Born in Berlin, Germany, Rolf Wenkhaus was the son of actor Kurt Wenkhaus. He made his film debut at age 14 in 1931 as a child actor in the role of Emil in the Gerhard Lamprecht-directed adventure film Emil and the Detectives (German: Emil und die Detektive) for Universum Film AG. The film was based on Erich Kästner's 1929 novel Emil and the Detectives, and proved to be commercially successful.
In 1933 he appeared in one of the Third Reich's first propaganda films S.A.-Mann Brand as Erich Lohner, a juvenile member of the Hitler Youth who selflessly sacrifices himself at film's end to save a comrade. Like many Nazi propaganda films of the period, S.A.-Mann Brand was banned from viewing for many years following World War II.
After the outbreak of World War II, Wenkhaus enlisted in the military. At the time of his death he was in the aircrew of a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, a four-engine bomber that specialized in attacks on shipping. Wenkhaus’s plane, with identification code F8 MH 0093, was shot down January 31, 1942, off the coast of Bloody Foreland in County Donegal, Ireland by the HMS Genista, a Flower class corvette being utilized as a convoy escort vessel. The entire aircrew of six was killed. The body of the pilot, Werner Bornefeld, washed up at Bunbeg two weeks later, and was eventually reburied at a German War Cemetery at Glencree, Ireland.
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