Rolf Hochhuth’s “The Deputy”

Rolf Hochhuth’s “The Deputy”

No play as important, as interesting as Rolf Hochhuth’s The Deputy has been shown for a very long time—and no play as interesting in an important way. I would insist, too, that the importance of the work is due not merely to its subject—as many critics have said—for if the subject were not expressed in the play’s action, how would its importance be felt, how could the play hold us? And hold us it does, more and more powerfully until the tremendous climax of the penultimate scene. So I will not accept the disjunction other critics find tolerable, that this is a poor play with a great subject. It is precisely the play which has made people realize its subject is great—something nobody knew until Hochhuth had written The Deputy.

To be sure, it was known that the Nazis exterminated six million Jews; but this is only the background of The Deputy. What was not known generally, and what is dealt with in the play, is the attitude the Vatican took to the Nazi extermination program. Yes, it was known that Pope Pius XII had done nothing, or very little, in behalf of the Jewish victims; what was not known, and can best be known through seeing Hochhuth’s play, is the precise manner in which Pope Pius XII refused to condemn the Nazis or lift his voice in behalf of the victims. It has been said that if there is anything great about Hochhuth’s work, it is the stupendousness of the historical event which inspired it. Now this is a poor thing to say about a work like The Deputy. And it is a false thing to say too.


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