What is Hans Zimmer’s religion? Composer’s Jewish roots explored

Kim Schewitz January 9, 2023
What is Hans Zimmer’s religion? Composer’s Jewish roots explored
Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for EON Productions & Prime Video

If you like good movies, you will know of the award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, but you may not know his religion and family history.

The man responsible for the musical scores of The Lion King and The Dark Knight trilogy was profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes last week (January 8), alongside an interview with Prince Harry.

Hans Zimmer is a household name with two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, but he tends to keep his personal life largely out of the spotlight.

We take a further look at the talented musician’s religion and early life in Germany.

What is Hans Zimmer’s religion? 

German-born Hans Zimmer is in fact Jewish. He first revealed this publicly during a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival in 1999.

“As soon as I said it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve outed my mother,” Zimmer told The Jewish Journal. “I couldn’t wait for this press conference to finish, and I got to the phone, and I phoned her in Munich.” Zimmer recalled anxiously relaying to his mother what he had ‘done’, to which she responded: “I’m very proud of you.”

His mother had escaped wartime Germany to England in 1939, likely creating an understandable fear around disclosing her religion. In his youth, Zimmer felt “ambivalent, even uncomfortable, about being Jewish.” Growing up in post-World War II Germany “only made his identity harder for him to grapple with.”

However, he now openly calls the Jews ‘My people.” Despite his proud Jewishness, Zimmer told CNN in 2013 that he comes from a long line of atheists.

Hans Zimmer grew up in post-war Germany 

Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Hanz Zimmer was born on September 12, 1957, in Frankfurt, Germany. The 57-year-old’s father died when he was a young boy, and despite being aware that his Jewish mother escaped the war, she rarely discussed her Jewish roots with him or anyone else. Her silence about the family religion led him to feel that it was, in a way, their secret.

As a child, he played the piano but only briefly had formal lessons as he disliked their formal structure. In one of his Reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything sessions), he said “My formal training was two weeks of piano lessons. I was thrown out of 8 schools.”

He added: “But I joined a band. I am self-taught. But I’ve always heard music in my head. And I’m a child of the 20th century; computers came in very handy.”

Zimmer moved to London as a teenager, where he attended Hurtwood House school.

Hans Zimmer scored ‘The Bible’ and a Holocaust documentary 

Hans Zimmer has worked on a number of religious-inspired or themed projects. In 1999, he scored “The Last Days,” a Holocaust documentary produced by the Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides.

A year earlier, in 1998, he composed the score for Disney’s The Prince Of Egypt. The movie follows the biblical story of Moses and the delivery of the Jewish people out of Egypt, and the Jewish pop culture site Hey Alma called it an ‘essential Passover watch.’

In 2013, he devoted himself to The History Channel’s 10-hour-long series The Bible. He spoke to CNN about scoring the documentary and said his goal was to viewers to “feel something.” He added: “We’re not telling you what to feel. We’re just inviting you in. The music is trying to open doors.

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Kim Schewitz is a London-based staff writer at The Focus and HITC. She is a gold-standard NCTJ-qualified journalist with a passion for pop culture, politics, feminism, and trends. She has previously written for publications including The i paper and Glamour UK and previously worked in local news. Kim graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a first-class degree in French and Spanish. She is passionate about modern languages and has spent time living in Paris and Barcelona.