Authors: Rolf Hochhuth

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

German playwright

Author Works


Der Stellvertreter: Ein Christliches Trauerspiel, pr., pb. 1963 (The Representative, 1963; also known as The Deputy)

Soldaten: Nekrolog auf Genf, pr., pb. 1967 (Soldiers: An Obituary for Geneva, 1968)

Guerillas: Tragödie in fünf Akten, pr., pb. 1970

Tod eines Jägers, pr. 1970

Die Hebamme, pb. 1971

Dramen, pb. 1972

Lysistrate und die Nato, pb. 1973

Juristen, pb. 1979

Ärztinnen, pr., pb. 1980

Judith: Trauerspiel, pb. 1984

Unbeflekte Empfängnis: Ein Kreidekreis, pb. 1988

Sommer 14, ein Totentanz, pb. 1989

Alle Dramen, pb. 1991

Wessis in Weimar: Szenen aus einem besetzten Land, pr., pb. 1993

Effis Nacht: Monolog, pb. 1996

Das Recht auf Arbeit, pb. 2000

Hitlers Dr. Faust, pb. 2000

Nachtmusik, pb. 2000 (Mozart’s Nachtmusik, 2001)

Long Fiction:

Die Berliner Antigone, 1963

Zwischenspiel in Baden-Baden, 1974

Eine Liebe in Deutschland, 1978 (A German Love Story, 1980)

Julia: Oder, der Weg zur Macht, 1994

Short Fiction:

Atlantik Novelle: Erzählungen, 1985


Krieg und Klassenkrieg, 1971

Tell ’38, 1979 (English translation, 1984)

Tell gegen Hitler: Historische Studien, 1992

Und Brecht sah das Tragische Nicht, 1996

Die Geburt er Tragödie aus dem Krieg: Frankfurter Poetik-Vorlesungen, 2001

Edited Texts:

Sämtliche Werke und eine Auswahl der Skizzen und Gemälde, 1959 (of works by Wilhelm Busch)

Liebe in unserer Zeit: 32 Erzählungen, 1961

Am grauen Meer: GesammelteWerke, 1962 (of works by Theodor Storm)

Die grossen Meister, 1966

Kaiser Zeiten: Bilder einer Epoche, 1973 (of works by Oskar and Gustav Tellgmann)

Räuber-Rede: Drei deutsche Vorwürfe, Schiller, Lessing, Geschwister Scholl, 1982

Alan Turing: Erzählungen, 1987


Schwarze Segel: Essays und Gedichte, 1985

War Hier Europa? Reden, Gedichte, Essays, 1987

Panik im Mai: Sämtliche Gedichte und Erählungen, 1991

Von Syrakus aus: Gesehen, Gedacht, Erzählt, 1991

Alle Erzählungen, Gedichte und Romane, 2001

Zwischen Sylt und Wilhelmstrasse: Essays, Gedichte, Reden, 2001


In the post-World War II era no other German dramatist came as close to being the conscience of a people as did Rolf Hochhuth (HAWK-hooth). He was born in 1931 in the province of Hessen, Germany, to Walter and Ilse (Holzapfel) Hochhuth. His father’s shoe factory, which had been in the family for three generations, went bankrupt during the Depression, and his father became an accountant. The family attended the German Evangelical (Lutheran) church, and young Hochhuth studied at the local Realgymnasium. With the outbreak of World War II, his father, who had been an officer in World War I, was recalled to the army but was retired after several months. In 1941 the boy was required to join the Deutsches Jungvolk, a Nazi youth organization.{$I[AN]9810001143}{$I[A]Hochhuth, Rolf}{$I[geo]GERMANY;Hochhuth, Rolf}{$I[tim]1931;Hochhuth, Rolf}

Hochhuth’s wartime experiences were typical for the German youth of that era. All were required to work wherever possible as part of the war effort. Two experiences in 1943 significantly formed Hochhuth’s later political ideology. The first occurred when his Jungvolk group was ordered to nearby Kassel to help remove the bodies of those killed in an air raid by British bombers. The horror of that experience embittered him against the British in particular and air war in general. Later that year the Jewish wife of a cousin hid with his family for several weeks until she took her own life. This experience prepared him for the full extent of the postwar revelations of Nazi atrocities against the Jews.

The horrors of war, Germany’s loss of the war, and the beginning of the Cold War (Eschwege is only four miles from the political division of Germany) had a profound impact upon the young man. In the postwar era he studied history and philosophy at the universities of Marburg, Heidelberg, and Munich in a personal quest for truth and for absolution for his feelings of guilt for being German. In 1955 he began working for the publishing house of C. Bertelsmann. The success of one of his projects, an edition of the works of the German satirist Wilhelm Busch, allowed him to take a three-month leave of absence. He used the time to research a topic that had concerned him for several years: the silence of the Vatican during the Jewish Holocaust. This ultimately led to his first play, The Representative, in which he defined his understanding of truth.

February 20, 1963, in what was then West Berlin saw the opening of his play, which the audience greeted with stunned silence. Subsequent performances were marked by angry outbursts, usually from Roman Catholics, against the message of the play. Hochhuth’s contention that the Holocaust had been made worse by the silence of Pope Pius XII was indicated in the subtitle of the play, Ein Christliches Trauerspiel (a Christian tragedy). Hochhuth contends that the pope, as God’s emissary (God’s Stellvertreter), is responsible for overseeing higher law and should have spoken out against genocide. Hochhuth indicts the pope for serving as a political power broker, and for allowing Jews to die in order to satisfy the Vatican’s political interests. Despite his disdain for Adolf Hitler, Pius XII supported the Nazi leader, considering him the scourge of God whose mission is to stamp out Communism. The pope’s fear of Communism, Hochhuth implies, caused him to support the Nazi regime. The Representative also lauds Kurt Gerstein, who, Hochhuth believes, joined the Nazi war effort in order to sabotage it. The play includes a chilling characterization called The Doctor, who represents Josef Mengele. The play was translated into English first as The Representative and then as The Deputy. When it opened in New York City in 1946 it was again greeted with protests, but it had a run of 316 performances and earned a Tony Award for its producer.

Hochhuth’s second play, Soldiers, aroused another storm of protest, especially in England. Here the focal character is Winston Churchill, and Hochhuth explored that wartime leader’s decision to endorse terror bombing of civilian targets. Of particular concern to many was the insinuation that Churchill had permitted the assassination of the Free Polish leader, Wladislaw Sikorski, in order to guarantee the continuation of the wartime Anglo-Russian alliance. The play was banned in Great Britain for more than a year before it finally opened in London; British audiences then learned, as audiences in Europe and North America had already learned, that the Churchill character was a fair and compelling representation.

Hochhuth’s works after Soldiers enjoyed less international success than the first two plays. Guerillas concerns American intervention in Central America and describes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as being guilty of manipulating the U.S. government. Die Hebamme (the midwife) satirizes the Social Democratic Party of the Federal Republic of Germany for having allowed substandard housing to exist during the postwar economic regeneration. Lysistrate und die Nato (Lysistrata and NATO) is a modernized version of the ancient Aristophanes play; in Hochhuth’s version German women withhold their sexual favors until American nuclear missiles are removed from German soil. Tod eines Jägers (death of a hunter) is a monologue about the life and death of Ernest Hemingway. Hochhuth continued to write plays, but none has been adapted for the stage outside West Germany. Hochhuth also became well known in his native land for his numerous essays on various political topics.

Hochhuth’s significance in twentieth century drama rests on his use of the stage as a platform for his own Weltanschauung, or view of the world. Hochhuth believes in Personalisierung, that is, that each individual human is of value and each individual ultimately must assume responsibility for his or her actions. Given that premise, Pope Pius XII and Winston Churchill were accountable for their actions. Yet Hochhuth was never as simplistic as the plays apparently made him out to be. The stage versions of his plays were always truncated editions of his work. The original version of The Representative, for example, would have taken eight hours to perform. The playbook for Guerillas is more than two hundred pages long (around one hundred pages is average) and includes massive amounts of documentation. If anything, Hochhuth is guilty of overkill, of trying too hard to prove his point. Hochhuth, in exorcising his own demons, became a political dramatist who anticipated and interpreted history rather than simply re-creating it.

BibliographyBentley, Eric, ed. The Storm over “The Deputy.” New York: Grove, 1964. A useful compilation of reviews of the play, editorials, and comments by literary critics and philosophers. Bibliography.Bosmajian, Hamida. Metaphors of Evil: Contemporary German Literature and the Shadow of Nazism. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1979. The volume includes a valid comparison of The Deputy and Peter Weiss’s Die Ermittlung (pr., pb. 1965; The Investigation, 1966) in terms of coming to grips with Nazism.Durzak, Manfred. “American Mythologies: Rolf Hochhuth’s Plays Guerillas, Tod eines Jägers, and Judith.” In Amerika! New Images in German Literature, edited by Heinz D. Osterle. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. A cogent discussion of Hochhuth’s three “American” plays that sees them as projections of Hochhuth’s ambivalent attitude toward the United States.Rennison, Lucinda. “‘Was von Bismarck übrigblieb …’ Rolf Hochhuth and the German Question.” In The New Germany: Literature and Society After Unification, edited by Osman Durrani, Colin Good, and Kevin Hilliard. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995. A detailed examination of Hochhuth’s position with regard to Germany from his emergence as a writer in the 1960’s to the postunification period.Sanchez, Jose M. “The Search for the Historical Pius.” America 186, no. 5 (February 18, 2002): 8-11. An examination of the controversy surrounding the role of the Catholic Church, particularly Pope Pius XII, during the Holocaust. Mentions The Deputy as one of the earliest sources of the debate.Schmidt, Dolores B., and Earl R. Schmidt, eds. The Deputy Reader: Studies in Moral Responsibility. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1965. This useful compilation of essays, not all of which address The Deputy, seeks to establish the historical, literary and critical perspectives from which the play may be viewed.Taëni, Rainer. Rolf Hochhuth. Translated by R. W. Last. London: Wolff, 1977. A succinct survey of Hochhuth’s life, work, and politics that focuses especially on the plays, including Tod eines Jägers.Ward, Margaret E. Rolf Hochhuth. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A sound, general survey of Hochhuth’s works, including Tod eines Jägers.
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