Kirsten Heiberg was born in the small town of Kragero in the South of Norway, April the 25th in 1907. Her father, Sverre Heiberg, was an industrialist, at first in the iron, later in the wooden industry. When Kirsten was four years old, the family moved to Kongsberg, then to Oslo. Kirsten's father wanted his two daughters, Kirsten's sister was born in 1910, to have a proper education, and Kirsten was sent for language studies to Lausanne and Paris. Later, she studied English in Oxford.
However, she found office work in her father's office too boring and wanted to become an acctress. She started to practise with actors at the National Theatre in Oslo as Norway had no theatre academy at this time, and she made her debut at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen in 1929.
After some years in Bergen, she moved back to Oslo, and in the early 1930s Kirsten Heiberg was working at the Carl Johan-Teatret and Scala Revyteater in Oslo. She also appeared in Norwegian and Swedish films.
After guest appearances in the musical revue "Pam-Pam" at Theater an der Wien in 1937, she began a career in Germany both as a film actress and recording artist. Via her husband, the composer Franz Grothe, who was a Nazi party member since 1933, she was introduced to the German film industry which was led by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
Kirsten Heiberg became one of the leading femme fatales of The Third Reich. In his diaries, Joseph Goebbels saw her as "a very promising talent". Kirsten Heiberg played several parts in propaganda films, such as "Frauen für Golden Hill", "Achtung! Feind hört mit!", "Die Goldene Spinne" and "Titanic". She never joined the NSDAP, but she was a member of the KddK, "Kameradschaft der deutschen Künstler", founded and led by SS member Benno von Arent. Joseph Goebbels and Herman Göring were honourable members. Both Hitler and Goebbels enjoyed visiting the club, having discussions with the artists.
According to Zarah Leander, who was also an active member of the KddK, "Goebbels could also turn up, sit down and discuss matters of film. I can confess that he could be very interesting when he unfolded his great knowledge or went deep into artistic speculations in this field, which he did not only love, but also mastered. […] Joseph Goebbels had very intelligent views about film. He loved film as a form of art too highly to misuse it unessesarily in his propaganda."
Zarah Leander could not have been more wrong. German film during the rule of Joseph Goebbels was an integrated part of the Nazi state, and the film served as a political instrument to help the Government to implement its politics, in all fields of society.
Kirsten Heiberg did not show up in any films in 1941, the reason was that she was very busy in Truppenbetreuung, welfare for the troops, this year.
After the war, Kirsten Heiberg claimed that she was black listed in Nazi Germany for not joining the party. There is, however, no evidence in German archives that she ever was cut off from work in the film industry. There is likewise nothing that supports her claims, that she was working against German authorities.
Back in Norway in the early 1950ies, she met great difficulty in finding roles due to her time in Germany. However, she got a job in 1952 at Trondelag Theatre in Trondheim, where the director was executed by the Nazis in 1942. She spent 8 years in Trondheim, playing in musicals as well as serious parts in dramas by Ibsen and Shakespeare. In 1960 she went back to Oslo, but never again found a steady job at a theatre. Due to her years in German Nazi propaganda, she faced a boycott in Oslo.
Her sister Else Heiberg was also an actress.
During her years in Oslo in the 1960ies and 70ies, Kirsten Heiberg suffered from an alcohol problem and died lonely in her flat in Sofie's str. March 2nd 1976. The only one present was Truls, her dog.
(The source for all the articles on this site, is the biography "Glamour for Goebbels", which appeared in Norwegian in November 2014 at Aschehoug Publishing House, Oslo.)