Death of a major playwright

Death of a major playwright


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2020

Rolf Hochhuth has died in Berlin, aged 89.

His play The Deputy lifted the lid on the Vatican’s collaboration with Hitler’s extermination of the Jews and its subsequent cover-up, a dirty secret that it conceals to this day.

Passionate about exposing German criminality and complacency, he once refused to share a panel with Gunter Grass, whom he called out as an antisemite.



  • Anon says:

    Sounds like a man of principle. How refreshing to know of him.

  • JBB says:

    On the contrary: Pius XII should be declared Righteous Among the Nations for his actions during the war.

    Better to consult actual sources than a muckraking play.

    Rabbi Dalin’s The Myth of Hitler’s Pope would be a good place to start.

    • V.Lind says:

      There was truth in The Deputy, but not the whole truth, as Mr. Lebrecht, a student of matters Jewish, should know.

  • Ron Swanson says:

    Spot on Gunter Grass.

    • esfir ross says:

      Anti-semite ‘re not who doesn’t like Jews-but whom Jews don’t like. If Gunter Grass criticized Israel -he became persona non grata and anti-Semite. Ha-ha

    • V.Lind says:

      Günter Grass got into trouble for writing a poem critical of a particular policy of the Netanyahu government. At the time he was supported by a lot of Israeli citizens, who rightly thought that criticism of a particular government and/or its policies do not constitute anti-Semitism in any balanced mind.

      He was drafted into the Waffen-SS as a teenager, in 1944. Don’t suppose he got much choice. He served in a Panzer division — a soldier. Should he have come clean about it earlier? Perhaps. But he built a career on making Germans face their past, and was a articulate and effective critic of Nazism and its doings. We do not label German soldiers Nazis or anti-Semites. He was conscripted to the SS and did only military duties — he was rounded up by the Americans with others, and released a few months later.

      • Beaumont says:

        He wasn’t drafted into the SS – he volunteered.
        He also stated that the first time he experienced racism was as an American POW observing how the Americans treated their black comrades.
        Nice guy all round then.

        • V.Lind says:

          According to his autobiography Grass volunteered for the military but they determined where he would serve and with which unit. He claims he did not choose the SS. Given the way he lived his life, I am disposed to believe him.

          I am less inclined to believe anything Hochhuth wrote. Aside from the fact that he was in Hitler Youth, his stuff about Pius XII is seriously inaccurate. But it does not hold a candle to the rubbish he tried to push in Soldiers, which he put together with the help of his pal David Irving — a lifelong friend. He argued for free speech — but apparently that does not go so far as to be able to criticise a Netanyahu policy.

          Sorry — as far as I am concerned free speech applies to both sides of issues.

      • Kohl Rabi says:

        Yes, we do. At least, until proven otherwise. Same with all adult Germans in that time.

  • Stuart says:

    The only play of his that I have read is Soldiers – it caused quite a stir in London for Olivier and Tynan. Scheduled at the NT but not played there due to pushback.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I understand that by a strange irony of history, Arabs also are a Semitic people, so that anti-Arab sentiment for example icould by a twist of fate be technically also considered to be to that extent another kind of anti-Semitism.

    This is beyond me. Is it ever discussed publicly, or addressed in courts of law? Was the 6,000-year-old conflict over grazing and watering rights another family quarrel like World War I?

    • Kohl Rabi says:

      How totally inappropriate and ignorant, just an attempt to insert ugly propaganda. Shame on you.

  • Kohl Rabi says:

    I bought and read that play and another of his. I was most impressed.

  • Edgar Self says:

    I am prooerly and publicly shamed, but my statement and question stand unanswered. Meanwhile I enjoy a delicious dish of kohlrabi prepared by my grandmother Hepzibah and shared with my mother Lillian and my sister Sarah.

  • Edgar Self says:

    In her witty post, the fifth on this subject, Esfir Ross quoted the saying that an anti-Semite is anyone the Jews don’t like. She got off lightly, but I am inappropriate and ignorant to enlarge on the question?Not inappropriate or ignorant at all,

    A popular Israeli comedian got wry laughs by saying an anti-Semite is someone who dislikes Jews more than is necessary, and even a prominent Israeli politician said it’s time to turn the page.

    A different point of view is not per se an ignorant one. I read kohl rabi’s posts and note his point of view. Kohlrabi,like anger and vengeane, is a dish best enjoyed cold, like kolb slaw, the vegetable, or themoniker.

    The matter of Arabian semitic descent is related in the Torah. and the paradox of reverse anti-Semitic discrimination is germane in an almost rabbinical or even Jesuitical way. I would be very surprised if it hasn’t been discussed, hence my question. I realise there are many other factors and more recent history, but it’s fundamental to a way of thinking, speaking, and writing. Who is the ignorant one? Or is the idea simoply suppressed? No ill-bred responses to what is an historical, intellectual, and theological question, please.

  • Edgar Self says:

    An afterthought: how might Rolf Hohhuth have approached the subject in another provocative play of his, surely not beyond speculative conjecture.? We can try to think outside the operatic or confessional box, The paradox is there, however bitter. We can choose to laugh or cry.

  • Historian says:

    Only just seen this. Sorry to spoil the fun but since 2007 we have known Hochhut was in fact peddling Soviet propaganda. Why 2007? Because that is when one of the Securitate chiefs involved, Ion Pacepa, told the world about the long-term Khrushchev plan called Seat-12 (look it up).

    Pacepa’s comprehensive claims have been widely discussed but not discredited. That won’t stop those who have fond memories of Khrushchev or the Soviet regime from trying to start an argument.

    As to history’s judgement on Pope Pius XII, the Vatican opened their archives in March this year. The USHMM, among others, has already been in to look.