Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Rolf Hochhuth is foremost a dramatist. That he achieved world renown with his first drama, The Deputy—a play that condemns Pope Pius XII for tolerating the extermination of the Jews in Nazi death camps during World War II by not speaking out publicly—tends to overshadow Hochhuth’s admittedly more modest accomplishments in the fields of poetry, fiction, and the essay.

The moral fervor that is evident in The Deputy and in subsequent plays also infuses his collection of essays Krieg und Klassenkrieg (1971; war and class war). In these essays, Hochhuth drew attention to phenomena that were supposedly no longer existent in the West German welfare state: poverty, lack of housing, job-related accidents, and a high incidence of disease among certain segments of the population. Not surprisingly, politicians and other establishment figures reacted harshly. Despite the employment of Marxist vocabulary in his first major essay collection, Hochhuth is not advocating the radical and sudden upheaval of society in the hope of achieving the ideal state. Rather, he points out the ills of society in copiously documented writings that too often elicit invective instead of factual analysis.

In Tell ’38 (1979; English translation, 1984), his acceptance speech on being awarded the Basel Art Prize in 1976, Hochhuth returned to the Nazi past that he had first explored in The Deputy. In a similar vein, the writer...

(The entire section is 548 words.)