are conflicting stories as to where Conrad Veidt was really born, although the majority of proof verifies that he was born in an apartment building at #39 Tieckstrasse (the family also had a residence in Potsdam).

Thanks to the efforts of a kind friend of the CVS in Germany, here are three photographs of #39 Tieckstrasse as it looks today. Apart from the paint job, it is probably quite as much as it was like during the early 1900's. After WWII, it was situated in the East German side of Berlin, and not much architectural renovation or building went on.

* From an article by Daniel Kothenschultze called ''Anders Al Die Anderen'' - ''Conrad Veidt At His 100th Birthday'' translated from German by Dean R. Syverson -

...''His aristocratic aura, indeed, induced him once to give his birthplace as 'Potsdam, in the vicinity of the townhall.' In fact, he came from Berlin...''

* From an article in ''Markische Allegemeine,'' dated January 21, 1993, called ''God Save Him From Films'' -

...''In many ways, it is difficult to trace his biography. Like so many other artists, Veidt contributed contradictory views on his legenday career. Had he really been born in Tiek Street in Berlin in 1893? Or was his birthplace really in Potsdam near the town castle, as he stated?''...

Speculation by Veidt fans:

It's not unheard of for famous people to ''change'' their birthplace to something more glamorous. This would make more sense if he had really been born in Potsdam and later claimed to be born in Berlin. He probably never dreamed in 1920 (or even 1940) that anyone would ever be checking his birth records so perhaps he didn't worry too much about accuracy.

One wild theory is that maybe he really didn't know where he had been born. One Veidt fan has said, that she found out while talking to one of her younger brothers two years ago that he thought he was born in one small town in Wyoming when she knew he had actually born in a different town 300 miles away. So he'd been filling out paper work and official documents for decades with incorrect information. How and why he got confused about this fact she didn't know, and in fact wouldn't have believed it possible for someone to not know where they were born if it had not happened in her own family to her reasonably intelligent, reasonably normal brother.

So who knows? Maybe Veidt was just mistaken back in the 1920 article? Maybe he just felt like pulling everyone's leg? Or maybe he really was born in Potsdam while his mother was temporarily there but he was registered by his parents as having been born at his parents usual home address? At the time Veidt was born (1893), people were usually born at home and their births registered later. So whoever went to register his birth could have told the registrar he was born where they wanted him to be born, ie. Berlin rather than Potsdam. Maybe he knew the truth about where he was actually born from hearing family members talk about it. Then later (after 1920) he could have decided to adopt the ''official'' place of record because it was more glamourous and he didn't realize people would have copies of his earlier interviews. (How's that for a wild theory!)

Conrad Veidt's birth record is reprinted in ''Lebensbilder'' (on the page opposite is the first page of the 1920 article in which he says he was born in Potsdam). The birth record, written in script and handwriting, is from Berlin but there are three dates on it, 6th April 1893, 2? January, 1893 and 2 10 1933.

These days (1990s) birth records are very accurate as to place of birth because most people are born in a hospital and the employees there fill in the information. Other information isn't necessarily accurate because it's based on what the mother tells the staff, ie. the name of the father. A Veidt fan who was general counsel to a hospital for several years and saw this problem come up more than once. She once spent an hour on the telephone explaining to (arguing with) a man about why the hospital could not change his son's birth certificate to indicate that he had been born at the hospital when he had actually been born at home unexpectedly and been brought to the hospital soon thereafter. The man, who was from a different country, said it was very shameful in his country to be born at home and he didn't want his son stigmatised by this accident. While everyone sympathized with his problem, they would be falsifying a government document in violation of state law to make the change he wanted and could lose their jobs and go to jail. Her point in telling this story is that some people care enough about place of birth to be willing to lie about it in an official record. In 1893, with home births, it would have been easier to have the birth record reflect whatever the parents chose to tell the officials.

Certain information on death certificates isn't necessarily reliable either, such as the deceased's correct full legal name or date or place of birth because that information is provided verbally by a survivor and not from any official documented record. Veidt's California death certificate (reprinted in ''Conrad Veidt-Lebensbilder'') lists Berlin as his place of birth but that information was probably provided by Lily or a friend of the family and not from any official record.

Information on Potsdam:

Potsdam is 12 miles southwest of the center of Berlin and a half hour journey by bus, train or car (in the 1990s).

1904 Baedeker's (when Veidt was eight years old):

''Potsdam (58,500 inhab., garrison 7000), the seat of government for the province of Brandenburg, is charmingly situated on the Potsdamer Werder, an island in the Havel, which here expands into a series of lakes and is bounded by wooded hills. The town is of ancient Slavonic origin, but was of no importance until the Great Elector founded his palace in the neighbourhood. It is indebted for its modern splendour to Frederick the Great, who generally resided at Potsdam. Potsdam is the cradle of the Prussian army, and the military element is conspicuous in its streets."

There were 3 railways lines and 50 daily trains between Berlin and Potsdam. (That changed drastically when the Berlin Wall went up. Potsdam was in the DDR-East Germany. web editor). [Other famous actors who ''changed'' their place of birth: Emil Jannings always claimed to have been born in Brooklyn, NY when he was actually born in Switzerland. Yul Brynner claimed to be 1/2 Swiss and 1/2 Japanese and to have been born on the island of Sakhalin (off the coasts of Russia and Japan). He was actually Russian and was born in Vladivostok, Russia.

The bottom line is that since he spent so much of his life in Berlin and was so identified with that city, he'll always be a Berliner.

The former Stettiner Bahnhof was a suburb train station and doesn't exist anymore. The station was bombed and burned out in November 1943. Now there is a S-Bahn-Station 'Nordbahnhof' (it's not the same building).

There is a website that has photos of Stettiner Bahnhof as it looked when Veidt lived nearby. Apparently a member of the Resistance (by name Walter Michaelis) lived in the house at 39 Tieckstrasse in 1937. How appropriate!

The website is at: Eisenbahn.

If you click on the links you will get some old pictures of the station in the last century. To search for Tieckstrasse 39 look on the Berlin online city map (here) and fill in the name of the street and the number of the house. Today Tieckstrasse 39 is near to the corner Chausseestrasse.

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