Kinski was conscripted at the age of 17 into the German Wehrmacht some time in 1943, and served in the army. He saw no action until the winter of 1944, when his unit was transferred to the Netherland. He was wounded and captured by the British on his third day of combat.
By May 1945, at the end of the war in Europe Kinski had heard that sick prisoners were to be returned first, and tried to qualify by standing outside naked at night, drinking urine and eating cigarettes.
In 1950, Kinski stayed in a psychiatric hospital for three days because he stalked his theatrical sponsor, on whom he had a crush, and eventually tried to strangle her. Medical records from the period listed a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia but the conclusion was psychopathy.
For three months in 1955, Kinski lived in the same boarding house as a 13-year-old Werner Herzog, who would later direct him in a number of films. Around this time Kinski became unable to secure film roles, and reportedly attempted suicide twice.
Klaus Kinski married three times, having a child with each wife.
- Singer Gislinde Kühlbeck and their daughter Pola Kinski
- Actress Ruth Brigitte Tocki and their daughter Nastassja Kinski
- Minhoi Geneviève Loanic and their son Nikolai Kinski
Kinski died on 23 November 1991 of a sudden heart attack at his home in Lagunitas, California, a month after his 65th birthday. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean. Of his three children, only his son Nikolai attended the funeral.