He studied theatre science and worked as a director for small plays before studying film at the Prager film school. In 1957 came his debut film, Zwei Mütter. But it was Nackt unter Wölfen and Jakob der Lügner which made him famous for their portrayals of life in the concentration camp and Ghetto.
His later work came increasingly under the censorship of East Germany, culminating the outright ban of Spur der Steine starring Manfred Krug three days after its release, despite critical acclaim in West Germany. The film was not shown there again until after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After 1989, his work was mainly produced for television, working with writers such as Carl Zuckmayer and Erich Loest.
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