Tatort (Crime scene) is a German language police procedural television series that has been running continuously since 1970 with some 30 feature-length episodes per year, which makes it the longest-running German TV drama. Developed by the German public-service broadcasting organisation ARD for their channel Das Erste, it is unique in its approach, in that it is jointly produced by all of the organisation's regional members as well as its partnering Austrian and Swiss national public-service broadcasters, whereby every regional station contributes a number of episodes to a common pool.

The Tatort logo.
StarringBoris Aljinovic
Dietmar Bär
Elisabeth Brück
Ulrike Folkerts
Maria Furtwängler
Götz George
Stefan Gubser
Jörg Hartmann
Andreas Hoppe
Klaus J. Behrendt
Harald Krassnitzer
Manfred Krug
Jan Josef Liefers
Eva Mattes
Oliver Mommsen
Richy Müller
Dominic Raacke
Devid Striesow
Simone Thomalla
Ulrich Tukur
Mark Waschke
Martin Wuttke
Wotan Wilke Möhring
and others
Theme music composerKlaus Doldinger
Country of originGermany
Original language(s)German
No. of seasons46
No. of episodes1,075 (as of 8 July 2018)
Running time90 minutes
Original networkDas Erste
Picture format576i (Das Erste [and regional channels of ARD-Network], ORF2, SRF1);
720p (DasErste HD, ORF2 HD, SRF1 HD)
Original release29 November 1970 
External links

Therefore, the series is a collection of different police stories where different police teams each solve crimes in their respective city. Uniqueness in architecture, customs and dialects of the cities is therefore a distinctive part of the series and often the city, not the police force is the real main character of an episode. The concept of local stations only producing a couple of shows per year has also enabled the shows to be longer (90 minutes) and more fleshed out psychologically than other weekly TV dramas.

The first episode was broadcast on 29 November 1970. Episodes are broadcast on ARD's main channel Das Erste on Sunday evening at the prime viewing time of 8.15 pm (just after the 8 o'clock Tagesschau news) around three times a month. Reruns are often shown by various regional ARD stations and on foreign broadcasters. Next to the member stations of the ARD, the National Austrian broadcasting corporation Österreichischer Rundfunk joined the production pool in 1971 and airs the program on its ORF 2 channel. Switzerland's Schweizer Fernsehen joined the pool from 1990 to 2001 and again in 2011 and distributes its episodes through its channel SRF 1.

The series Polizeiruf 110, which was produced by East Germany’s state TV broadcaster as a counterpart to the West German Tatort and has a similar regional production approach, is still produced by ARD's regional broadcasters Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR). Polizeiruf 110 shares the Sunday night prime time slot on Das Erste with Tatort.


The main feature of Tatort is that it is jointly produced by all participating regional TV stations. Each of the eleven companies involved (the nine German regional TV channels or Landesrundfunkanstalten that together form ARD, plus ORF in Austria and SRF in Switzerland), produces its own episodes. Each station features usually more than one team of inspectors in different cities in its region, depending on the size of the producing broadcaster. Each of the roughly 20 active teams appears one to two times each year. Nearly every Sunday, a new episode from a different city premieres on Das Erste; old episodes are often shown through all participating stations as part of their common programming. The series shares this concept with its former East German counterpart Polizeiruf 110, which basically is produced as four additional Tatort investigator teams aired under a different series name and opening credits by some regional broadcasters, mostly those which evolved from East German state television.

Every Tatort episode features a different team of inspectors in a different city. Combined with the fact that the episodes are, at 90 minutes long, almost movie-length and with rarely more than 30 episodes in one year, this makes for a cultural phenomenon closer to a string of made-for-TV movies than a typical police series.

This pooling concept was mainly due to the nature of the public broadcast television channel ARD, which is jointly operated by all of Germany's regional public Landesrundfunkanstalten. The 9 regional public broadcasters collect broadcasting fees in their region of Germany (each region comprising one or more federal states), and each have multiple radio stations and a regional TV station. Das Erste is produced as a joint national channel with common national programming. Each regional broadcaster is responsible for parts of the programming, unlike for instance in the US with its network affiliate system. Usually one to three broadcasters produce one TV programme in cooperation. When Tatort was developed as a series of weekly feature film-long local crime stories, the stated concept was used to distribute financial and organizational efforts.

Apart from the unique joint-pooling system, the series is also characterised by the episode length of around 90 minutes, which allows for more in-depth and psychological fleshing out of the characters. Although almost all episodes feature the investigation of a homicide, it is never just a simple case of whodunit. Often the episode length allows for the crime to be shown in all its aspects, with equal attention focused on the perpetrators and the victims as on the inspectors. On several occasions the actual police work is just a side note in the story, as the main plot might focus on how one of the persons involved deals with the crime and its aftermath. Episodes also deal with social and political issues.

With the national broadcasting corporations of Austria and Switzerland participating, the episodes of Tatort are currently set in various cities of Germany, Vienna, and Lucerne. Originally each of the participating member stations limited their episodes to one team of investigators in one city: for ease of production this was mostly the city the broadcast station was in, but over the years some stations broadcasting over a large regional area have Tatorts playing in several cities. Notably, the WDR has three teams of investigators playing respectively in Cologne, Münster, and Dortmund. Episodes are either produced by the station's own production facilities, or are filmed and often also written by outside production houses on behalf of the station. This sometimes leads to situations where, for instance, a Tatort set in Thuringia is actually produced in Bavaria, with only a handful of scenes shot 'on location' in the town the story is supposed to be set in.

A similar concept of independently filming and then pooling episodes was used from 1988 to 1992 in the series Eurocops, jointly produced by several national European TV stations.

Tatort has not found wide distribution in non-German speaking countries, but some episodes were distributed as stand-alone mini series. Most notably the 2013 series starring Til Schweiger and Fahri Ogün Yardım in Hamburg was distributed by Channel 4 under the title Nick's Law.


Gunther Witte, dramatist and TV head at WDR (West German Broadcasting Cologne), developed the series against initial resistance.[1] Witte and his successors have ensured that one or two detectives are at the center of every story, and the cases are shown from their perspective; they are usually members of a team, and their lives are also included.[1]

In January 2008 a similarly produced series of radio dramas called ARD Radio Tatort was introduced, new episodes are aired monthly by regional radio stations, but not at the same time.

In 2012, more than 100,000 people participated in the first and only online game linked to the SWR Tatort production, "Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget".[2]

In January 2014, Tatort received the 50th Grimme Award.[3][4]


The show is still aired on Sundays at 8:15 p.m. in Germany and Austria and 8:05 p.m. in Switzerland. About 30 episodes are made each year. By May 2018, 1055 episodes had been produced, plus 13 made in Austria and shown only there. Episode nr. 1000 was broadcast on Sunday 13 November 2016.

The episodes of some series of Tatort, such as the discontinued series about Schimanski, played by Götz George, have become cultural icons.

The opening sequence of each episode has essentially remained the same throughout the decades except for slight changes. Klaus Doldinger composed the title music with Udo Lindenberg on drums.[5]

In East Germany

At the same time the ARD was starting its Tatort format, the DDR had its own police procedural/crime show called Polizeiruf 110 ("Police dial 1-1-0"). The series premiered in 1971, less than a year after the first Tatort. It too was a police procedural, with various teams of investigators in various cities of the DDR, but in contrast to the West, only a small part of their cases involved actual homicides. The psychology of the perpetrators and the victims was also more prevalent. The series continued through all of the 1970s and 80s and even survived the Wende, continuing until 1991.

In 1990, Polizeiruf practiced its own brand of German unification with episode 142, "Unter Brüdern" ("Amongst Brothers"), a crossover with the Tatort investigators Schimanski and Thanner (this was co-produced with ARD and a medley of the two series themes were used in the opening intro). Until 1991, the series continued more or less independently for 11 more episodes until episode 153 (22 December 1991), again a crossover, in which Kommissar Thanner becomes the team's superior. Also in 1991, as part of the unification, the DDR's television company DFF was split into the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) and Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg (ORB) while the television stations in the new state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern would be operated as part of the NDR.

As MDR, ORB and NDR were all partners in the ARD, it was expected that they would start producing Tatort episodes as well. However, seeing the popularity of Polizeiruf 110, it was decided that the stations would contribute to the Tatort pool, but that its episodes would keep the name of Polizeiruf 110 and their own title music and intro. Still, they would be broadcast over all ARD stations on Sunday evening just like (or instead of) the 'western' Tatort.

Reorganising took one and a half years, but on 13 June 1993, the now MDR restarted the series in Tatort format. This first episode played in Leipzig, just as in 1991. However, today's episodes produced by the MDR play in Magdeburg, while those produced by NDR play in Rostock. The ORB (and later ORB's successor, RBB) has its episodes headed by the same team of investigators, but take place in various cities of Brandenburg. In addition, Bavarian Broadcasting station BR produces its own Polizeiruf episodes playing in Munich next to its Tatort episodes playing in the same city. Like the original, the Bavarian Polizeiruf episodes focus more on the psychology of the crimes and more on crimes other than homicides. Over the years several other 'western' local broadcasts tried their hands at producing Polizeiruf episodes as a line of 'alternative Tatort' next to the regular ones. However, all of them stopped after a few episodes.

On 15 May 2015, RBB aired the 350th episode of Polizeiruf 110 , the 197th episode of the new format.

In 2013, seeing that Thuringia was so far the only federal state in Germany that had neither a Tatort nor a Polizeiruf playing in one of its cities, the MDR ordered two new series under the Tatort header, playing in Erfurt and in Weimar respectively. Both are produced for the MDR by Bavarian companies.

As 1-1-0 is the speed dial code for police/emergency dispatch in Germany, but not in Austria, Polizeiruf 110 is broadcast in Austria as Polizeiruf 133.

List of Tatort investigators (Kommissare)

Year Broadcast Station Investigators Actors City Number of Episodes
1970–1982 NDR Paul Trimmel Walter Richter Hamburg 11
1970–1973 SR Liersdahl and Schäfermann Dieter Eppler Saarbrücken 2
1971–1973 WDR Kressin Sieghardt Rupp Cologne 7
1971–1986 SDR Eugen Lutz Werner Schumacher 8 different towns in Baden-Württemberg 16
1971–1979 HR Konrad Klaus Höhne Frankfurt am Main 8
1971–1978 NDR Finke Klaus Schwarzkopf Kiel and other places in Schleswig-Holstein 7
1971–1983 ORF Viktor Marek Fritz Eckhardt Vienna 13
1971–1972 SFB Erwin Kasulke Paul Esser Berlin 2
1972–1981 BR Melchior Veigl Gustl Bayrhammer Munich 15
1972 SWF Horst Pflüger Ernst Jacobi Baden-Baden 1
1973 RB Walter Böck Hans Häckermann Bremen 1
1973–1977 SWF Franz Gerber Heinz Schimmelpfennig Baden-Baden 5
1974–1980 WDR Heinz Haferkamp Hansjörg Felmy Essen 20
1974–1977 NDR Heinz Brammer Knut Hinz Hanover 4
1975–1977 SFB Martin Schmidt Martin Hirthe Berlin 3
1977–1984 SR Schäfermann Manfred Heidmann Saarbrücken 4
1978–1980 SWF Marianne Buchmüller Nicole Heesters Mainz 3
1978–1983 HR Bergmann Heinz Treuke (1978), Lutz Moik (1981-1983) Frankfurt am Main 3
1978–1979 SFB Matthias Behnke Hans-Peter Korff Berlin 2
1979 NDR Nagel Diether Krebs Braunschweig 1
1979–1985 NDR Delius Horst Bollmann Hamburg 3
1980 HR Sander Volkert Kraeft Frankfurt am Main 1
1980 WDR Paul Enders Jörg Hube Essen, Frankfurt am Main 1
1980–1982 NDR Jochen Piper Bernd Seebacher Bremen 2
1980 WDR Willy Kreutzer Willy Semmelrogge Essen 1
1981–1985 SFB Friedrich Walther Volker Brandt Berlin 6
1981–1988 SWF Hanne Wiegand Karin Anselm Baden-Baden, Karlsruhe, Mainz 8
1981 NDR Greve Erik Schumann small town in Schleswig-Holstein 1
1981 NDR Beck Hans Häckermann Lübeck 1
1981–1991 WDR Horst Schimanski and Christian Thanner Götz George and Eberhard Feik Duisburg 29
1981–1987 BR Ludwig Lenz Helmut Fischer Munich 7
1982 HR Werner Rolfs Klaus Löwitsch Frankfurt am Main 1
1982 NDR Nikolaus Schnoor Uwe Dallmeier Bremerhaven 1
1983 NDR Ronke Ulrich von Bock Hamburg 1
1984 HR Rullmann Hans-Werner Bussinger small towns in Hesse 1
1984–2001 NDR Paul Stoever and Peter Brockmöller Manfred Krug and Charles Brauer Hamburg and Neuwerk 41, Brockmöller: 38
1984–1986 ORF Hirth Kurt Jaggberg Vienna 3 (+ 6 only ORF)
1985 HR Reinhold Dietze Klaus Löwitsch Frankfurt am Main 1
1985–2001 HR Edgar Brinkmann Karl-Heinz von Hassel Frankfurt am Main 28
1985–1989 SFB Hans Georg Bülow Heinz Drache Berlin 6
1986 BR Siggi Riedmüller Günther Maria Halmer Munich 1
1986 ORF Lutinsky Miguel Herz-Kestranek Vienna 1 (only ORF)
1986-1988 ORF Pfeifer Bruno Dallansky Vienna 3 (+5 only ORF)
1987–1988 SDR Georg Thomas Schreitle Horst Michael Neutze Stuttgart, Führstadt 3
1987 BR Karl Scherrer Hans Brenner Munich 1
1988–2005 SR Max Palu Jochen Senf Saarbrücken and other places in Saarland 17
1988–1989 BR Otto Brandenburg Horst Bollmann Munich 2
1989–1996 ORF Michael Fichtl Michael Janisch Vienna 8 (+1 only ORF)
since 1989 SWF, SWR Lena Odenthal, Mario Kopper, and Johanna Stern Ulrike Folkerts, Andreas Hoppe, and Lisa Bitter Ludwigshafen 67, Kopper: 56, Stern: 8
1990 DRS Walter Howald Mathias Gnädinger Bern 1
since 1991 BR Ivo Batic, Franz Leitmayr (and Detective Sergeant Carlo Menzinger until 2007) Miroslav Nemec, Udo Wachtveitl and Michael Fitz Munich 77, Menzinger: 45
1991–1992 DRS Reto Carlucci Andrea Zogg Bern 2
1991–1995 SFB Franz Markowitz Günter Lamprecht Berlin 8
1992–2007 MDR Bruno Ehrlicher and Kain Peter Sodann and Bernd Michael Lade first Dresden, later Leipzig, one episode in Cologne as well 45, (two of them together with Ballauf and Schenk)
1992–1997 WDR Bernd Flemming, Detective Constable Max Ballauf and Detective Constable Miriam Koch Martin Lüttge, Klaus J. Behrendt and Roswitha Schreiner Düsseldorf 15, Ballauf: 9
1992–2007 SDR, SWR Ernst Bienzle and Detective Sergeant Günter Gächter Dietz Werner Steck and Rüdiger Wandel Stuttgart 25
1993–2002 DRS Philipp von Burg and Markus Gertsch L.I. Kisch and E.C. Sigrist Bern 9
1995 HR Leo Felber Heinz Schubert Frankfurt am Main 1
1996–1998 SFB Ernst Roiter and Detective Constable Michael Zorrowski Winfried Glatzeder and Robinson Reichel Berlin 12
1996 ORF Max Becker Klaus Wildbolz Vienna 1
1997 ORF Paul Kant and Jakob Varanasi Wolfgang Hübsch and Johannes Nikolussi Vienna 2
1997 NDR Lea Sommer Hannelore Elsner Hamburg 2
since 1997 WDR Max Ballauf and Freddy Schenk Klaus J. Behrendt and Dietmar Bär Cologne, two episodes in Leipzig as well 73, (respectively two of them together with Ehrlicher/Kain and Saalfeld/Keppler)
since 1997 RB Inga Lürsen and Detective Constable Nils Stedefreund Sabine Postel and Oliver Mommsen Bremen, Bremerhaven 37 (with Stedefreund: 32)
1999–2014 SFB, RBB Till Ritter and Robert Hellmann, later Felix Stark Dominic Raacke and Stefan Jürgens, later Boris Aljinovic Berlin 37, (with Hellmann: 6, with Stark: 31, the last episode only with Stark)
since 1999 ORF Moritz Eisner and Bibi Fellner Harald Krassnitzer and Adele Neuhauser Vienna and other places in Austria 42 (with Fellner: 18)
2001–2008 NDR Jan Casstorff and Detective Sergeant Eduard Holicek Robert Atzorn, Tilo Prückner Hamburg 15
2002–2010 HR Detective Sergeant Charlotte Sänger and Fritz Dellwo Andrea Sawatzki and Jörg Schüttauf Frankfurt am Main 18
since 2002 NDR Charlotte Lindholm Maria Furtwängler Hanover and small towns in Lower Saxony 25
2002-2016 SWR Klara Blum and Kai Perlmann Eva Mattes and Sebastian Bezzel Konstanz and other places around Lake Constance 31 (with Perlmann: 27)
since 2002 WDR Frank Thiel and forensic doctor Prof. Karl-Friedrich Boerne Axel Prahl and Jan Josef Liefers Münster (Westfalia) and around 33
since 2003 NDR Klaus Borowski, Frieda Jung (2003-2010) and Sarah Brandt (since 2010) Axel Milberg, Maren Eggert (2003-2010) and Sibel Kekilli (since 2010) Kiel 31 (with Jung: 14, with Brandt: 13)
2006-2012 SR Franz Kappl and Stephan Deininger Maximilian Brückner and Gregor Weber Saarbrücken 7
since 2008 SWR Sebastian Bootz and Thorsten Lannert Felix Klare and Richy Müller Stuttgart 21
2008-2015 MDR Eva Saalfeld and Andreas Keppler Simone Thomalla and Martin Wuttke Leipzig 21 (two of them together with Ballauf and Schenk)
2008-2012 NDR Cenk Batu Mehmet Kurtuluş Hamburg 6
since 2010 HR Felix Murot Ulrich Tukur Wiesbaden 6
2011–2015 HR Conny Mey and Frank Steier Nina Kunzendorf und Joachim Król Frankfurt 7 (with Mey: 5)
since 2011 SRF Reto Flückiger and Liz Ritschard Stefan Gubser and Delia Mayer Lucerne 13 (with Ritschard: 12)
since 2012 WDR Peter Faber, Martina Bönisch, Nora Dalay and Daniel Kossik Jörg Hartmann, Anna Schudt, Aylin Tezel and Stefan Konarske Dortmund 11
since 2013 SR Jens Stellbrink and Lisa Marx Devid Striesow and Elisabeth Brück Saarbrücken 7
since 2013 NDR Nick Tschiller and Yalcin Gümer Til Schweiger and Fahri Ogün Yardım Hamburg 4
since 2013 NDR Thorsten Falke and Katharina Lorenz Wotan Wilke Möhring and Petra Schmidt-Schaller (2013-2015), Franziska Weisz (since 2016) Hamburg and other places in Northern Germany 10 (6 with Lorenz, 4 with Grosz)
2013–2014 MDR Henry Funck, Maik Schaffert and Aline Grewel Friedrich Mücke, Benjamin Kramme and Alina Levshin Erfurt 2
since 2013 MDR Lessing and Kira Dorn Christian Ulmen and Nora Tschirner Weimar 6
since 2015 RBB Nina Rubin and Robert Karow Meret Becker, Mark Waschke Berlin 7
since 2015 BR Paula Ringelhahn and Felix Voss Dagmar Manzel, Fabian Hinrichs Nürnberg and other places in Franconia 4
since 2015 HR Anna Janneke and Paul Brix Margarita Broich, Wolfram Koch Frankfurt am Main 7
since 2016 MDR Henni Sieland, Karin Gorniak and Peter Michael Schnabel Alwara Höfels, Karin Hanczewski, Martin Brambach Dresden 6
since 2016 SWR Ellen Berlinger Heike Makatsch Freiburg, then Mainz 2
since 2017 SWR Franziska Tobler and Friedmann Berg Eva Löbau, Hans-Jochen Wagner Freiburg and the Black Forest 2

Last update: May 27, 2018

Soundtracks (selection)

Some Tatort episodes from the 1980s and 1990s included songs that subsequently became quite well known, and two of them reached the top of the charts: "Faust auf Faust (Schimanski)" by Klaus Lage from the Tatort movie Zahn um Zahn, and "Midnight Lady" by Chris Norman, written by Dieter Bohlen, which appears on the episode "Der Tausch". Some random selected soundtracks:

Artist Title song Episode Year TV station
Can "Vitamin C" "Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street" 1973 WDR
Tangerine Dream "Das Mädchen auf der Treppe" "Das Mädchen auf der Treppe" 1982 WDR
Tangerine Dream "Daydream – Moorland" "Miriam" 1983 WDR
Warning "Why Can The Bodies Fly" "Peggy hat Angst" 1983 SWF
Jil Anderson "Without You (Baby, Baby)" "Haie vor Helgoland" 1984 NDR
Mark Spiro "Winds Of Change" "Das Haus im Wald" 1985 WDR
Patricia Simpson "Dreams In The City" "Nachtstreife" 1985 ORF
Die Toten Hosen "Verschwende deine Zeit" "Voll auf Haß" 1987 NDR
Sandra "Stop For A Minute" "Salü Palu" 1988 SR
Roger Chapman "Slap Bang in the Middle" "Einzelhaft" 1988 WDR
Bonnie Tyler "Against The Wind" "Der Fall Schimanski" 1991 WDR
Wolf Maahn "Cool" "Der Mörder und der Prinz" 1992 WDR
Markus Küpper "Sie hat Schluß gemacht" "Ein ehrenwertes Haus" 1994 MDR
Ben Becker "Alter Mann" "Falsches Alibi" 1995 MDR

See also


  1. ""Ehrenpreis der Jury": Gunther Witte". MDR.de. Das Erste. 13 November 2013. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  2. "Schade, Tatort+ ist zu Ende!" (in German). Das Erste. nd. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  3. "Besondere Ehrung für das Format "Tatort"" (in German). Grimme Institut. nd. Archived from the original on 15 January 2015. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  4. Barbara Möller (29 January 2014). ""Tatort" erhält Besondere Ehrung beim Grimme-Preis". Die Welt (in German). Axel Springer. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  5. "Tatort". fernsehlexikon. nd. Retrieved 8 November 2014.

Further reading

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