1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Scene from The Garbage, the City and Death
The dispute over the play has been going on for nearly 25 years in GermanyImage: Andreas Köhring

Social criticism

October 2, 2009

Despite protests from Jewish groups, the show did go on at last for a Fassbinder play that some had labeled anti-Semitic. The public gave the Germany premiere a warm reception.


A play by German writer Rainer Werner Fassbinder called "The Garbage, the City and Death," had its German debut at the Theater an der Ruehr in the western German city of Muehlheim on Thursday, October 1 - even though Jewish groups had protested that it portrayed a negative and insulting stereotype of Jews.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder portrait photo
Fassbinder, who died in 1982, was known for his critical filmsImage: AP

The dispute over the play, which has been going on intermittently for decades, ended with a long round of applause and calls of "bravo" from the audience.

The director Roberto Ciulli had insisted on including the piece in his season at the theater, despite a nearly quarter-century taboo. Fassbinder wrote the play in 1975, about a greedy Jewish property speculator who ultimately kills a prostitute in an act of revenge.

The local Jewish community and the Central Council of Jews in Germany had asked Ciulli not to bring the show to the stage. But the prizewinning director said that, according to Fassbinder himself, the work is about anti-semitic tendencies in Germany; it is not an anti-semitic statement itself.

Long history of debate

Ciulli included the piece in an evening of Fassbinder plays, sandwiching it between two other pieces that criticized German society.

The play saw its first performance in 1987 in New York, and was also performed in Tel Aviv, but until now had never made it to the stage in Germany. It was cancelled amid protests in Frankfurt in 1985 and again in Berlin in 1998.

Fassbinder is known for his socially critical works, and is most famous for his film "The Marriage of Maria Braun."


Editor: Susan Houlton

Skip next section Explore more