BERLIN (Reuters) - German director Kurt Maetzig, who was banned by the Nazis from making films but went on to co-found Communist East Germany's state-owned film production company, died on Wednesday, a former colleague told Reuters. He was 101.
Born in Berlin, Maetzig became known for his drama "Marriage in the Shadows", the story of a couple who fled Nazi Germany in the 1940s, which was shown in 1947 and became one of the most successful films in the post-war years totaling over 12 million viewers.
Maetzig himself had been banned by the Nazis from making films because his mother was Jewish.
"He was a key figure in film history," said Dorett Molitor from the Potsdam Film Museum, noting Maetzig's family had informed her of his death.
"This is a great loss," said Molitor. "We organized events and exhibitions at the Film Museum together in the past years."
Ambivalent towards the Communist regime, Maetzig directed several propaganda films for East Germany's government which were produced by the state-owned company Defa.
His film "The Rabbit is Me", however, was banned in 1965 since it was seen as disloyal to the Communist party.
Its premiere took place 25 years later at the Berlin film festival, one year after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Maetzig also became president of the German Film Academy in Potsdam-Babelsberg in 1954, where he taught Stage Direction for ten years.
The director, who lived in the small village of Wildkuhl, in the former East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, had been married four times and had three children.
(Reporting By Elisa Oddone, editing by Paul Casciato)