Heinar Kipphardt Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Heinar Kipphardt’s popularity as a playwright is equally matched by his reputation as a director and as a freelance writer of principally prose works. His only novel, März (1976), and most of his short stories are characteristically in the documentary vein, as are a large majority of his plays. The adaptation, in prose, of his previously produced play Der Hund des Generals and the dramatic adaptation, März, ein Künstlerleben, of his earlier novel, März, attest the ability of Kipphardt as a narrator.

Kipphardt wrote one volume of poetry, Angelsbrucker Notizen (1977), and edited several volumes of preponderantly historical-documentary and critical essays. Kipphardt’s adaptation of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz’s Die Soldaten (1776; The Soldiers, 1972) not only proves Kipphardt’s unique skill in dealing with legal and military subject matter but also shows Kipphardt, the psychiatrist, as a master of the psychological study.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Heinar Kipphardt’s reputation rests on his contributions to the so-called documentary theater . This new genre, still within the perimeters of conventional modern drama, constituted yet another new development in the series of renouvellements that German literature, in general, and German theater, in particular, experienced in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in the aftermath of World War II and the Nazi era.

A proponent of Marxist philosophy, Kipphardt constructed his works to meet the demands of political theater. His plays are based on historical materials, combining a documentary texture with a psychological probing of figures such as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Adolf Eichmann. Kipphardt’s extensive psychiatric training provided him with the necessary insight to develop his characters fully.

Kipphardt began his career as a playwright in East Berlin with Shakespeare dringend gesucht, a mildly satiric play about the problems of a play reader in an East German theater. Although the play was a critique of narrow-minded Communist attitudes, lampooning the East German taste for socialist realist theater of the worst kind, it won for him, in 1953, the National Prize of the German Democratic Republic. Kipphardt was, at that time, the chief dramatist and director at the Deutsches Theater, where he remained until 1959. His play Die Stühle des Herrn Szmil created such an uproar among East German censors (who subsequently...

(The entire section is 430 words.)


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Cuomo, Glenn R. “Vergangenheitsbewaltigung Through Analogy: Heinar Kipphardt’s Last Play Bruder Eichmann.” The Germanic Review 64, no. 2 (Spring, 1989): 58. An analysis of the character of Adolf Eichmann as portrayed by Kipphardt.

Freinberg, Anat. “The Appeal of the Executive: Adolf Eichmann on the Stage.” Monatshefte 78 (1986): 203-214. A look at Kipphardt’s Brother Eichmann.

Hofacker, Erich P., Jr. “Heinar Kipphardt.” In Twentieth Century German Dramatists, 1919-1992. Vol. 124 in Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Wolfgang D. Elfe and James Hardin. Detroit, Mich.: The Gale Group, 1992. A concise overview of the life and works of Kipphardt.

Schumacher, Claude, ed. Staging the Holocaust: The Shoah in Drama and Performance. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998. A collection of essays on dramatic works that deal with the Holocaust. Contains an analysis of Kipphardt’s plays on the subject.

Thomas, R. Hinton, and Keith Bullivant. Literature in Upheaval: West German Writers and the Challenge of the 1960’s. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1974. An examination of the time in which Kipphardt lived and worked, along with some discussion of his role. Bibliography and index.