Johannes Heesters, 108, a Dutch-born entertainer who made his name performing in Adolf Hitler's Germany and was dogged later in his long career by controversy over his Nazi-era past, died Saturday in Starnsberg, Germany, his agent, Juergen Ross, said.
A tenor, Mr. Heesters debuted on the big stage at the Volksoper in Vienna, Austria, in 1934. His career took off in Berlin, where, starting in 1935 - two years after the Nazis took power - he became a crowd favorite at the Komische Oper and Admiralspalast. He gained fame by appearing in films such as Die Leuchter des Kaisers ("The Emperor's Candlesticks") and Das Hofkonzert ("The Court Concert").
Despite his popularity in the Third Reich, Mr. Heesters was never accused of being a propagandist or anything other than an artist willing to perform for the Nazis, and the Allies let him continue his career after the war, when he took Austrian citizenship.
In his native Netherlands - which Germany occupied for most of the war - some viewed him as irredeemable given his appearances under the Nazi regime. In 2008, he braved protests to perform in the Netherlands for the first time in 44 years at a theater in his native Amersfoort.
At age 98, he put health problems such as knee and appendix operations behind him to perform in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. As he turned 105 in 2008, he was performing in a musical comedy in Hamburg.