Rolf Hochhuth Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

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 Massive protests in Basel, Switzerland, required police intervention and the play had to be withdrawn after only seventeen performances.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...

(The entire section is 444 words.)


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Rolf Hochhuth was born on April 1, 1931, the offspring of a family that had established ancient roots in Eschwege, a small town in Hesse that was, before reunification of the two postwar German states in 1990, situated in close proximity to the border separating the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic. In 1948, Hochhuth—who, because of his youth, had missed military service in World War II—left secondary school to become a bookseller’s apprentice, a vocation in which he could indulge his appetite for reading and writing. The novelist Thomas Mann, whom in 1975 Hochhuth vehemently defended against attempts to minimize Mann’s political commitment during the latter’s exile in the United States, became his favorite author.

From 1950 to 1955, Hochhuth worked as a bookstore employee in several West German cities and audited classes at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg. In 1955, he became an editor for the Bertelsmann book club; he edited the German classics as well as modern writers, among them the nineteenth century humorist Wilhelm Busch, an edition of whose works sold a million copies within a few weeks. In his editing activities, Hochhuth often collaborated with Marianne Heinemann, a friend from Eschwege, whom he married in 1957 and from whom he was divorced in 1972. Hochhuth was married again—to Dana Pavic, a Yugoslavian medical student—in 1975.

In 1959, Hochhuth spent a sabbatical in Rome, where he engaged in archival research at the Vatican. The Deputy, the play that resulted from these studies, was accepted by a publisher in 1961; however, fearing an adverse reaction from the Catholic Church, the publisher reneged on the contract. Another publisher...

(The entire section is 704 words.)