Kipphardt, Heinar

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Nationality: German. Born: Heinrich Mauritius Kipphardt, Heidersdorf, Upper Silesia, 8 March 1922. Education: Studied medicine, 1941-42; Medical Academy, Düsseldorf, 1945-47, M.D. 1950. Military Service: Drafted into the German army: served on the Russian front, 1942-44; deserted, 1945; worked as doctor in an American hospital. Family: Married 1) Lore Hannen in 1943 (divorced), one daughter and one son; 2) Pia Pavel in 1971 (with whom he had lived since 1963), two sons previous to marriage. Career: Psychiatric assistant, Krefeld and Düsseldorf, 1947-49; psychiatric assistant, Charite Neurological Clinic, East Berlin, 1949; literary adviser and chief dramatist, Deutsches Theater, East Berlin, 1950-59; moved back to West Germany and started writing full time, 1959; chief dramatist, Kammerspiele (Intimate Theatre), Munich, 1970-71; visiting artist, Hamburg, 1977. Awards: East German national prize, 1953; Schiller Memorial prize, 1962; Gerhart Hauptmann prize, 1964; Adolf Grimme prize, 1965; German Academy of Representational Arts television prize, 1975; Society of German Doctors film prize and Prix Italia, both in 1976; Bremen literature prize, 1977. Died: 18 November 1982.



Stücke [Plays]:

Stücke 1 (includes Shakespeare dringend gesucht; Die Stühle des Herrn Szmil; In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer ). 1973.

Stücke 2 (includes Joel Brand: Die Geschichte eines Geschäfts; Die Nacht in der Chef geschlachtet wurde; Die Soldaten; Sedanfeier ). 1974.

Theaterstücke: Eine Auswahl (includes Der Hund des Generals; In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer; Joel Brand; Die Soldaten; Die Nacht, in der der Chef geschlachtet wurde; März, Ein Künstlerleben ). 1982.


Entscheidungen (produced East Berlin, 1952).

Shakespeare dringend gesucht: Ein satirisches Lustspiel in drei Akten [Shakespeare Urgently Sought: A Satirical Comedy in Three Acts] (produced East Berlin, 1953). 1954.

Der Aufstieg des Alois Piontek: Eine tragikomische Farce [The Rise of Alois Piontek: A Tragicomic Farce] (produced East Berlin, 1956). 1956.

Esel schreien im Dunkeln [Donkeys Bray in the Dark]. 1958.

Die Stühle des Herrn Szmil [Mr. Szmil's Chairs], adaptation of a novel by Ilia Ilf and Evgenii Petrov (produced Wuppertal, 1961). In Junges deutsches Theater von heute, edited by Joachim Schondorff, 1961.

Der Hund des Generals [The General's Dog] (produced Munich, 1962). 1963.

In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer (television play). 1964.

In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer (produced West Berlin, 1964). 1966; as In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (produced Los Angeles, 1968; New York, 1969), 1967.

Joel Brand: Die Geschichte eines Geschäfts [Joel Brand: The Story of a Business Transaction] (produced Munich, 1965). 1965.

Die Nacht, in der Chef geschlachtet wurde [The Night the Boss Was Slaughtered] (produced Stuttgart, 1967). In Stücke 2, 1974.

Die Soldaten [The Soldiers], adaptation of a play by Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz (produced Düsseldorf, 1968). 1968.

Sedanfeier: Montage aus Materialien des 70er Krieges (produced Munich, 1970). In Stücke 2, 1974.

Leben des schizophrenen Dichters, Alexander März [Life of the Schizophrenic Poet, Alexander Marz] (television play). 1976.

März, ein Kunstlerleben , adaptation of his novel and television play (produced Düsseldorf, 1980). 1980.

Bruder Eichmann [Brother Eichmann] (produced Munich, 1983). 1983.

Television Plays:

Bartleby, 1963, from the work by Hermann Melville; In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1964; Der Hund des Generals , 1964; Die Geschichte von Joel Brand, 1964; Leben des schizophrenen Dichters Alexander März, 1975; Die Soldaten, 1977; In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer (new version), 1981.


März. 1976.

Short Stories

Die Ganovenfresse: Zwei Erzählungen [The Ganoven Mouth: Two Stories]. 1966.

Mann des Tages und andere Erzählungen [The Man of the Day and Other Stories]. 1977.


Angelsbrucker Notizen: Gedichte [Notes from Angelsbruck: Poems]. 1977.

Umgang mit Paradiesen: Gesammelte Gedichte. 1990.


Traumprotokolle. 1981.

Essays, Briefe, Entwürfe:

Schreibt die Wahrheit 1949-64. 1989.

Ruckediguh, Blut ist im Schuh 1964-82. 1989.

Die Tugend der Kannibalen: Gesammelte Prosa. 1990.

Editor, with Ewald Dede, Aus Liebe zu Deutschland: Satiren auf Franz Josef Strauss. 1980.

Editor, with Roman Ritter, Vom deutschen Herbst zum bleichen deutschen Winter: Ein Lesebuch zum Modell Deutschland. 1981.

Translator, Und im Licht mein Herz, by Nazim Hikmet. 1971.


Critical Studies:

"The Appeal of the Executive: Adolf Eichmann on the Stage" by Anat Feinberg, in Monatshefte fur Deutschen Unterricht, Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, 78(2), Summer 1986, pp. 203-14; "'Reportagen der Innenwelt': The Example of Heinar Kipphardt's Marz " by Carol Poore, in German Quarterly, 60(2), Spring 1987, pp. 193-204; "Vergangenheitsbewaltigung through Analogy: Heinar Kipphardt's Last Play Bruder Eichmann " by Glenn R. Cuomo, in Germanic Review, 64(2), Spring 1989, pp. 58-66; "Heinar Kipphardt, Robert Oppenheimer and Bruder Eichmann: Two Plays in Search of a Political Answer" by Carl Steiner, in Amerika! New Images in German Literature, edited by Heinz D. Osterle, 1989; "Heinar Kipphardt's Brother Eichmann " by Alexander Stillmark, in Staging the Holocaust: The Shoah in Drama and Performance, edited by Claude Schumacher, 1998; "Documentation and Its Discontents: The Case of Heinar Kipphardt" by David Barnett, in Forum for Modern Language Studies (England), 37(3), 2001, pp. 272-85.

* * *

In 1933, when Heinar Kipphardt was 11 years old, his father, a Silesian dentist, was sentenced to five years in the Dürrgoy concentration camp near Breslau for his passionately anti-Nazi views. Given the anarchy loosed upon the land just then, there may not be anything unusual in the picture of the pale, frightened boy who watched his father's internment and of the young man who seven years later saw action in the German army, by then in full retreat before the Russian advance. Both experiences must have left a profound impression on Kipphardt, whose politics were more radically left wing than his father's had been and whose first major play, Der Hund des Generals (1962), deals with the butcheries committed by the generals against infantrymen.

Kipphardt studied philosophy and medicine in Düsseldorf. After the war he practiced as an M.D. in Düsseldorf and East Berlin (his novel März is a highly sophisticated study of schizophrenia) before he took up the post of dramaturgic adviser to the Deutsches Theater in East Berlin. In 1961 he settled in Munich. His best-known drama, In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer, appeared in 1964. Although the subject of the play, Oppenheimer's trial and the revocation of his security clearance (a subject Erich Maria Remarque had briefly flirted with), lay 10 ten years in the past, the miasmic McCarthy atmosphere had yet to evaporate, and the wrangling about the building of the hydrogen bomb inspired a spate of related dramas. Kipphardt died in 1982 at the age of 60 and thus barely escaped the fog bombs that exploded after the curtain came down on Bruder Eichmann in January 1983.

Kipphardt's name is invariably linked with the names of Rolf Hochhuth and Peter Weiss as one of the triple pillars of what is called "documentary drama," a genre godfathered by Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht . The genre barely flourished outside Germany and barely outlived the 1960s. (Bruder Eichmann is the one latecomer, but Kipphardt had already toyed with the subject some 20 years earlier.) Despite the methods of alienation that Brecht passed on to his disciples, his most influential docudrama is arguably also his most Aristotelian: the series of 24 one-acters entitled Furcht und Elend im Dritten Reich (1938). (It was misleadingly translated as The Private Life of the Master Race ; the French title, Scénes de la vie Hitlérienne, is much the most apt.) Both Hochhuth's and Weiss's best-known docudramas—Hochhuth's sensationally successful The Deputy (1963) and Weiss's The Investigation (1965)—take la vie Hitlérienne, specifically the Holocaust, for their subject. Of Kipphardt's half dozen best docudramas, two—Joel Brand (1964) and Bruder Eichmann —deal with the genocide of the Jews; in effect, both look at Eichmann from different perspectives: the desk murderer at 38 and at 54.

Brecht notes that he "based [ Furcht und Elend ] on eyewitness reports and newspaper accounts." This essentially is the stuff of which docudrama is made. Unlike historical playwrights, who within certain limits are free to deal with their subjects pretty much as they please, the docudramatists, dealing with recent or nearly contemporary events, have to assume that their audiences have been brought close enough to the subject by the mass media to keep the playwrights from "cheating." The use of television interviews, film clips, and liberally cribbed speeches, which showcase the factuality of the event, is a staple of docudrama. "You can't write a play about Hitler or Trotsky or Auschwitz or Churchill," Kipphardt told an interviewer in 1967, "without taking all our communication lines into account: our contemporaries are informed in ways that differ from Shakespeare's or Goethe's sources of information." A historical playwright like Goethe had little use for historical accuracy: "[the poet's] business," he claimed, "is to present his paradigmatic ethical world and to this end he confers on historical persons the honor of lending their names to his figures." It would not occur to anyone to ask fresh questions about the way Goethe manipulates his Egmonts and Tassos.

The docudramatist evidently has no such license. At best he can modify his character just sufficiently to suit his thesis, as Kipphardt revamped Oppenheimer and Avner Less (Bruder Eichmann ). It is significant that both Oppenheimer and Less vehemently objected to what they regarded as Kipphardt's quantum leaps. Nor would it have occurred to Goethe to write Torquato Tasso to teach his contemporaries a lesson to be taken home and applied. For Kipphardt and his ilk such lessons are absolutely germane to docudrama: "The dramatist doesn't merely want to describe an historical event; he wants to rescue from the historical happening its significance for our own time." Hence, the docudramatist alerts spectators not only to the events as they unfold on the stage but also to all of the consequences, dangers, and uncertainties that lie in ambush for them today. Docudrama is both educational and cautionary. It acts as a sociopolitical SOS.

—Edgar Rosenberg

See the essays on Bruder Eichmann and Joel Brand: Die Geschichte eines Geschäfts.