The premiere of Rolf Hochhuth’s first play, The Deputy—also known as The Representative—in Berlin in February, 1963, initiated a protracted debate over the author’s charge that Pope Pius XII had failed to speak out forcefully against the deportation and murder of the Jews of Europe. Massive protests in Basel, Switzerland, required police intervention and the play had to be withdrawn after only seventeen performances. Although The Deputy enjoyed a longer run in Paris, performances there were interrupted by stenchbombs and by members of the audience threatening to assault the actors on stage. The play’s performance in New York in February, 1964, was preceded by negative publicity from a variety of quarters, including religious leaders of several denominations. Demonstrators at the theater included such diverse groups as representatives of the American Legion and the American Nazi Party.
Leaders of the Roman Catholic church in various countries strongly protested the appearance of the play, accusing the author of character assassination and pointing to the pope’s personal efforts to protect Jews wherever he could without incurring reprisals by the Nazis. The Vatican’s first official response to the play came in June, 1963, in a letter from future Pope Paul VI, Giovanni Cardinal Montini of Milan, to a British paper.
Hochhuth’s second play, Soldiers: An Obituary for Geneva received only a lukewarm...
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