Karl May figure debate: Pierre Brice’s widow defends “Winnetou”

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Debate on the figure of Karl May
The widow of Pierre Brice defends “Winnetou”

To this day, the late actor Pierre Brice is the most recognizable face of “Winnetou”. His widow Hella Brice cannot understand that her husband’s character is now in danger of being discredited. The actual message of author Karl May is pushed into the background.

Hella Brice, widow of legendary Winnetou actor Pierre Brice, has refuted accusations of racism against writer Karl May. “I can’t understand this accusation at all,” said the 73-year-old. “Had Karl May been racist, he would hardly have let Winnetou and Old Shatterhand become blood brothers and fight side by side forever.”


Hella Brice is now 73 and has been widowed for seven years.

(Photo: photo alliance/dpa)

Hella Brice thus took a stance on the current debate about “cultural apppriation” and racism, which arose after the withdrawal of two books accompanying a new Winnetou film for children. Born in Upper Palatinate, she was married to the French actor for over 30 years. Brice became a cinema legend in the 1960s with the film adaptations of Karl May’s books as “Winnetou”. He died in Paris on June 6, 2015 at the age of 86. He is buried in Gräfelfing near Munich, where Hella Brice lives today.

Pierre Brice was given the name “Rainbow Man”.

“I am very sorry that this discussion has pushed Karl May’s message and Winnetou’s values ​​into the background,” said Hella Brice. Neither the actors of the new film “The Young Chief Winnetou” and those of the previous films, nor the stages Karl May played today, had anything negative in mind, on the contrary.

“My husband was named Rainbow Man by the Winnebago’s at the Karl May Games in Bad Segeberg in 1991,” says Hella Brice. The Winnebagos would have accepted the actor as an honorary member of their tribe. The widow stressed that they certainly wouldn’t have done so if they had felt attacked or hurt by Karl May’s portrayal and language.

“The exact opposite was always what Pierre wanted,” assured Hella Brice. “He wanted to bring people closer to the Indian culture, the connection with nature, the desire for peace, freedom, tolerance and respect, because those were also his own values, which he fought for all his life.”

The discussion about “Winnetou” flared up after Ravensburger publishers pulled two books about the movie “The Young Chief Winnetou” from sale. In the meantime it has also become known that ARD no longer shows the famous “Winnetou” films from the 60s. However, this is probably mainly due to licensing issues.

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