The last years of her life were torture for Petra Schürmann. The loss of her beloved daughter Alexandra hit her hardest: in June 2001, a wrong-way driver killed the then 34-year-old television journalist shortly before her wedding. A shock that hit the lifeblood of the popular Munich celebrity - her voice stopped working from then on, and Schürmann withdrew more and more into her villa on Lake Starnberg. In August 2008 her husband Gerhard Freund died after suffering from cancer.
Now the 76-year-old died shortly after midnight on Thursday. Schürmann died in her home on Lake Starnberg, said a spokesman for Bayrischer Rundfunk. Rumors about Schürmann's poor he alth had been piling up in the past few days.
Her career began like a fairy tale: Born in Mönchengladbach as the second of three children, she studied philosophy, American studies and art history after graduating from high school. "For fun" the student, who now lives in Munich, took part in a beauty contest in Cologne - and promptly won the crown of the beaming winner. In 1956 she was even voted the most beautiful woman in the world. With the title 'Miss World' behind her and a convertible as a present, Petra Schürmann drove straight into the spotlight and once wrote a newspaper about her.
An offer from Bavarian television soon followed. From the mid-1960s she was regularly seen on the screen, first as an announcer and soon as a presenter. By the year 2000 she was leading around 600 programs for ARD and ZDF alone, including popular series such as 'Essen wie Gott in Deutschland', the celebrity show 'Keyhole' or the program 'Auf geht's' at the opening of the Munich Oktoberfest. On Bavarian television, she shaped the Saturday entertainment show 'Wir in Bayern'. In some films Schürmann appeared as an actress. In 1996 she even received the Bavarian Order of Merit. The tragic death of her daughter then brought her television career to an abrupt end. Schürmann canceled a planned talk show a few months later – because she said she lacked the strength.
The audience had to do without her sympathetic voice - instead, Schürmann wrote a book about the grief of the soul. 'And a night goes by like a year' is what she called the work published in 2002, dedicated to her deceased daughter - or 'little doll', as the girl was called by her mother when she was a child. The former darling of the Munich chic crowd did without the colorful social life. It became quiet around her. Instead of using words, Schürmann communicated with friends via SMS. "Friends are most important to me," she wrote to director Heidi Kranz, who portrayed the former beauty queen."The friends are there, despite the fact that I can't speak or maybe because of it - that separates the wheat from the chaff."
Instead of throwing parties, she now spent her time regularly visiting the cemetery in Aufkirchen am Starnberger See. "I go to Alexandra's grave every day, it has become a kind of home for me," Schürmann once said. Several months later, in another interview, she made it clear how much her daughter's death broke her heart: "I woke up from a certain rigidity, but sometimes I'm so roaring homesick for Alexandra that it's almost unbearable."