Deceased actress Gassmann (85) gave millions of first sex education sessions

German actress Ruth Gassmann passed away at the age of 85. In the 1960s she starred in the groundbreaking information film Helga, which was seen by millions of people worldwide.

In one year five million West Germans went to the cinema for Helga. In the premiere week only James Bonds You only live was twice as popular. Worldwide, an estimated forty million people saw the film on the big screen. It sometimes happened that (male) visitors fainted at the delivery scene.

The film, commissioned by the German Ministry of Health, was in keeping with the free sexual morality of the time, which also included Beate Uhse’s sex shops, for example. For a generation after the Second World War, these looser morals were also seen in Germany as a reaction to the repression of the Nazis.

“This film could only be made in Europe”, it was called in the American trailer. No images from the film were shown in it, “because there might be children in the cinema”. Parents were advised to go and see the film themselves before giving their teenagers permission to visit it.

After Helga, Gassmann played in two other feature films about the sexual life of a young woman, which had less and less to do with education. The information film, or Aufklärungsfilme, thus developed into a slightly erotic genre. Gassmann, who had received 5,000 marks for Helga, was offered 100,000 marks for such a film, but declined the offer.

Because she feared that as an actress she would always be stuck to the same kind of role, Gassmann opted for a career switch. She worked as a director’s assistant and singer at the Staatstheater in Saarbrücken. She was also the mother of two daughters and a son.