Till Lindemann's Biography

Till Lindemann’s Biography [Hidden Years]

Till Lindemann's Biography

Artwork by Elena de Grimani.

Till is a very private person. He shares very few details (just frustratingly general statements) about his life in interviews, so whether one is looking for information about his life now, or trying to find out about his past, one must become a bit of a detective.

There is only a span of about eight years between Till’s return home after being expelled from boarding school and his swimming career in 1978, and his first foray into the music scene in about 1986. While this isn’t a very long time, the teen years and early twenties are often very important in the continued development of one’s character, and the choices made then impact the rest of one’s life.
There are lovely insights about the sort of person Till was as a teenager, scattered throughout interviews given by his mother, Gitta, and in things written by or about his father, Werner. In some ways, he was no different than he was as a child; his affinity for the outdoors, for peace and quiet, to spend time alone with only his pets for company, his love for his family – these are mentioned in everything I can find about him, and seem to be enduring traits right to the present. His father, Werner, describes Till once running up to his Mom, and throwing her up in the air with a big, joyful grin plastered on his face (that grin we all love to see in pictures!). He then placed her down gently on the ground with extreme care to make sure she wouldn’t fall. This is the REAL Till Lindemann, in his mother’s words, from an article she wrote in 2008 (as translated by Iroto122):

Home – that is Mecklenburg. His motherland, his roots, his source of energy. Already as a teenager – he would stroll through the landscape, wake up in early hours and set off to the field, to cows, with the milker. Sleep under the open sky; listen to apples falling to the ground, ducks messing around in the pond. In the autumn, strolling in the woods, searching for mushrooms. In the winter, long walks through the snowy landscape, with a cat cradled in his jacket, tired of jumping from hill to hill.
And people. “Let’s talk about the past” he would ask his father and guests in Dorfkrug (where his father lived). How did they use to live back then? He sits – just like today – together with village people and listens to their dry-humoured ranting and stories.
He is gregarious, they seek his company. And it hasn’t got anything to do with his job. His father has written a book about him, there he speaks about his astonishment, that his friends confide everything in him. One of them wanted him to repair his Moped. Father asks, puzzled, “You mean…he can do it?” The boy answers, “Till can do everything.” Father thinks in disbelief, “Incredible.” He is surprised to see the Moped driving away into the distance after several minutes. “He can do everything. So much confidence. So much trust,” writes his father.
He evokes trust. It comes to my memory, when both of us (he was 15 or 16 back then) went for a walk and we had to pass by a bull. I was full of fear, he was probably scared as well, but he approached the animal, and cried to me, that I should always stay behind his back. Then we have to make our way through the stream. He places a desk (?) across, and helps me to the other side.

His mother’s love and pride shine through every memory she shares with her audience. Perhaps if his father had lived longer, he would have come to have a closer, more understanding relationship with his only son. How his parents must have despaired when they were at odds with him over the behavior that happened when they were not able to be where he was comfortable and at peace, when he was away from Mecklenburg and Dorfkrug, where his father’s cottage was located.
It seems that Till always preferred to work with his hands, as opposed to pursuing a white-collar career (can you imagine Till as an accountant or businessman?). His father’s astonishment at his ability to fix his friend’s Moped, as related above, seems to show that his skills were not school-taught, but rather self-taught. According to Werner’s memoirs, Till worked as a carpenter in his youth. Werner once paid him a visit in his teacher’s workshop and saw a “cherry tree beauty” – a flower pot that Till had carved to give to his mother as a Christmas present.

Werner and Gitta obviously taught their children about respect for their elders, and to be compassionate towards others. Till’s carpentry teacher, or tutor, was not a young man. In fact, Till came home one day outraged that none of his co-workers had congratulated the man on his 73rd birthday; he considered such behavior very rude. At the same time, the tutor’s wife was lying sick in a clinic, and none of them thought to pay her a visit. Till stated that “these people are no authority for me!” Evidence of fine character indeed!
There are many apocryphal stories about how terrible the relationship was between Till and his father that make it sound like they hated each other. Yes, they occasionally fought. And once the fight became physical – in the midst of an argument, Till pushed, and Werner fell down the stairs. Several days passed, and Werner was determined to go talk to Till, no matter what would happen next. He entered Till’s room, and they both said “Sorry” to each other at the same time. This is not a troubled relationship! This is a young man trying to find his way, and a father who only wants to help.

Yes, Werner tried to tell Till how to live his life, and yes, like any teenager, Till objected to what he saw as interference; he answered back, he wanted to make his own way. He rebuffed his Dad’s advice and told him to get lost. He was 19 at the time! What teenager does like to be told what to do by their parents?
Werner himself gave a lot of thought to why their relationship seemed so full of problems. He frequently analysed his own mistakes and shortcomings as a father. He would ask himself, “How do I become friends with my son? Why is there such a gap between us? Why can’t he be more easy-going? Should I be the moral drum? Perhaps I shouldn’t start to scratch before it itches. Maybe I shouldn’t be so pushy about some things.” This is a father who only wants what is best for his son.
Till evidently knew his father only wanted what was best for him, and he speaks of him with love. He tells us that, “I witnessed the death of a person I loved very much. My Dad died of stomach cancer. When he was dying, my Mom and I would stay by his bedside.” You don’t do that for an abusive parent, you do that for a parent who loves you.

Till doesn’t really talk about any part of his life before Rammstein unless really pressed for information. In the interview he did for Playboy in 2006, he mentioned that after he was sent home “It was horrible. When I still was in the swimming team I had swum 30 kilometres a day, getting up at five in the morning and in the evening I went to bed totally knackered. Now I had so much time to spend in the quarter with the cheap built houses and had to start fights to be accepted. And to drink lots of Schnapps, that counted.” It is little wonder that he clashed with both of his parents over his behavior at this time.

I have to wonder about his need to fight to be accepted. Was this not his home? Didn’t he belong? What was the issue that had to be settled by fighting? This seems so at odds with the descriptions we have just read. How could that gentle, loving young man also be a drinking, smoking, fighter? Is this one of those times when a lack of Western understanding of how things worked in the GDR has an impact on our ability to see the whole issue? As usual, he volunteers nothing.
He did sustain a knee injury while he was at the sports school. In the “Making of Du Riechst So Gut (1995) video” he mentions this very quickly, looking away from the camera, as if it is not something he really wants to talk about. I do not want to start any rumors about Till, but I do wonder if there are details about that injury and/or it’s treatment that might have had a detrimental effect on him, other than the obvious pain and suffering and numerous future surgeries he endured to deal with it. Or did something else happen during his years away from his loving and protective family that caused him harm?

I can find information that indicates that his inability to form lasting relationships goes way back to his teens – there is evidence that his endless string of girlfriends was a regular point of disagreement between Till and his parents. Their displeasure obviously had no impact on this behavior, and soon he ended up a father, then a husband (albeit the latter only briefly!).

He states in more than one interview that, of course, he wants love, but it never seems to work because he will not be tied to a single woman. I believe he is confusing lust and love, even sex and love. Basically, he tears the relationship apart by infidelity before it has enough substance to last. He can’t relax into a relationship and work to keep it together, and is always surprised and hurt when the woman leaves him. This seems at such odds with his overall personality otherwise that it is worthy of attention in a later article, as does his seeming need for physical pain.
When you look at all these factors together – drinking and smoking from an early age, fighting, serial infidelity, the penchant for self-harm, and the bleakness in so much of his writing – you do not have a picture that matches with the young man described by his mother and father in their memories of him as a child and youth.
These are all things that raise red flags in my mind. In any other young man, they would immediately make me think there was abuse happening in his life. We know Till was not abused in any way by his parents. That leaves the possibility of abuse during his years in sport school and boarding school. I make no accusations, but these things do not add up to a happy, well-adjusted young man ready to take on the world. They add up to a very troubled man, who by nature is quiet, introverted and shy, but acts out in very self-destructive ways. Till said in the Playboy interview that he had never expected to live to be 50 years old, and that it had never really mattered much to him. He even spoke of having a longing for death. Let’s hope that he has finally found that life is much too precious to long for it to end.

So it seems that perhaps “The Hidden Years” is a more apt title than I had anticipated when I chose it.

The years are hidden from us – we have no photos to share and talk about, no words from Till about what he did, or how he felt (unless his poems date from that period), we have only speculation and a few lovely memories shared by his parents. But it seems that part of the man has become hidden over the years as well.
Perhaps those nearest and dearest to him still see the Till his parents wrote about, I hope so. I hope he is still the real Till around his mother and his sister, with his children and his grandson, with his close friends, and yes, even with Sophia.
Perhaps it is just too difficult to let us see the real Till; after all, we are nameless faces snapping his picture without asking, invading his space, asking for autographs, asking questions…how overwhelming that must be for someone who just likes to lie on his back in the woods, gazing up at the sky and listening to the birds.
Sources consulted:

Gitta - Till Lindemann's mother

Till Lindemann’s Childhood and School Days

”Till Lindemann’s Life”

Gitta - Till Lindemann's mother

Till Lindemann and his mother

Part I – Childhood and School Days


In the spring of 1959, at the first Bitterfelder Konferenz, a young poet named Werner Lindemann (1926-1993) met the woman who would soon become his wife.  Her name was Brigitte Hildegarde (last name has eluded all efforts to track it down), better known to all as Gitta, already an accomplished writer and journalist.  Gitta recalled in a 2011 interview with Radio Audition that Werner constantly gazed at her during the presentation, and that he invited her to coffee afterwards.  Other details of their courtship are unknown, as is the date and location of their marriage.

Whenever and wherever they married, by the beginning of 1963, the happy couple lived in Leipzig, East Germany.  They welcomed their first child, a boy named Till, on January 4, 1963.  Sometime later, the family moved to the village of Wendisch-Rambow near Schwerin were Till and his younger sister Saskia, who was born six years later, grew up.

There is almost no specific information available about Till’s childhood – he just doesn’t seem to talk about it, as one would expect of a man who doesn’t see himself as anything exceptional, though interviews and written works by both of his parents give us the impression that he was a normal child, doing the sorts of things all children do.  They tell us that he loved (and loves) his family, was the sort of boy who rescued injured animals and brought them home to take care of them, surrounded himself with pets, and did all the kinds of things a child is supposed to do growing up.

There are indications that even as a child, he was aware of the world around him, and the inspiration that could be found there for artistic expression in one form or another.  In one article Till’s father Werner states that Till wrote his first poem at the age of nine, called “Nutcracker”; it didn’t sound as though Werner meant a school assignment either, but rather a poem written because Till needed to write it and had something to say.  His father recalled a rainy day with a rainbow forming when a very young Till looked out and said, “The meadow is crying”, and a night when little Till looked up at a gibbous moon and remarked that the moon was “broken”.  Not earth-shaking, just the sort of things an observant little boy would say to a father who took the time to share these things with him.

While no mention of Till’s early schooling is made in any interviews or articles reviewed for this biography,  it is perhaps safe to assume that, like all the other children in the area, he attended primary school in his home village of Wendisch-Rambow until he was 11 years old (in 1974).  He attended a sports school at the Empor Rostock Sport Club from the age of 11 until he was 14 (1974-1977) where he became an elite competitive swimmer.  Till has gone on record stating, “I never liked the sport school actually, it was very intense. But as a child you don’t object.”

Parents’ Separate Lives

In 1975, while Till was attending the Empor Rostock Sport Club, his parents began living separately for career and family reasons.  His father Werner moved to a small cottage in the country that the family owned (some articles call it a farmhouse) because he liked the quiet there, and wanted to be able to write his poetry and books in peace.  Living in the town all the time caused him a lot of stress.  He took long walks in the woods to seek inspiration, leaving his notebooks all over the house.  At the time, Till had no real interest in writing, “But it stayed by me.  I told my Dad that I could change my mind one day and become a writer, which I actually did at some point.”

There was also the question of Saskia’s schooling – Werner stated that his dear daughter would have had a long way to go to school if she were always in the village.  As with Till’s early school days, nothing is to be found about where she went to school, but considering Till was sent to school away from his home village, perhaps Saskia was as well.  In fact, so little is published about her that even her name was found in only one article which quotes Werner speaking about her.  Either way, Werner and Saskia went to live in the cottage in the woods, and Gitta, as a journalist continued to live in town.  Werner would come to town frequently, but did not stay there.  The family was often together on weekends when they were indeed a happy, united family.  In the 2011 Radio Audition interview, Gitta explains that ‘they would always live very happily as a family, but they were individuals and wanted to make the most of themselves and fulfill their aims.’  At no time did Werner and Gitta divorce, so there was never an American step-father in Till’s and Saskia’s lives, as some have claimed.

This also seems to be the place to state that, though Werner did indeed have an alcohol problem for a short time, he dealt with it and was a non-drinker for the rest of his life, not even indulging in the traditional holiday toasts.  There were no drunken beatings, and there is no indication that Till or Saskia were ever abused in any way by either parent.

To Boarding School

I have found conflicting (or duplicated) accounts of the events that seem to have got Till expelled from the sport school and sent on to boarding school.  Without clarification from Till or others involved, we may never sort it out.  Perhaps he did indeed slip away from two different hotels in two different cities on two different swim trips to go explore the night life of the West, and got two different reprimands, the first time a trip to boarding school and the second time, expulsion from both the swim team and boarding school.

One account describes the incident as occurring when Till was 14 years old.  He was on a swimming trip to France with his school team and decided to sneak out of the hotel at night to go exploring the city, and of course, he was caught and promptly shipped off to a boarding school, the name and location of which I cannot find anywhere.

Another account, which seems to take details both from the previous account and from the one which follows this one, was related in an interview with Schneider.  He recalled, “Till was part of Germany’s swimming team in the European Championships when he was 13 or 14.  They went to Italy but it was still Communist times and he left the hotel without permission to buy some porn magazines and got caught.  I think they excluded him from the team for that.”

Neither of these seems quite right.  Till did indeed continue swimming after he was sent to boarding school, and in 1978 (at the age of 15, not 13 or 14) he was a participant in the European Junior Swimming Championships in Florence, Italy.  He finished 11th in the 1500 metre freestyle, and seventh in the 400 metre freestyle swimming with a time of 4’17″58.  As a result he was soon shortlisted for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, though he never made it there.

In the interview published in the January 2006 German edition of Playboy Magazine, Till explains about the incident in Italy, “I did not want to flee, I only wanted to have a look at town.  The cars, the bikes, the girls.  They caught me and I was thrown out of the team, but I also did not fulfill the required results.”  A look at the record winning times of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow bears out this assessment.

Till goes on to say that being thrown of the team “was horrible.  When I still was in the swimming team I had swum 30 kilometres a day, getting up at five in the morning and in the evening I went to bed totally knackered.  Now I had so much time to spend in the quarter with the cheap built houses and had to start fights to be accepted.  And to drink lots of Schnapps, that counted.”

There is no indication whether he was allowed to finish out the school year after being kicked off the swimming team, nor are any details about the torn stomach muscle Till says gave him the opportunity to quit swimming competitively.  But one way or another, at about 15 years of age, he found himself back home with his mother, without a clear direction to go in his life.



Sources consulted: