Rolf Hochhuth, one of the founders of political theater in Germany, turns 75 Saturday. And he continues to cause scandals.
Hochhuth's "The Deputy" was an international scandal
Dubbed "the Pinscher" for his bite, Hochhuth acquired international renown in 1963 with his controversial play "The Deputy," in which he portrayed Pope Pius XII as an opportunist and a weakling for failing to condemn the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War II. Since then, Hochhuth has consistently used the stage to ask questions about the moral responsibilities of movers and shakers in politics and businesses.
Born on April 1, 1931 in the town of Eschwege in Hesse, Hochhuth grew up after the rise to power of the Nazis and witnessed the persecution of the Jews and the consequences of war. At the age of 17, Hochhuth quit school to pursue his dream profession and become a writer.
"For me -- the former squirt in Hitler's youth group, the son-in-law of one of the people Hitler had beheaded, having seen the deportation of the Jews at age 10 -- for me, discussion of Hitler is at the heart of what I wrote and write," said Hochhuth in a 1976 interview with Die Zeit weekly.
Rolf Hochhuth: always fodder for conversation
Hochhuth has trained his pen on the political, religious and business elite. His works have had Churchill arranging for the murder of a Polish politician, an American millionaire planning a coup and Ernest Hemingway confessing to having been a failure just moments before his suicide.
Provoking scandal over and over
In 1978, Hochhuth ignited a debate about dealing with his country's Nazi past. In the novel "German Love Story," he took on Baden-Württemberg's then premier, Hans Filbinger, who had been a military judge allegedly responsible for executions even after Germany's World War II capitulation. Filbinger subsequently resigned, and the play Hochhuth made of the story celebrated a successful run.
With his play "Wessis in Weimer" (Westerners in Weimar) Hochhuth was one of the first German writers to tackle the subject of the country's reunification. In 2004, he attracted attention with "McKinsey Is Coming," which explored issues of mass unemployment, executives' power and the quest for profits and portrayed business leaders as "job killers."
In "McKinsey is Coming," Hochhuth took on the "dictatorship of the world economy"
Just last year, Hochhuth provoked angry reactions from Germany's Central Council of Jews, among others, after calling British historian and Holocaust-denier David Irving a "fabulous pioneer of contemporary history" in an interview with a German right-wing weekly. Hochhuth later apologized and distanced himself from his positive assessment of Irving.
Though he has made German theater history in nearly 50 years as a writer, Hochhuth has credited his speeches and essays on contemporary events as having had the greatest political affect. In any case, he has become an expert at provoking scandals, a writer who "lays political bombs," according to The New York Times Magazine.