Hochhuth, Rolf, 1931-, German dramatist. His provocative first drama, The Deputy (1963), accuses Pope Pius XII and the Roman Catholic clergy of tolerating Nazi crimes against the Jews. It received productions worldwide and caused great controversy. His second play, Soldiers (1967), initially banned in England, implicates Churchill in the fire-bombing of civilian targets and the death of Polish general Sikorski in World War II. Later works include Guerrillas (1970), The Midwife, (1972), The Survivor (1981), and the film A Love in Germany (1984).
Rolf Hochhuth (born April 1, 1931 in Eschwege) is a German author and playwright. He is best known for his 1963 drama The Deputy and remains a controversial figure for his plays and other public comments, such as his 2005 defense of Holocaust denier David Irving.

Life and career


During World War Two, Rolf Hochhuth was a member of the Hitler Youth. He has not commented on his indoctrination, attitudes and activities during that time.

The Deputy

Hochhuth's plays include his 1963 drama Der Stellvertreter. Ein christliches Trauerspiel (The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy), a controversial play because of its criticism of Pope Pius XII's role in World War II. In the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, the play is usually known by the title The Representative.

It is regarded by some as a work of considerable literary merit, while publisher Ed Keating and journalist Warren Hinckle, who organized a committee to defend the play as a matter of free speech, considered it "dramaturgically flawed. In 2007, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former Romanian spymaster, alleged that the play was part of a larger KGB campaign to discredit Pius XII. A leading German newspaper opined "that Hochhuth did not require any KGB assistance for his one-sided presentation of history. Some commentators have seen the play as an attempt of Hochhuth to transfer the guilt of his own people to other, more notable, persons, thus trying to acquit his own people and relatives from consent to Nazi crimes.

The play in its unedited version is over five hours long and also includes the true story of Kurt Gerstein, a devout Protestant and later a member of the SS who wrote an eyewitness report about the gas chambers, and after the war mysteriously died as a POW.

The play was first performed in Berlin on February 20, 1963 under the direction of Erwin Piscator. It received its first English production in London by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre in 1963 in a translation by Robert David MacDonald. It was directed by Clifford Williams with Alan Webb or Eric Porter as Pius XII, Alec McCowen as Father Fontana and Ian Richardson. In the United Kingdom, it has since been revived by the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow in 1986 and at the Finborough Theatre, London, in 2006.

An abridged version opened on Broadway on 26 February, 1964 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre with Emlyn Williams as Pius XII and Jeremy Brett as Father Fontana. The play ran for 316 performances.

The Deputy was made into a film Amen by Costa Gavras in 2002, which focuses more on the story of Kurt Gerstein


Hochhuth's next play, Soldiers, Necrology on Geneva (1967) alleges that Winston Churchill was responsible for the death of the Polish Prime Minister General Władysław Sikorski in an airplane crash in 1943, challenging the official version of events as an accident, and claiming that General Sikorski had been murdered on Churchill's orders.

This theme of the play has overshadowed the main thrust of the drama which is a debate on the ethics of area bombing of civilian areas by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War with particular reference to Operation Gomorrah, the Royal Air Force firestorm raids on Hamburg in 1943, and culminating in a lengthy debate between Winston Churchill and the pacifist George Bell, Bishop of Chichester.

The play partially drew on the work of the young British historian David Irving, who later became notorious as a holocaust denier. Since that time, Irving and Hochhuth have been close friends.

Controversy arose in Britain in 1967 when the mooted premiere at Britain's National Theatre was cancelled, due to the intervention of the National Theatre board, despite the support for the play of Laurence Olivier, under pressure from his wife, and Kenneth Tynan. At the time of the controversy in Britain, Irving was the only historian who gave "unequivocal" support for Hochhuth's thesis, others consulted by Tynan considered it highly improbable. Despite this setback, the play was produced soon after in the West End with John Colicos in the cast. The English translation was again by Robert David MacDonald. In the UK, the play was seen on tour in the early 1990s, and received much critical acclaim and full houses when revived at the Finborough Theatre, London, in 2004.

A Love in Germany and the Filbinger Affaire

In 1978, his novel A Love in Germany about an affair between a Polish POW and a German woman in World War II stirred up a debate about the past of Hans Filbinger, Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg who had been a Navy lawyer and judge at the end of World War II. The affair culminated in Filbinger's resignation.

For A Love in Germany, Hochhuth was awarded the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis in 1980.

Alan Turing

His 1987 drama Alan Turing featured one of the fathers of modern computer science, who had made significant contributions to breaking German ciphers during World War II. The play also covered Turing's homosexuality.

McKinsey controversy

In 2004, he again caused controversy with the play McKinsey is Coming, which raises the questions of unemployment, social justice and a "right to work". A passage in which he put the chairman of the Deutsche Bank in one line with leading business men who had been murdered by left-wing terrorists and also with Gessler, the villainous bailiff killed by William Tell, was widely seen as advocating or at least excusing violence against leading economy figures. Hochhuth vigorously denied this.

Anti-Semitism and Irving

In March 2005, he became embroiled in controversy again, when he defended David Irving in an interview with the German weekly Junge Freiheit. Irving had been sentenced in Britain (2000), Austria (2006) and Germany (1993) for his Holocaust Denials. Germany also barred him from ever entering the country for the same reason. Hochhuth called Ivring a truly great and very serious historian and judged the accusations against him as “idiotic” When confronted with Ivring’s statement, that "Less people died during the Holocaust than on the backseat of Edward Kennedy's car, (one) and that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz", Hochhuth defended Ivring as a great historian and called all this black humour, probably provoked.

Paul Spiegel, the President of the Central Jewish Council in Germany, argued that with these statements Hochhuth himself is denying the Holocaust. After weeks of uproar, Hochhuth finally issued a weak apology.



Hochhuth has also collaborated with scripts for cinema and television:

  • Berliner Antigone (1968)
  • Élo Antigoné (1968)
  • Ärztinnen (1984)
  • Effis Nacht (1998)
  • A Love in Germany (1983)



  • Barasch-Rubinstein, Emanuela. The devil, the saints, and the church: reading Hochhuth's The deputy. New York: P. Lang, 2004.
  • Bentley, Eric. The storm over The deputy. New York: Grove Press, 1964.
  • Rennison, Lucinda Jane. Rolf Hochhuth's interpretation of history, and its effect on the content, form and reception of his dramatic work. Durham: University of Durham, 1991.
  • Tynan, Kathleen. The file on 'Soldiers': historical notes on Rolf Hochhuth's play. London: Battley Bros., [1968].
  • Ward, Margaret E. Rolf Hochhuth. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977.

External links

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