Lilli Palmer

Actress Lilli Palmer fled Nazi Germany to make a place for herself in Hollywood, but chose to return after the war, becoming celebrated once again in her home country. Palmer studied drama at Germany’s Open Air School and signed a contract with the Darmstadt State Theater soon after graduation, but in 1933 her contracts were revoked and she narrowly escaped arrest by the Nazis. She fled first to Paris, where she performed at the Moulin Rouge and small nightclubs, then to London, where she acted in her first film, Crime Unlimited, in 1935, and signed with a British film company. She married actor Rex Harrison in 1943 and followed him first to Hollywood and then, in 1948, to New York, where she shifted from films to theater in George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra and John Van Druten’s Bell, Book and Candle. Palmer returned to Germany in 1953 to make several award-winning films, including 1956’s The Devil in Silk, then turned her hand to painting (most paintings in her exhibition at the London Tooth Gallery sold on the spot), writing a memoir and four novels, and hosting a talk show with Dick Cavett in 1979.


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Lilli Palmer interviews German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt on April 1, 1982.

Photograph by Harald Hoffmann, courtesy of the German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Lilli Palmer." (Viewed on August 8, 2020) <>.


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