Strawalde was born Jürgen Böttcher in 1931 in Frankenberg (Saxony) and grew up in Strahwalde. From 1949 to 1953 he studied painting at the Academy of Art in Dresden, and from 1955 to 1960 film-directing at the German Academy of Cinematic Art in Potsdam-Babelsberg. Until 1991 he worked at the DEFA documentary film studio in Berlin. A film retrospective of his was held in Paris in 1986 and in Frankfurt am Main in 1989. He has received numerous awards such as the 1979 National Prize of the GDR, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 2022 the Jerg Ratgeb Prize. Strawalde lives and works in Berlin.