He was born on December 5, 1903 in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Heesters debuted on the stage at the Volksopers (People’s Opera) in 1934 in Vienna; but made his mark on the stage during the 1930s in Berlin – something he was later harassed about – where he was a favourite of theatre goers at the Kimische Oper and Admiralspalast. He continued to be a popular performer in Germany well into his old age; continuing to perform well past 100. Heesters said that sitting around waiting for life’s aches and pains was wrong and life was meant to be lived.
Although Heesters was willing to ply his trade in Nazi Germany, he was never accused of spreading propaganda. But his fellow countrymen in the Netherlands thought Heesters irredeemable, it would be 44 years before the actor would again perform in his native land in 2008.
Speaking on his wartime activities Heesters said, “what did I do wrong? Sure, I acted in films in the Third Reich, entertainment films, which distracted countless people inside and outside Germany from daily life during war.” He continued, “Sure, I wanted to make my career and I remember well at the time how many people in the Netherlands were proud that I made a career in the huge neighbouring country. But apart from my career – and the fact that , through no fault of my own, Adolf Hitler was one of the fans of my art – what have I done?” He is reported to have been Hitler’s favourite actor.
Heesters made his screen debut in 1924 with “Cirque Hollandais”. It would be another 10 years before he would again appear on the screen, but from that point on he appeared in 90 movies and television shows up to 2008. Heesters last film appearance was a short earlier this year.
After the war, Heesters became an Austrian citizen.