Heinar Kipphardt Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Heinar Kipphardt was born in Upper Silesia. His father, a dentist, was an opponent of the Nazis and spent five years in a concentration camp at Buchenwald. In 1942, Kipphardt was drafted out of medical school to serve on the Russian front in the Wehrmacht panzer division, from which he is said to have deserted. He finally earned his medical degree at Düsseldorf in 1950 and became a staff psychiatrist at the Charité Neurological Clinic in East Berlin, also joining the Deutsches Theater as literary adviser.

Throughout the 1950’s, Kipphardt alternated between treating mentally ill individuals at the clinic and satirizing a morally ill society onstage. When his play Die Stühle des Herrn Szmil, an adaptation of the novel Dvenadtsat stuliev (1928; The Twelve Chairs, 1961) by the Russian comic writers Ilya Ilf and Evgeni Petrov, was banned by the state censor in 1959, he departed for West Germany, eventually settling in Munich, where he began writing the kind of hard-hitting documentary theater practiced by Rolf Hochhuth in Der Stellvertreter (1963; The Deputy, 1963). Kipphardt wrote Der Hund des Generals, about the inability of Germans to acknowledge the shameful past, in this style before writing In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Whatever emotions the play evoked in German audiences, in the United States it was recognized as having a direct bearing on the Vietnam War, organized...

(The entire section is 476 words.)