Horst Schimanski is a fictional policeman in the homicide department who appears in the German Tatort (i. e. "crime scene") TV crime series. Portrayed by Götz George, he made his debut in the 1981 episode "Duisburg-Ruhrort" and appeared in 29 episodes until 1991. Two episodes ("Zahn um Zahn", 1985 and "Zabou", 1987) were published in cinema before they were aired on TV. Also notable is the episode "Unter Brüdern" from 1990, which was produced as a crossover with the east german Polizeiruf 110 crime series, in which Schimanski coworked with two colleagues from the east german Volkspolizei. In 1997 his own Schimanski crime series was started. Schimanski now was a retired policeman living in Belgium with his long-time girlfriend Marie Claire. In the early episodes he often did some semi-legal work for the German police. Production slowed down over the years, there is one new episode per year at most. The latest episode was aired on Nov 10th 2013. All the Schimanski episodes were produced by the German television station WDR except the two movies, which were produced by Bavaria Film and Constantin Film.
Schimanski was consistently written as the prototypical proletarian living very closely to the criminals he normally was obliged to persecute. Consequently, many of his cases deal with underprivileged victims and upper class criminals or at least suspects, which was a rather uncommon concept in West German TV-shows of that era. Coming from the industrial city of Duisburg in the Ruhr Area, George portrayed him as a rugged, often unkempt simple man (unsophisticated, but not unintelligent) who often swears but never backs out of a fight and keeps a sense of honour for minorities. In the majority of episodes he wears a well-worn grey or beige M-65 field jacket with cropped epaulettes that became famous in Germany as the "Schimanski Jacket".
In the original Tatort episodes he was perennially accompanied by "Christian Thanner", a soft, well-dressed and well educated policeman who often served as a foil for the proletarian Schimanski. In the first episode of the follow-up series Schimanski Thanner was killed by policemen gone vigilante. This was necessary as Eberhard Feik who played Thanner had died in the hiatus of the series. His other long term colleague and companion in both series "Hans Scherpenzeel van Maaskant-Schoutens" (abbrevated "Hänschen", for little John) was played by Chiem van Houweninge, who also wrote several episodes.
From the beginning, Schimanski's character polarised the public: the WDR stated that his opponents saw him as a disgrace for the police and for German TV, his admirers as a new breed of more realistic, streetwise characters ("für die einen war er der Kämpfer für Gerechtigkeit und wurde schließlich zur Kultfigur, für die anderen war er eher ein Gesetzesbrecher, dem etwas Schmuddeliges anhaftete", "for some he was the fighter for justice and became a cult character, for others he was more of a lawbreaker with a grubby aura"); but in time, he became a cult figure in German culture and the most popular Tatort character.
- Horst Schimanski fanpage (in German)