“Playing Away” and “Working Through”: The Merchant of Venice in West Germany, 1945 to 1960
Zeno Ackermann, Freie Universität Berlin
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 “After those years, let’s take our hats off to Shylock!” This was the heading chosen for a review of Hans Schalla’s widely publicized 1952 production of The Merchant of Venice at the Städtische Bühne Bochum (Bochum City Theater). Besides the ominous wording of the heading, several other passages in the text also offered indirect yet obvious references to the recent past. Thus, while the scenes dealing with Portia’s suitors were playfully described as “a socially exclusive entertainment of the highest order,” Shylock’s presence on the stage came to be seen as deeply unsettling: “However, the Eternal Jew casts his uneerie, grandiose shadow into this aristocratic, if not to say snobbish, planetarium.” As the general tone of the review indicates, this characterization of Shylock was intended critically: what really seemed to cast its “shadow” over the performance was a murderous past in which stereotypes such as the “Eternal Jew” had played an important role. At the end, the critic expressed his satisfaction that the veiled, but still precarious confrontation with that past in the medium of Shakespeare’s play had apparently gone well: “Justifiably, there was warm applause. Shylock was greeted with ovations. In part, these were in acknowledgement of his task to represent the shivers of history. Hats off!”
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Written only seven years after the unconditional surrender of the German army, the breakdown of National Socialist society and the liberation of the camps, the review betrays difficulties in finding a critical distance to ingrained anti-Semitic concepts—concepts to the popularization of which Shakespeare’s Merchant had also contributed, most notably with the infamous 1943 production at Vienna’s Burgtheater. At the same time, the text manifests the pressing necessity of dealing with what has since come to be called the Holocaust. Articulating and simultaneously obscuring persecution and genocide, the review stands as a significant example of the complex combinations of evasion and confrontation, silence and confession (“Beschweigen und Bekennen”) that have characterized attitudes towards the National Socialist past in Germany. Strikingly, it is Shylock to whom the reviewer of Schalla’s Merchant assigned the “task” of solving the knotty problems faced by German society in relating to the past, to the world, and to itself: Shakespeare’s deeply ambivalent Jewish character was expected to negotiate pervasive tensions between absence and presence, silence and confrontation—tensions also between a pre-occupation with pains suffered and an acknowledgement of crimes committed. Shylock supposedly “represented” or even “stood in for” (“vertreten” is the German term used in the review) what was vaguely referred to as the “shivers of history.” In other words: he was expected to open up the recent past to discursive treatment without making the events of this past explicit.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 4 It is the purpose of this essay to elucidate the complex and contradictory functions of the Shylock figure and of The Merchant of Venice in West Germany during the immediate postwar period. The focus will be on the reception of the play on the stages and in theater reviews of the 1950s, and thus on a phase in the German reception of Shakespeare’s comedy that has been largely neglected by scholarship. Peter Zadek’s important 1961 production at the Städtische Bühne Ulm (this production at Ulm’s City Theater was the first of altogether three productions by Zadek in Germany and Austria) will provide the end-point of the investigation: it stands as an early example of new (and better-researched) approaches to the play and of new relationships to the past, as they would emerge during the following decades. Thus, the time under consideration is the foundational period of the Federal Republic of Germany. This period, which largely corresponds to Konrad Adenauer’s chancellorship (1949–1963), was politically and culturally defined by a generation who were already adults when National Socialism rose to power. While many former National Socialists were returning to responsible positions in the administration or in politics and culture, denazification and re-education gave way to what Norbert Frei has described as a deeply ambivalent strategy of politically managing the past (“Vergangenheitspolitik”). Aiming at the quick rebuilding of an integrated and economically productive society, this strategy combined far-reaching amnesties for former National Socialists with normative demarcations against National Socialism and with compensations for its victims. Suggestively, the totality of the measures that the government undertook in terms of compensation, reparation and reconciliation was discussed—and continues to be addressed—as “Wiedergutmachungspolitik”, i. e. as a “politics of putting it right again.” In this political and cultural context Merchant, with its emphasis on the relationships between Jews and the majority society, on debts and guilt, justice and mercy, was deeply significant. Indeed, in the period up to 1961 no less than twenty-four different productions of the play were put on in West Germany. Notably, during the same time Merchant was completely absent from East German stages.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 3 In an important essay on the reception of Merchant in the Federal Republic, German theater scholar Markus Moninger has stated: “Every single postwar production of The Merchant of Venice remembers Auschwitz. . . . In the period immediately after the war, there had been reservations about performing the play. Ever since, however, it has been offering a stage for the drama of German postwar society’s dealings with Auschwitz.” The metaphors of the last sentence not only draw attention to the momentous importance—the real “drama”—of confronting the events that the name Auschwitz connotes: they also indicate the theatricality—i. e. the reliance on processes of role playing, symbolization and displacement—that has sometimes characterized discourses of remembrance, not only in Germany. Moreover, the image of the stage hints at the role of theater as an important medium for confronting, or for “coming to terms with,” the past.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 It is exactly because these notions are strikingly pertinent that the present essay sets out to complicate Moninger’s hypotheses concerning the reception of Merchant in Germany. There are two related issues that I would like to raise. Firstly, it is necessary to take a closer look at the “reservations” which supposedly characterized attitudes towards the play in the early postwar period. Indeed, most extant analyses suggest that, after a phase of marked reticence regarding the play, Merchant was revived only towards the end of the 1950s, when Jewish actor Ernst Deutsch took on the role of Shylock. Thus, Moninger refers to Deutsch’s first interpretation of the role in 1957 as “the first postwar portrayal of Shylock” and Hans-Peter Bayerdörfer speaks of Deutsch’s “creating the first Shylock after the Shoah.” Along similar lines, Wilhelm Hortmann suggests that after the war Merchant “was shunned . . . as unapproachable for the time being on account of the crimes against the Jews. How to perform the Merchant without seeming to add insult to injury was a question only solved by great Jewish actors of Shylock such as Ernst Deutsch and Fritz Kortner, and then only much later.” However, the exclusive emphasis on Deutsch’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Jewish figure as “a human being for whom the audience fears and trembles”—and, in relation to a later historical phase, the focus on the work of Fritz Kortner, George Tabori and Peter Zadek—entails the danger of glossing over what can actually be regarded as the surprisingly lively, and at times surprisingly unrestrained, reception of Merchant during the first half of the 1950s.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Also—and exactly on the basis of the idea that Merchant has constituted “a stage for the drama of German postwar society’s dealings with Auschwitz”—I would like to interrogate the confident assumption that the postwar reception of the play can be understood entirely in terms of the paradigm of Holocaust “remembrance.” While 1945 certainly marked a dramatic rupture for Germany and Germans, the notion of the “downfall” (“Untergang”) of the “Third Reich” that resulted in a “zero hour” (“Stunde Null”), and thus in a completely fresh start of German history, obscures what really was a complicated dialectic of continuity and change. Studying the reception of Merchant between the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the 1960s we are, in many ways, looking at a phase of transition—a phase in which a present was gradually transforming into a past and in which active involvement was laboriously being converted into some form of retrospective distance. As it seemed to Theodor Adorno at the time, the early postwar period was predominantly characterized by “the forgetting of what has scarcely transpired.” In this context, early productions of Merchant were not necessarily informed by an unequivocal urge to “remember.” Frequently, in fact, their primary concern consisted in imaginatively reconstructing a shattered nation by utilizing the restorative plot of the comedy—a plot whose resolution Janet Adelman has described as sealing off “the potential wound in Antonio’s body . . . and in the smooth Christian surface of the play” and retreating to the “nearly impenetrable Christian domain of Belmont.” However, it will be shown that Merchant had dual functions and effects in the aftermath of the war. While the play serviced longings for national regeneration, it simultaneously enforced and enabled difficult processes of confronting German guilt and hate. If Shakespeare’s ambivalent “comedy” seemed to offer a means of securing continuity by playing away the breach in civilization (Zivilisationsbruch), it also proved a literally compelling medium for what contemporaries started to term “working through the past” (“Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit”).
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 3 Adorno’s essay “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” (“The Meaning of Working Through the Past”), delivered as a lecture in 1959 and broadcast on the radio in the following year, stands as a key document at the end of the period under investigation. According to Adorno’s self-consciously polemical and rigorously critical assessment of prevailing arrangements of dealing with the past, the main problem faced in postwar Germany was a problem of continuity: “National Socialism lives on, and even today we still do not know whether it is merely the ghost of what was so monstrous that it lingers on after its own death, or whether it has not yet died at all . . .” As it seemed to Adorno, neo-fascist tendencies, as they certainly were evident in some places, did not pose the most considerable danger: “I consider the survival of National Socialism within democracy to be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy.” In this view, it was the structural continuity not only of elements from National Socialist ideology but primarily of the social and cultural syndrome that had engendered National Socialism in the first place which needed to be broken by a real “working through” of the past—a “working through” that would have to be a critical and political process of transformation, and not merely a psychic process of coming to terms with the past.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 1 In discourses of and around the West German theater at the time, however, continuity was generally proposed as an ideological claim: the claim that postwar stages might unproblematically continue a grand theatrical tradition that had allegedly survived through the period of National Socialism, when most theaters had gone on to function as islands of unadulterated art. As Hortmann has pointed out, the nimbus and the work of Shakespeare played a central role in attempts at constructing and performing such continuity. This is evident from an article on “Shakespeare on the Stages of Southern Germany after the War” which the Shakespeare Society published in 1955. Its author, Hanns Braun, declared: “When, at the end of 1945, German theater rose up again, we clung to Shakespeare with a great hope: if ‘continuity’ was to be found and to be brought about anywhere, it had to be here.” Such emphatic hopes give a new meaning to the image of Shakespearean theater as a stage for the drama of Germany’s coming to terms with its past. While theater certainly can stage remembrance—a potential that would be activated in the theater of the 1960s—Braun’s emphasis on the need of “bringing about continuity” suggests that Shakespeare’s plays were initially appropriated for an attempt at playing on in order to play away National Socialism, the war, and the Holocaust. Strikingly, however, Braun confessed that such a strategy did not seem to work out. As he explains, it had proved impossible to simply revive the Shakespearean theater of the Weimar period:
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 However, it turned out that not even here was “playing on,” i. e. effecting seamless continuity, quite as simple as one had hoped. . . . Having to realize that a deep rift had opened up not only between the today and the epoch that had so recently expired, but also in relation to that earlier past which one would have liked to revive, was among the strangest experiences of the postwar period, as elsewhere, so also in the realm of dramatic art.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 1 Faced with this realization, Braun interestingly came up with a strategy of going still further back into history: if the style of the grand Shakespeare productions of the 1920s no longer worked, the solution might be in returning to the economical manner of performance that, he assumed, must have characterized the Elizabethan stage.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 Others were evidently less sensitive to the problems that seemed to thwart the wish for “seamless continuity.” Only two years after the end of the war, Ernst Leopold Stahl published a comprehensive history of Shakespeare’s reception in Germany since the seventeenth century. Here, Stahl integrated the theater of the National Socialist period into a seemingly consistent process of development and transformation. The chapter dealing with 1933 and the following years was provocatively titled “From Chaos to Order”—”chaos” being meant to characterize both the turmoil created by the National Socialists in the lead-up to Hitler’s chancellorship and the aesthetic experimentation of the Weimar period. The same unstrained pretension of continuity was evident in the Yearbook of the German Shakespeare Society. As if it were a mere matter of course, the 1946 volume caught up on the incomplete theater reports published during the last years of the war. In an essay on the reception of Shakespeare during 1943 and 1944, Stahl first commented on the eminent stages of Berlin and Vienna, and then continued: “The most remarkable achievements on the stages of the Reich have already been dealt with in previous reports.”
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 2 The problematic implications of the continuity that Shakespeareans like Stahl so confidently proclaimed are evident from the careers of many actors and directors—careers which were largely undisturbed by the breakdown of National Socialist society. Erich Ponto is a case in point. After Ernst Deutsch, Ponto was the most renowned Shylock of the 1950s. Like Deutsch, he also played Nathan in Lessing’s drama and the heroine’s father in the hugely successful theater adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. However, before he interpreted Shylock in accordance with the rhetoric of “philo-Semitism” Ponto had offered a very different representation of Jewishness in the 1940 propaganda movie Die Rothschilds. Rudolf Sellner, an important protagonist of a renewed modernist aesthetic in the theater of the FRG, provides an example for definitely uneerie artistic continuities: Sellner directed Merchant not only in 1955 in Darmstadt (a production to which I will return later), but also in 1942 in Göttingen—and in the immediate context of the deportations of German Jews, there certainly was no way of staging the play without effectively affirming anti-Semitic persecution. In a similar manner, Karl Pempelfort, who directed Merchant in Bonn in 1956, had also served as stage manager for a 1935 production in Königsberg. In his earlier function Pempelfort had published a newspaper article that commented on Shylock and the Venetian Christians as representatives of different “worlds”: “The true meaning of these two worlds can only be fathomed by us, who know that they are expressions of opposed racial characteristics. Although he cannot have been aware of their true implications, Shakespeare captured the essence of these contrasting elements, thus laying open a problem that is immediately relevant for us today.” The fact that Lothar Müthel, the director of the notorious production of Merchant put on at Vienna’s Burgtheater in 1943, went on to stage Lessing’s Nathan with the same theater company late in 1945 may be regarded, alternatively, as an instance of change or of continuity.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 More significant than biographical continuities, however, is the persistence of anti-Semitic clichés that comes to the fore in contemporary reviews. Such texts need not do justice to the actual manner in which Merchant was performed on stage; however, as acts of reception in their own right, the reviews certainly say something about the general discourses to which performances of the play contributed and in the context of which they were received. Writing about a production of Merchant that premiered in Coburg in 1954, a reviewer described the representation of Shylock by actor and director Stefan Dahlen as follows: “His steady adherence to the Yiddish of Frankfurt’s Jews, the frequent Hebrew invocations of God and the Devil, the gestures and facial expression of the typical Jew, all combined, resulted in a singularly impressive character study.” However, the critic also detected—and apparently disliked—tendencies towards a heroic rendering of Shylock:
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Dahlen’s portrayal of this classic character of comedy tended towards the grave and the heroic, which somewhat imperiled the character of the play as a comedy. . . . This Shylock was German and heroic rather than an incarnation of the mumbling and haggling little Jew who, afraid of his own courage, is finally cheated out of his reward.
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 1 Automatically defining heroism as a German quality and “haggling” or cowardice as specifically Jewish character traits, this passage testifies to the continuity of the imaginative social integration that had been effected by National Socialist ideology in combination with the racist politics of the regime.
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 It was obviously an awareness that anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Semitic patterns of collective identification were (necessarily) still active among Germans which led a member of the American UNESCO delegation to intervene when he discovered in 1947 that Merchant had been assigned as reading for a school class in Wiesbaden. The UNESCO representative in question must have taken the occurrence very seriously, for he wrote directly to the American Secretary of War:
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 I was astonished to find . . . an English class studying The Merchant of Venice. It did seem to me that Germany in this day and age was an inappropriate place to teach The Merchant of Venice. . . . I understand very well that true comprehension of The Merchant of Venice does not necessarily require an interpretation that this play is anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, it is so easily open to anti-Semitic reactions and interpretations, and the German teachers and German children have so long been conditioned to anti-Semitic reactions, that the book ought not to be used in German schools at this time under our auspices.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 1 As a result of this letter, the respective school class had to stop reading the play. In fact, this is the second known instance of interference by American occupational authorities in the reception of Merchant. The first intervention took place after the plan of Frankfurt’s city theater to put on the play had led to heated public debate in December 1946. The endeavor was criticized by Jews who had survived the Holocaust and by the general press. One journalist, for example, thought that the idea of putting on Merchant at this time bespoke of “a lack of tact.” Stahl, however, described the theater’s plans as a “well-intentioned bid . . . to stage the play for the first time after the collapse of the Hitler state with its million-fold massacres of Jews.” Moreover, he took the commotion created by the plan of staging Merchant as a potent corroboration of the continuing relevance of Shakespeare: “[W]ith the fight about Shylock in Frankfurt, Shakespeare raised the passions in a way that, at present, can be compared only to the debate about the atomic bomb. Is there better proof for his eternal omnipresence [“seiner ewigen Allgegenwärtigkeit”]?” Eventually, however, the military government asked the theater to cancel the production. Director Robert Michal, who had been the driving force behind the project, was dismissed by the theater.
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 1 Indeed, while Merchant certainly was not formally “banned” in occupied Germany, it was with the waning of immediate occupational rule since 1948–49 that the play “returned” to German stages. The assumption that there were ongoing reservations concerning Shakespeare’s comedy is entirely correct only for the German Democratic Republic, where Merchant was first staged in 1976 and where it was only rarely performed afterwards. In West Germany, however, Merchant was first to be seen again in 1948, in a production by the Westdeutsches Landestheater (based in Siegburg). By 1954, there were already five premieres within a single year (in Coburg, Osnabrück, Ulm, Konstanz and Bruchsal). Accordingly, the Yearbook of the Shakespeare Society stated: “Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, and recently also The Merchant of Venice, while ranking clearly after the main plays in the Shakespeare repertoire, are an integral part of theater programs around the country.” As Merchant had always been among the truly important plays in the German Shakespeare canon, a certain continuity had indeed been established.
¶ 22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Productions of Merchant in the early Federal Republic were frequently accompanied by the claim that performing the play was a token of re-establishing lines of continuity which had been interrupted by the abuses of National Socialism and, also, by the interference of occupational administrations. Especially after the Germany Treaty (Deutschlandvertrag) between the Western Allies and the Federal Republic as well as the Reparations Agreement (the so-called “Wiedergutmachungsabkommen”) with Israel had been agreed on in 1952 and after Adenauer had first introduced the trope of the “termination of the postwar era” (“Ende der Nachkriegszeit”) in 1953, productions of Merchant were regularly seen as staking claims for normalization, full sovereignty and general rehabilitation. This is strikingly illustrated by an essay published in the daily Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung in 1953. Under the resolute heading “Waiting Period Over,” its author declared in relation to Merchant:
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Only if the Germans should be taken for an absolutely inferior species, a species with whom even the most subtle manifestations of art have negative consequences and result in barbaric reactions where others are emotionally moved and promoted in their humanity,—only if the most steadfast adherents and admirers of Shakespeare should thus come to be viewed as utterly unpredictable and “incorrigible,” it would be justified to withhold certain works of art from them.
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 The passage displays lines of thinking which Helmut Dubiel has described as “the tenacity among Germans” after the Second World War “of a pattern of self-identification that depended on the concept of nationhood.” The article from the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung clearly goes beyond the earlier-quoted essay by Shakespearean Hanns Braun: rather than merely hoping that the reception of Shakespeare might be instrumental in (re)constructing a continuity which would reach beyond the National Socialist period, the newspaper piece obstinately demands the right of staging the play—and there even is the sense that Germans are to enjoy this right in compensation for relegations and injuries that they seemed to have suffered as objects of “denazification” and “re-education.”
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 1 Approaching the reception of Merchant in the early Federal Republic, we perhaps tend to be guided by the confident assumption that the staging of the play would necessarily have been informed by a desire of “making amends” (“Wiedergutmachung”), of offering some kind of theatrical compensation for anti-Semitic propaganda and persecution. It is from such a perspective that Wilhelm Hortmann states: “During the 1950s and 1960s ‘compensational’ Shylocks dominated: they were brothers in spirit to Nathan the Wise, with Erich Ponto . . . and Ernst Deutsch . . . offering the most distinctive examples for this approach.” There is certainly evidence to corroborate such an interpretation. At the same time, however, quite a lot of evidence stands in opposition to what we have come to accept and to expect—with a modicum of critical distance—as the paradigm of compensation. Staging Merchant was not only and not always an effort at compensation in relation to Jews or the image of Jewishness, but the play was also instrumentalized with the intention of offering compensations to the German majority society.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 In fact, compensation has to be regarded as an ambivalent, or even slippery, concept. Compensation suggests a complicated mediation of financial, ethical and psychological processes—a mediation on which the “Wiedergutmachungspolitik” of the Adenauer administration was indeed based. As has been frequently noted, the concept of “Wiedergutmachung” articulated a fairly explicit expectation that guilt could be converted into debts. An ethical imperative for compensation that, considering an “industrialized” genocide, seemed quite impossible to fulfill—just as impossible, in fact, as Antonio’s giving a pound of flesh—was to be transformed into a severe but manageable financial obligation. The logic of “Wiedergutmachungspolitik” thus included the promise that there would be a compensation for compensation, that in the process there must be something to be gained for Germany as a collective that had been fundamentally shaken not only by guilt incurred but also by pain and injuries suffered during and after the war.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 1 Viewed from the perspective of a collective that was in need of such compensation, Merchant had quite a lot to offer. Indeed, the play explores the topic of compensation in all the possible meanings of the term: in the practical sense of compensation as a process of re-establishing equilibrium, in the financial and ethical sense of compensation as something offered to make up for debts or guilt, and also in the psychological sense of compensation as a process of displacing thwarted needs and aspirations. When Antonio takes out a loan to help Bassanio, almost eagerly offering his own body as security, he seems to do so in order to compensate for losing his friend to the socially accepted ritual of courtship and marriage (the “bond” substitutes for a more intimate bond that is sacrificed in the process). As Antonio’s creditor, Shylock is supposed to demand interest in compensation for his services; interestingly, he refuses to do so, instead proposing the awkward compensation of a pound of flesh if the credit should not be repaid. Later, he craves Antonio’s heart as compensation for the injuries he and his “tribe” have suffered at the hands of the Christians. Eventually, Shylock is forced to give up his fortune and to become a Christian in compensation for his attempt to take Antonio’s life. And after Bassanio and Gratiano have given the ominous rings to the false advocate and his assistant in compensation for their eminent services at court, Portia and Nerissa are finally in a position to demand true fidelity as a permanent compensation for such disloyalty. However, the passages of the play most pertinent to the moral economy of postwar German society were its deliberations as to what is supposed to happen when compensation is impossible. In such cases, Portia declares in her speech on “the quality of mercy” (much-quoted not least of all in German theater programs of the 1950s), mortals may claim a right to unqualified forgiveness:
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 . . . Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this :
That in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. . . .
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 The appeal of Merchant in the early Federal Republic had much to do with this (provisional) exchange of the twin idea of “mercy” and “salvation” for the demands of “justice.” This was already evident from the way in which Robert Michal, the moving force behind the failed production planned in Frankfurt for 1946–47, defended his project against its critics: “If this play should fail,” Michal wrote, “then for us, too, there is no longer any hope for, nor any right to, mercy.”
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 The actualization of the compensational potentials of Merchant was connected to specific ideological and psychological tasks that were assigned to the theater—and in particular to the works of the “classics”—in the wake of National Socialism, war and genocide. In 1947 Heinz Hilpert published a brochure entitled On the Purpose and the Significance of the Theater in Our Time. Hilpert had been among the important directors of the Weimar Republic. Although he was not a National Socialist and although he actually had a Jewish wife (who had emigrated to Switzerland), he had managed to continue his career through the National Socialist period. When Max Reinhardt went into exile, Hilpert had become his successor at Berlin’s Deutsches Theater. In his brochure, Hilpert—who was just regaining his position in the theater—projected a striking image of the postwar situation:
¶ 31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 The times are cold and dark and full of need. Unstoppably and uninterruptedly, the present plunges into the chasm of eternity. The moment is merely a narrow ridge. As an inexorable fate, the law of eternally permanent change towers over everything. From one second to the next, diamond and granite, wind-borne sand and stars, algae and seas and all the creatures are broken down and transformed. Visibly as well as invisibly, microcosm and macrocosm eternally change form, substance, and essence.
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 1 Published only two years after the end of the war—and evidently based on a public lecture—Hilpert’s brochure provides an interesting example of what Ulrich Herbert has called a strategy of “de-realization through abstraction” concerning the National Socialist past. Not only the past but also the difficult life situation of most Germans after the war comes to be distanced by being shifted into the realm of natural history. Quite obviously, the “law of eternally permanent change” which Hilpert seems to have faced with a feeling of sublime terror, was also a welcome agency: Hilpert used his universalizing images in order to pretend that “what ha[d] scarcely transpired” (Adorno) had already transformed into an ancient past that was quite beyond recall. And indeed, the director combined his evocation of sublime catastrophes with the hope that the war, the downfall of the Third Reich, and even the guilty implications of the past might become the basis of a “deeper peace.” Hilpert envisioned a social and moral new beginning in which the theater would be instrumental as an agency of “forming personalities” (“Persönlichkeitsformung”). In this context, he described the stages as institutions of a “pastoral care” (“Seelsorge”) that would be based on the works of the “classics,” particularly on “the Greeks” and Shakespeare
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 1 It is interesting to note that Hilpert did not think Merchant apt material for a theater that was supposed to “exorcise the eminent terror of the times.” When he was asked to direct the play he is said to have answered: “No, I will again do The Merchant of Venice only under the condition that there are forty Jews in the stalls, ready to laugh about it.” In spite of this negative stance concerning the play, Hilpert’s vision of the postwar theater as an institution of pastoral care which would offer orientation and compensation to a German audience whose sense of security had been dramatically undermined, is helpful in understanding the specific character of many productions during the early Federal Republic. However, the appropriation of Merchant for this kind of theater depended on keeping the right balance between Shylock and Portia. It is in this light that the program notes for a production at the Nordmark-Landestheater Schleswig in 1951 (this was the third production of Merchant after the end of the war) suggested the necessity of returning to Max Reinhardt’s approach of staging the play as a confrontation between different worlds. Under the heading “Portia or Shylock,” an exclusive contribution to the program argued that the Jewish moneylender must not be regarded as the central character in Merchant: “Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Lorenzo, Jessica are equally important; and Portia—the longed-for apparition who will bring fulfillment—is the true center of the play, outshining Shylock by far.” If Merchant was performed with the right accentuation, there seemed to be reason for the hope that the play might “hold in store for us the answers that we have been dearly longing for: the liberation of our souls and serene cheerfulness.”
¶ 34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 2 In a recent (2002) doctoral dissertation on the German reception of Merchant between 1945 and 1989, Jörg Monschau looks at an impressive corpus of theater programs and reviews. He suggests that early postwar productions and reviews were governed by a self-conscious attempt at “tact, caution and integrity,” the primary goal being to ensure that the representation and reception of Shylock would be appropriate and safe. I would like to suggest a different perspective on the material, reading the virtually omnipresent emphasis of the historical texts on the romantic and musical qualities of the play, their fascination with Portia as a model of womanhood, and their fixation on the theme of mercy not as tools for cautiously re-introducing the figure of Shylock to the stages of the Federal Republic but rather as indications of an attempt at appropriating the play for the needs of a postwar national collective that was defining itself in contrast to that figure. In other words: the renewed exclusion, not the “rehabilitation,” of Shylock was the issue.
¶ 35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 In the program notes of the time, this attempt at an appropriation of the play surfaced in the striking regularity of references to Gustav Landauer’s important essay on Merchant. Landauer—Jew, socialist, anarchist, and Shakespeare scholar—was murdered when the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic of 1919, in which he served as Minister of Education, was terminated by right-wing militia. The posthumously published essay on Merchant clearly shows the marks of Landauer’s esoteric socialist anthropology, according to which he read the play as a dialectical fable of redemption. In this interpretation, Belmont figured as a blessed space over which Portia presides as “highest and purest incarnation of light, color, warmth and harmony.” As Landauer argued, even quite average and fallible human beings (as, for example, Bassanio and Gratiano) are eventually admitted into Portia’s realm. However, such universal redemption seemed to depend on the exclusion of one character: Shylock, whom Landauer interpreted less as a man or a figuration of Jewishness than as an abstract allegory for the general inability of humans to let themselves be redeemed. Landauer’s essay was governed by a complicated logic according to which Shylock—who comes to appear as a negative Christ figure—has to be damned so that humanity can be redeemed:
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 1 There is hardly another play by Shakespeare which moves us to such a degree of personal gratitude towards the poet, who, from his very heart, was lenient and kind towards all of us . . . If he has admitted Bassanio, Antonio, Lorenzo, Jessica, Graziano, and people of even lesser degree, then for us, too, the gate will not be locked. It is us whom Shylock’s furious and tortured cry follows. It is us who are allowed and commanded to live, prosper and grow, even though the old man has perished because of us, dying because of us like a wounded animal, that has withdrawn into its hiding. . . . We—no matter whether we are men or women, Jews or Christians, in particular, however, the young folks—we may wait on our own affairs in work and play, and hope for the kingdom to come, the kingdom of souls bound and set free, of beauty and freedom, of mercy and harmony. 
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 3 In light of Landauer’s socialist agenda, it may come as a surprise that between 1952 and 1958 one out of two theater programs contained (often extensive) quotes from his essay. As I would like to suggest, there are two reasons for the popularity of Landauer’s interpretation in the early Federal Republic. On the one hand, as a Jewish and leftist victim of rightist political murder, Landauer—in some ways similar to Heinrich Heine, who was quoted with even greater regularity—served as an alibi figure in order to disarm doubts about the appropriateness of showing a problematic Jewish character on the German stage. On the other hand—and this is my crucial point here—Landauer’s take on the play offered the vision of a paradoxical redemption: a compensation for guilt that consisted in the (symbolic) exclusion of those towards whom one had become guilty.
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 The first postwar production on a really important German stage took place in 1952 at the Städtische Bühne Bochum (this is the production which was referred to at the beginning of this essay). A review of the premiere published in the Bochumer Anzeiger illustrates how the interpretation of the play along Landauer’s lines shaped the perception of Shylock. The author of the review, Leo Nyssen, regarded “mercy” as the “leitmotif” of the play. According to Nyssen, director Hans Schalla had interpreted Merchant as showing the contrast between two worlds: on the “bright side” (“Lichtseite”) of the performance, Schalla is said to have displayed “the splendor and the glory, the wit and the amorous enchantment of the Venetian lovers, odd birds and cheerful fellows.” From today’s viewpoint at least, it seems indeed remarkable how unquestioningly Nyssen put up the Venetian Christians as paragons of virtue and the good life. Thus, he commended actor Rainer Geldern for having performed “a truly decent and virtuous Antonio” (“von echtem Anstand”). However, Nyssen also applauded Schalla’s production for placing one character firmly “outside the realm of mercy and grace”: Shylock.
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 A dual perspective on Shylock’s Jewishness is characteristic for this review as well as for many similar texts. On the one hand, Nyssen assures his readers that “there is no Jewish question in Shakespeare.” On the other hand, he explains that the playwright invested his “Venetian Hebrew” with “many character traits of his tribe.” The ideological, political and social relevance of such perspectives becomes apparent when the reviewer suddenly shifts from Shylock to an imagined powerful collective of Jews outside the theater, predicting harsh deeds of revenge “whenever one of them should be given an opportunity to strike back.” Moreover, Nyssen apparently separates Jewish and non-Jewish reactions to the premiere. He writes: “After the final curtain, heartfelt thanks were extended to Hanns-Ernst Jäger, Eva Katharina Schultz, Rosel Schäfer, Andres Wolff and the other actors . . . And the actor who had played Shylock received a bunch of flowers from the Bochum Jewish community.” This actually suggests that the actor who played the part of Shylock received two different kinds of approval: first, as “Hanns-Ernst Jäger” and part of the ensemble, from the majority society—and then, as “Shylock,” from the Jewish community.
¶ 40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Until the end of the 1950s, and sometimes beyond, the subtext of the play’s reception was constituted by the conflicting needs of both confronting and warding off the guilt recently incurred by Germans. Paradoxically, this covert negotiation of guilt tended to result in handing over the burden to Shylock, of all people—indirectly using a Jewish character as the scapegoat for crimes committed against Jews. Thus, if the review of a guest performance given by the Bochum ensemble in Hamburg spoke of the “nightmarish and alien shadow of Shylock,” it is not at all far-fetched to assume that the author was really referring to the “shadow” of the Holocaust. Indeed, the reception of Merchant at this moment in West Germany’s postwar history was evidently fuelled by the covert hope that performing the exclusion of Shylock on stage may be a means of distancing the “nightmarish and alien” past that he connoted.
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 In May 1955 the Landestheater Darmstadt, one of the most renowned stages of the early Federal Republic, saw the premiere of a production of Merchant directed by Gustav Rudolf Sellner. Immediately after the war, Sellner had passed through a period of intense philosophical reflection before he went on with his career. He later declared: “At that moment, it was of primary importance to resume the search for the essence of the human, the search for the lost image of man. I was looking for the magic spell, the formula.” The program notes for Sellner’s production of Merchant in Darmstadt suggest that the director hoped to rediscover “the lost image of man” not in the figure of Shylock but rather in contradistinction to that figure. The “magic spell,” on the other hand, was to be the ideal of forgiving mercy. Accordingly, the program notes for the production focussed on the theme of music and on the character of Portia. Besides the obligatory extract from Landauer’s essay there was also a piece on “Music in The Merchant of Venice.” This contribution had been specially written for publication in this context and gestured towards offering an interpretation not only of the play but also of Sellner’s production. Read critically, the essay on music raises the impression that the director attempted to translate Landauer’s socialist mysticism into a modernist conservative aestheticism. The piece ends by suggesting that “[m]usic can balance out the scales of modernity”: “[T]hat it is the woman who cultivates music is also in line with Goethe’s vision, for whom appealing to the mothers is more pertinent than trusting in the conceptual rationalism [“Logismus”] of the fathers.” In this interpretation of the play, “the Jew Shylock” (as he is called in the program text) was evidently cast to represent a “men’s world” that seemed to have lost the right “balance between spirit and matter.” The latent anti-Semitic tendency of the essay on music was spelt out—vicariously, as it were—by the next text in the program, an extract from August Wilhelm Schlegel’s lecture on Merchant which contained the following sentences:
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Although Shylock is a very determined, educated and original person, one senses in each of his pronouncements a faint air of Jewishness. Even in the written word, one deems to hear a whiff of Jewish pronunciation, as it is sometimes still extant, despite all social refinement, in the higher ranks. . . . To Shylock, an example of selfless charity is the worst instance of anti-Jewish persecution.
¶ 43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 In connection with the 1955 production in Darmstadt, I would like to return to the fact that Sellner had already directed Merchant during the war: in Göttingen in 1942. At that point, the play was performed against the immediate background not only of the regime’s propaganda but also of the ongoing deportation of German Jews. In this context, the production—virtually regardless of its specific manner—must have resulted in an ideological affirmation of anti-Semitic persecution. Indeed, there is evidence that, thirteen years later, Sellner’s second production was informed by his involvement in the first, and by the need to compensate for that involvement. In an interview published in the Yearbook of the German Shakespeare Society for 1984, Sellner was asked what had motivated his production of The Merchant of Venice so early after the war. Of course, the 1942 production was not mentioned in the interview. Still, Sellner’s answer to the interviewer’s question seems instructive: “Our situation at the Darmstadt theater. Apparently, we had already become a bit obsessed with a specific concept of philosophical theater and with a theater that could also be a kind of purgatory, so to speak—a purgatory also for the things from which we had only just emerged, from which we had escaped.”
¶ 44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Sellner’s responses in the 1984 interview are characteristically vague. In fact, there is the sense of an almost strategic polysemy, which makes it impossible to decide whether he interpreted Merchant as a play about guilt, about the ambivalence and the dubiousness of the law or about the puzzling “carelessness” of the Venetian “business world.” Moreover, the fact that Shylock is a Jew is made to appear accidental and essential at the same time. Sellner’s remarks on Max Noack, the actor who had played Shylock in the 1955 production, however, are fraught with concealed significance: “Everybody who saw him as Shylock had to weep with him and for him. . . . I will never forget this suffering Shylock played by Noack, and I will always claim that it was right to attempt the play at that time.” Sellner’s remarks probably confirm Frank Stern’s interpretation of anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism as context-dependent phenomena that can metamorphose into each other. More importantly, the interview betrays the role of Shylock in the strand of reception that Sellner represents: it is the role of a fetish, used to contain the contradictions of a specific conception of Germany’s national regeneration in the double shadow of the Holocaust and of the National Socialist “Volksgemeinschaft.”
¶ 46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 1 Negotiating the quandaries of German guilt in the medium of Shakespeare’s Merchant created significant relations and displacements between the domains of politics, ethics, and aesthetics. The question whether Germans still enjoyed a right to full national sovereignty came to be related to the question whether they still enjoyed a right to stage an Elizabethan comedy; and the problem of rehabilitating the “perpetrator society” turned into the problem of rehabilitating a (fictional) Jewish stage character. It was along these lines that the eminent critic Joachim Kaiser asked in 1965: “Is it possible to save Shylock? Or do we have to let his soul go to hell, and Shakespeare’s possibly most brilliant play with it?” The heading of the respective chapter already answered the first of these questions; it reads: “Shylock Cannot Be Redeemed by Mortals.” Kaiser’s position on whether German theaters should refrain from the play was equally clear:
¶ 47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 I regard The Merchant of Venice as a test in democracy. For as long as theaters and TV stations skirt this play of Christian injustice and Jewish revengefulness . . . we will remain in a state of immaturity, not even being ready for a play that is more than 350 years old.
¶ 48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Accordingly, Kaiser was not convinced by the philo-Semitic turn that actor Erich Ponto had given to the role of Shylock in a renowned production that premiered in Stuttgart in 1956: “Shylock, who is craving revenge (and that for very good reasons), was rendered as a melancholy Nathan, a lenient Jew with eyes full of suffering, a victim praying for compassion, apparently grateful that he was suffered to breathe the air of Venice and to enter the Rialto.” “Obviously,” Kaiser concluded his assessment, “taming Shylock means betraying Shakespeare.”
¶ 49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 1 And indeed, both the production at the Staatstheater Stuttgart in 1956 (directed by Werner Kraut, with Ponto as Shylock) and the even better known production at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus in 1957 (directed by Karl Heinz Stroux, with Ernst Deutsch as Shylock) sought to “save” Shakespeare’s play without letting Shylock “go to hell.” Jörg Monschau has characterized the latter production as “seemingly joining all the efforts to rehabilitate Shylock which had been undertaken in Germany since 1945 into one major project that would finally conclude the ‘Nathanization’ [“Nathanisierung”] of this Shakespearean character.” Above I have suggested a different interpretation of the postwar German reception: not as an effort to “rehabilitate Shylock” but, quite to the contrary, as an attempt at rehabilitating the German national collective at Shylock’s cost. Accordingly, I would also like to suggest a different understanding of Ponto’s and Deutsch’s performances, arguing that their emphatically “philo-Semitic” rendering of the role constituted a new phenomenon rather than the culmination of an established trend: now, the idea actually was to offer compensation for the persecution and misrepresentation of Jews during the National Socialist period, and not compensation to a shattered German majority society.
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Interestingly, the theater program for Kraut’s and Ponto’s production in Stuttgart yet again started off with an extract from Landauer’s essay on Merchant. This time, however, the passage chosen did not refer to Portia as a paragon of womanhood. Nor did it dwell on the theme of mercy. Indeed, the respective text from the program might almost be read as a re-adjustment of previous tendencies in the reception of Landauer’s essay. The following was among the observations quoted from Landauer: “This work by the poet presents us simultaneously with the most boundless joy and with the deepest tragedy; the play does not only expose Shylock, it also exposes those on the other side, amongst whom we, as the audience, stand . . .” Even more importantly, the quote given in the Stuttgart program notes indicated both the allegorical character of Landauer’s interpretation and the socialist direction of the allegory: “That pressure has such results holds true for all downtrodden people, not only for Jews but also for the mob that pours onto the streets in times of riot and revolution, for the modern proletariat . . .”
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 However, Ponto’s Shylock was certainly far removed from the sphere of the riotous mob. Under the heading “Shylock the Wise,” the reviewer for the Stuttgarter Nachrichten offered the following characterization of the performance:
¶ 52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 There is sadness in his eyes and in his wonderful, sonorous voice. His mien is full of grief, even while he speaks of hate and revenge. It sounds much more truthful, and much more characteristic for the wisdom of this Jew, when he declares that sufferance is the badge of all his tribe. . . . In spite of all the tragedy of his fate, this Venetian Nathan, set right by Ponto, is a man of honor through and through. . . . There is no question that the sympathy of the entire house is with him as he is threatened with enforced baptism, veils his head and exits as a broken man.
¶ 53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 1 Present readers might perhaps feel tempted to assume that this passage has an ironic undertone. There is no question, however, that the review was really meant to convey a sense of Ponto’s interpretation of Shylock as an outstanding achievement: “the most deeply moving but also the most humanely appealing document in relation to the tragedy of Jewry during the Third Reich.” As the critic concluded, it would be “salutary and necessary” to take note of this performance. Indeed, in its characterization of Ponto’s Shylock, the review described and performed a regular inversion of the responses that had been spawned by the Shylock of Werner Krauß at Vienna’s Burgtheater in 1943. Even though in the postwar reception of the play Krauß’s interpretation had been frequently referred to as a negative model, Ponto apparently went much further than his predecessors in distancing himself from anti-Semitic interpretations. As the above quote suggests, Ponto’s Shylock was not merely an object of (qualified) compassion. Rather, this theatrical figure provoked and demanded identification. For all its apparent oddity, the characterization of Shylock as “a man of honor through and through” is strikingly significant: if early postwar approaches had tended towards a paradigm of compensation through exclusion, addressing Shylock as “a man of honor” performed a gesture of social inclusion, a gesture that aimed at restoring the injured dignity of the victims of persecution. As a “man of honor,” Ponto’s Shylock did not only have a tragic fate: he actually was a tragic hero.
¶ 54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Ernst Deutsch is even more famous than Ponto for having invested Shylock with the full weight of tragic heroism. Deutsch, who was Jewish, had survived by going into exile in the United States. The following quote comes from a review of the Düsseldorf production written by Erwin Laaths. It is significant not only because it illustrates the impact of Deutsch’s Shylock but also because Laaths seems to have been strangely unaware that Deutsch was in fact the first Jewish actor to play the role in Germany since the destruction of the Weimar Republic:
¶ 55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 It would hardly be possible to risk a Shylock these days if he were not played by a prominent Jewish actor. And of course this actor will be unable to forget the unbelievable trials that his people have had to undergo. To Ernst Deutsch’s impersonation of Shylock this fact lends a force and grandeur that is at times overpowering and breathtaking, an erratic loneliness that belongs to a pained soul.
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 1 The text bespeaks of the difficulties of coming to terms with such a Shylock and with the past that he was taken to embody. However, in the case of Deutsch’s Shylock, exclusion evidently was not an option. This Shylock, with his breathtaking “force and grandeur,” constituted an unavoidable presence that was not to be played away in the fifth act. And indeed, in order to make sure that Shylock was both understandable and unavoidable, the Düsseldorf production had not shunned from considerable intrusions into the established text of the play. For example, Shylock’s well-known monologue from the third act (“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”) was moved into the latter half of the trial scene—which, moreover, was interrupted by the intermission.
¶ 57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 2 It is indicative of significant developments in the reception of Merchant as well as in general cultural discourses that some of the reviews on the Stuttgart and Düsseldorf productions spelled out the unavoidable connection between the play and the recent past in relatively straight-forward terms. Thus, the reviewer of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung remarked in relation to the Stuttgart production: “With several million dead, it is difficult to play away [over their dead bodies] without playing them away.” This remark can be read as an indirect allusion to what, according to my argument here, was the covert intention of many early productions: to simply “play on” in order to secretly “play away” the past, the victims of the Holocaust, and the guilty involvement of many ordinary Germans.
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 Moninger discusses Deutsch’s interpretation under the heading “Losing a Voice of His Own” (“Verlust der Eigenrede”). He points out how Deutsch’s stylization of Shylock served certain psychological needs among the German majority society. This critique of “philo-Semitic” clichés and ideologies is certainly pertinent. However, Moninger’s interpretation is in danger of overlooking the new qualities of the Shylocks played by Ponto and Deutsch, and thus their significance as departures from an early reception which had often continued the tropes of National Socialist propaganda and which had resulted in the ritual exclusion of Shylock as a Jew who provoked shameful memories. Indeed, it may come as a surprise that director Peter Zadek—who is known for zestfully exposing “philo-Semitic” arrangements and whose radical re-interpretations of Merchant Moninger acknowledges as important departures—attributes a decisive role to Deutsch’s interpretation. In the first volume of his memoirs (published in 1998), Zadek states:
¶ 59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 And Ernst Deutsch played Shylock as the noble Jew. At the time, I thought this was a mistake. Today, I think that Deutsch’s interpretation was necessary and entirely justified. It could not have been done any other way. You had to find a means of transition, a passable way. The fact that the play was put on so early after 1945 was more important than the fact that Shylock was too much of the noble Jew.
¶ 60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 The “way” alluded to by Zadek probably leads from the effort of silencing the past to the effort of confronting it, from renewed exclusion to dialogue, but also from strategies of glossing over to strategies of provocation. Zadek’s assessment of Deutsch’s interpretation takes into account the dialectic of compensation and confrontation that was at work in the postwar reception of Merchant. Indeed, Nicolas Berg’s thesis on the dual character of postwar discourses holds true also for the reception of Shakespeare’s controversial play: “The half-hearted concessions, desperate rescue operations for tradition, construed suppositions and shallow excuses [which characterized debates after the war] should not be seen as the opposite of thinking about National Socialism and its legacies. Rather, these phenomena constituted the medium in which such thinking about the past could take place.”
¶ 61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 1 Over Christmas and the New Year of 1959–60, however, a wave of anti-Semitic scribblings, which occurred all around West Germany, indicated the failure of compensational approaches to the country’s past. During the first half of the new decade, the Eichmann trial (1961) as well as the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials (1963–1965) would then compel a re-presentation of the Holocaust and a re-consideration of anti-Semitism. In this context, the links between The Merchant of Venice, ingrained anti-Semitic ideologies, and the crime of the Holocaust became increasingly hard to ignore. Premiering in Ulm in February 1961, Zadek’s first German production of Merchant marks the point when the paradigm of coming to terms with the past through the twin pretense of continuity and compensation was about to crack open. Indeed, Zadek offered a new approach to Shakespeare’s comedy: rather than offering the play as a comedic compensation for a shattered German collective or as a melodramatic compensation for the crimes formerly committed by this collective, Zadek tried to render Merchant as a provocation. His main aim evidently was to expose the rules that latently continued to determine perspectives on Jews. Zadek later commented on his repeated attempts to “recreate”—rather than to counter—”the cliché of the Bad Jew.” Thus, Shylock, who was played by Norbert Kappen, wore a pointed Jew’s hat reminiscent of the Middle Ages. In the fourth act, a mob on the courtroom gallery welcomed him with catcalls. Zadek claims that Hellmuth Karasek asked after the premiere how the director, as a Jew, could have come up with such an “utterly anti-Semitic production.” Karasek’s review for the Stuttgarter Zeitung, however, shows that the critic was in fact torn between a stunned realization of Zadek’s intentions and an ongoing longing for compensation:
¶ 62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 In the Ulm production the significance of the last act for the meaning of the entire play became particularly apparent. The stage setting for this act, . . . which used paper flowers and Baroque putti reminiscent of the poetry of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, provided Zadek with a fitting framework for his play—a framework which cast a semblance of conciliation back onto the reality represented in the previous acts.
¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 Adorno’s essay, “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” (“The Meaning of Working Through the Past”), appeared in and reacted to the same historical moment as Zadek’s first German production of Merchant. Picking on the term “working through the past” (“Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit”), then already current in German discourses, Adorno not only intended to critique “a modish slogan” which had become “highly suspect during the last years” but also sought to exhaust the epistemological and polemical potentials of that slogan. Adorno wanted to indicate what a serious “working through” of the past really would have to entail in terms of a rigorous critical and political confrontation with the past and its present legacies. Ongoing cultural practices of relating to the past were viewed very skeptically by Adorno, chiefly because he regarded them as offering compensations to a “damaged collective narcissism” that was “smoldering unconsciously and therefore all the more powerfully.” As an example that even well-intentioned efforts at remembrance had a double-edged character, Adorno referred to the dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank (a big success ever since it had been introduced to German stages in 1956). He concluded: “The perplexing thing about such observations remains that even on their account one cannot advise against productions of the Anne Frank play and the like, because their effect nonetheless feeds into the potential for improvement, however repugnant they may be and however much they seem to be a profanation of the dignity of the dead.” This passage from Adorno’s essay is echoed by Zadek’s notion of “a means of transition, a passable way.” Eventually, the confrontational figure of Shylock proved more potent than the compensational plot of the play, so that performances of Merchant actually renewed the need to face that which early productions had been quite eager to forget. In the long run, it proved impossible to simply play the recent past away. Whether Merchant constitutes an adequate vehicle for really confronting anti-Semitism and genocide is a different question. It is evident, however, that the play had a minor, yet significant role in the evolution of German discourses of remembrance exactly because of its dual potentials of “working through” and “playing away.”
¶ 64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0  The essay emerges from a research project headed by Sabine Schülting at Freie Universität Berlin. Under the title “Shylock und der (neue) ‘deutsche Geist'” the project investigates the German reception of Merchant from 1945 to the immediate present, focussing on the functions of the Shylock figure within German discourses of remembrance.  A.S.V. [Albert Schulze Vellinghausen], “Nach jenen Jahren: Hut ab vor Shylock! Shakespeares Kaufmann von Venedig in Bochum,” Der Mittag, September 26, 1952: “Ganz für sich schnurrt . . . der untadelige Mechanismus eines gesellschaftlich exklusiven Lustspiels höchster Qualität vor uns ab, in welchem die uralte Parabel von den drei Kästchen mit dem gleichfalls alten Motiv des Ringwechsels zur Anmut äußerster Eleganz verschwistert wird. . . . In dieses aristokratische, um nicht zu sagen snobistische Planetarium aber fallen die unheimlichen, grandiosen Schatten des Ewigen Juden.” Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from the German are my own.
¶ 66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0  A.S.V.: “Der Beifall, mit Recht, war sehr herzlich. Shylock bekam eine Ovation. Sie galt auch den Schauern der Geschichte, die er da zu vertreten hatte. Hut ab!”
¶ 67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0  The much-discussed production of Merchant at the Burgtheater premiered in May 1943; it was directed by Lothar Müthel, who had recently come from Berlin to Vienna. On the reception of Merchant during the National Socialist period, see in particular Andrew G. Bonnell, Shylock in Germany: Antisemitism and the German Theatre from the Enlightenment to the Nazis (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2008), 119–69; Rodney Symington, The Nazi Appropriation of Shakespeare: Cultural Politics in the Third Reich (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2005), 244–51; and Thomas Eicher, “Spielplanstrukturen 1929–1944,” in Theater im “Dritten Reich”: Theaterpolitik, Spielplanstruktur, NS-Dramatik, ed. Henning Rischbieter (Seelze-Velber: Kallmeyer, 2000), 285–486, esp. 302–08; see also Zeno Ackermann, “Shakespearean Negotiations in the Perpetrator Society: German Productions of The Merchant of Venice during the Second World War,” in Shakespeare and the Second World War, ed. Irena R. Makaryk and Marissa McHugh (forthcoming from U of Toronto P, 2011). This research shows that John Gross’ proposition—in Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend (London: Chatto & Windus, 1992), 294—that the play “enjoyed special popularity from the outset” of Nazi rule, is actually mistaken. In reality, performance numbers for the play decreased after 1933 and plummeted during the first phase of the war. At the same time, it is evident that there were highly significant attempts to employ Merchant and the Shylock figure in the service of Nazi ideologies.
¶ 68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0  See, e. g., Norbert Frei and Sybille Steinbacher, eds., Beschweigen und Bekennen: Die deutsche Nachkriegsgesellschaft und der Holocaust (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2001).
¶ 69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0  The preoccupation of postwar Germans with pain suffered is the main thesis of Robert G. Moeller, War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley: U of California P, 2001).
¶ 70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0  On the reception of Merchant in Germany after 1945, see esp.: Sabine Schülting, “Remember Me: The Merchant of Venice on the Postwar German Stage,” in Shakespeare Survey 63 (2010), 290–300, and “‘I am not bound to please thee with my answers’: The Merchant of Venice on the Post-War German Stage,” in World-Wide Shakespeares: Local Appropriations in Film and Performance, ed. Sonia Massai (London: Routledge, 2005), 65–71; Anat Feinberg, “Vom bösen Nathan und edlen Shylock: Überlegungen zur Konstruktion jüdischer Bühnenfiguren in Deutschland nach 1945,” in Literarischer Antisemitismus nach Auschwitz, ed. Klaus-Michael Bogdal, Klaus Holz and Matthias N. Lorenz (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007), 263–282, and “The Janus-Faced Jew: Nathan and Shylock on the Post-War German Stage,” in Unlikely History: The Changing German-Jewish Symbiosis 1945-2000, ed. Leslie Morris and Jack Zipes (New York: Palgrave, 2002), 233–50; Jörg Monschau, “Der Jude nach der Shoah: Zur Rezeption des Kaufmann von Venedig auf dem Theater der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1945-1989″ (PhD diss., Universität Heidelberg, 2002), published online (2003): http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/archiv/3530/; Wilhelm Hortmann, “Excursus: The problem of Shylock – Zadek, Tabori and others,” in Shakespeare on the German Stage: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998), 254–62; Hans-Peter Bayerdörfer, “Shylock auf der deutschen Bühne nach der Shoah,” in Shylock? Zinsverbot und Geldverleih in jüdischer und christlicher Tradition, ed. Johannes Heil and Bernd Wacker (Frankfurt a. M.: Fink, 1997), 261–80; Sigrid Weigel, “Shylocks Wiederkehr: Die Verwandlung von Schuld in Schulden; oder: Zum symbolischen Tausch der Wiedergutmachung,” in Zeitschrift für Deutsche Philologie (special issue) 114 (1995): 3–22. Monschau’s dissertation is alone in including a careful consideration of the reception before the end of the 1950s.
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0  Before he remigrated to Germany, Zadek had already directed a production in Britain in 1948. Zadek directed Merchant also in Bochum (1972) and Vienna (1988). The latter production was transferred to Berlin in 1990.
¶ 72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0  Norbert Frei, Adenauer’s Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration (New York: Columbia UP, 2002); trans. of Vergangenheitspolitik: Die Anfänge der Bundesrepublik und die NS-Vergangenheit (München: Beck, 1996). In the English translation Frei’s influential neologism “Vergangenheitspolitik” is rendered—perhaps not entirely convincingly—as “policy for the past.”
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0  Just how significant Merchant must have seemed in the Federal Republic of the 1950s is actually evident from Janet Adelman’s historicist (!) reading of the play in Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 2008), particularly in her insistence that the supposed comedy is “everywhere haunted by what it cannot allow itself to know,” which is “its own fear and guilt about Christianity’s relation to the Jews” (133).
¶ 74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0  Cf. the list of productions that Sabine Schülting and the author have published online: http://www.geisteswissenschaften.fu-berlin.de/v/shylock/Inszenierungen/index.html.
¶ 75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0  The paradigms of confronting the past in the GDR were no less ambiguous than in the FRG—but they certainly were remarkably different. That the first postwar performance of Merchant in East Germany took place only in 1976 is a striking manifestation of such difference. Looking into the different reception of the play in the two German states would be tempting and pressing. However, doing so would be clearly beyond the admissible scope of this essay. On the reception of Merchant in the GDR, see Maik Hamburger, “Shakespeare on the Stages of the German Democratic Republic,” in Shakespeare on the German stage: The Twentieth Century, by Wilhelm Hortmann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 369–434, esp. 421–2. A more detailed investigation of the topic by Hamburger is forthcoming under the title “Unser Shakespeare – Ein Judenfeind? Der Kaufmann von Venedig auf den Bühnen der DDR,” in Shylock nach dem Holocaust, ed. Zeno Ackermann and Sabine Schülting (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011), 85–99.
¶ 76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0  Markus Moninger, “Auschwitz erinnern: Merchant-Inszenierungen im Nachkriegsdeutschland,” in Das Theater der Anderen: Alterität und Theater zwischen Antike und Gegenwart, ed. Christopher Balme (Tübingen: Francke, 2001), 229–248, quote: 229–30: “Jede Nachkriegsinszenierung des Kaufmann von Venedig erinnert Auschwitz. . . . Nach anfänglichen Bedenken gegen eine Aufführung in der unmittelbaren Nachkriegszeit bietet das Stück bis heute eine Bühne für das Drama der deutschen Nachkriegsgesellschaft im Umgang mit Auschwitz.”
¶ 79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0  Hortmann, Shakespeare on the German Stage, 182; cf. a similar statement in Hortmann, “Wo, bitte, geht’s nach Belmont? – Über ein Dilemma von Inszenierungen des Kaufmann von Venedig nach dem Holocaust,” in Shakespeare Jahrbuch 139 (2003): 217–225, 218.
¶ 81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0  On the problematic relevance of the concept of a “zero hour,” see Stephen Brockmann, German Literary Culture at the Zero Hour (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2009).
¶ 82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0  Theodor W. Adorno, “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit” (1959/60), trans. by Henry W. Pickford as “The Meaning of Working Through the Past,” in Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords (New York: Columbia UP, 1998), 89–103, quote: 92.
¶ 84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0  “Zivilisationsbruch” conveys the notion of both a “breach in” and “breach of civilization.” The term was introduced by Dan Diner with particular reference to Hannah Arendt; see Diner, ed., Zivilisationsbruch: Denken nach Auschwitz (Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer, 1988), esp. 7–13.
¶ 85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0  The conference where Adorno originally presented the lecture was convened by the German Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation. On “The Meaning of Working Through the Past” in the context of Adorno’s concept of forgetting and remembering, see Brian O’Connor, “Adorno on the Destruction of Memory,” in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates, ed. Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz (New York: Fordham UP, 2010), 136–149. On the centrality of the Holocaust in Adorno’s philsophy, see Detlev Claussen, “Nach Auschwitz: Ein Essay über die Aktualität Adornos,” in Zivilisationsbruch: Denken nach Auschwitz, ed. Dan Diner (Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer, 1988) 54–68.
¶ 88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0  A very critical history of the pretension of continuity in German postwar theater is provided by Peter Mertz, Das gerettete Theater: Die deutsche Bühne im Wiederaufbau (Weinheim: Quadriga, 1990).
¶ 89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0  See the respective chapter in Hortmann, Shakespeare on the German Stage, 174–216, which is under the heading “Shakespeare on the Post-War Stage: Continuity or a Fresh Start?”.
¶ 90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0  Hanns Braun, “Shakespeare auf süddeutschen Bühnen nach dem Kriege,” in Shakespeare Jahrbuch 91 (1955): 260–67; quote: 260: “An Shakespeare klammerte sich, als das deutsche Theater Ende 1945 wiedererstand, eine große Hoffnung. Wenn irgendwo, dann mußte sich hier ‘Kontinuität’ finden und bewirken lassen.”
¶ 91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0  In 1962, Fritz Kortner’s production of Max Frisch’s Andorra premiered at Berlin’s Schillertheater; in the following year Rolf Hochhuth’s Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) was first shown at the Freie Volksbühne; on October 19, 1965, Peter Weiss’ Die Ermittlung (The Investigation) premiered simultaneously on 14 German stages and, as a produced reading, at London’s Aldwych Theatre.
¶ 92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0  Braun, 261: “Allein es sollte sich zeigen, daß es mit dem ‘Weiterspielen’, mit der fugenlosen Kontinuität also, auch hier nicht so einfach war, wie man sich das erhofft hatte. . . . Daß nicht nur zwischen dem Heute und der jüngstvergangenen Epoche, sondern auch gegen jene Vorvergangenheit hin, an die man gern wieder angeknüpft hätte, sich ein tiefer Graben aufgetan hatte, das sollte auch im Raum der dramatischen Kunst eines unsrer merkwürdigsten Nachkriegserlebnisse werden.”
¶ 93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0  Ernst Leopold Stahl, “Von der Unordnung zur Anordnung,” Shakespeare und das deutsche Theater (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1947), 700–728. Stahl’s heading contains a degree of irony: “Anordnung” means “order” in the sense of both “arrangement” and “command.” However, such irony accompanied rather than contradicted Stahl’s conviction that Weimar aesthetics had to come to an end: “Efforts for the inauguration of a new artistic style . . . were conceivable only within the context of a changing form of government. The seizure of power by National Socialism in January 1933 created the outward conditions necessary for such efforts” (700).
¶ 94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 0  Ernst Leopold Stahl, “Shakespeare im Aufführungsjahr 1943/44”, in Shakespeare Jahrbuch 80/81 (1946): 108–12, quote: 108: “Von den markantesten Leistungen des Theaters im Reiche ist bereits in vorangehenden Jahresberichten gesprochen worden.”
¶ 95 Leave a comment on paragraph 95 0  As the inverted commas are meant to indicate, I am referring to “philo-Semitism” as a historical formation, an ambivalent mode of positioning and presentation that presupposes “anti-Semitism.” Cf. Frank Stern, Im Anfang war Auschwitz: Antisemitismus und Philosemitismus im deutschen Nachkrieg (Gerlingen: Bleicher, 1991).
¶ 96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0  Dr. Karl Pempelfort, “Er besteht auf seinem Schein,” Königsberger Tageblatt, March 31, 1935, as cited by Joseph Wulf, Theater und Film im Dritten Reich: Eine Dokumentation (1964; Frankfurt a. M.: Ullstein, 1989), 281: “Das Geheimnis dieser beiden Welten wird erst uns klar, die wir wissen, daß sie der Ausdruck zweier Rassengegensätze sind. Shakespeare hat, ohne die Zusammenhänge zu kennen, den Geist dieser Elemente gezeichnet und damit ein Problem aufgerollt, das für uns heute aktuelle Bedeutung besitzt.”
¶ 98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0  ERES, “‘Ich steh’ hier auf meinen Schein!’ Coburger Neuinszenierung des Kaufmanns von Venedig,” Neue Presse, Coburg, January 23, 1954, as cited by Monschau 160: “Sein konsequent durchgeführtes Frankfurter Jiddisch, die zahlreich eingestreuten hebräischen Anrufe Gottes und des Teufels, die Gestik und Mimik des typischen Juden, vereinigten sich zu einer Charakterstudie von unerhörter Eindrucksfülle. . . . Daß Dahlen in seiner Gestaltung diese klassische Figur des Lustspiels doch ein wenig zum schweren Helden tendieren ließ, brachte zuweilen den komödischen Charakter des Stückes etwas ins Wanken. . . . Dieser Shylock war mehr deutsch und heldisch als die Inkarnation des geprellten kleinen Mauschel-Juden, der doch irgendwie Angst vor seinem eigenen Mut hat.”
¶ 99 Leave a comment on paragraph 99 0  Norbert Frei has argued that the manner in which the problem of guilt was debated in early postwar Germany bespeaks of “continued needs” of proving one’s ongoing “solidarity” with the former National Socialist collective; see, 1945 und wir: Das Dritte Reich im Bewußtsein der Deutschen, extended edition (München: Beck, 2009), esp. 47. On the tenacity of the integration effected by National Socialism, see also Adorno, esp. 95–96.
¶ 100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 0  Letter from James Marshall to Robert Patterson, February 28, 1947 (National Archives, Washington), as quoted in Wigand Lange, Theater in Deutschland nach 1945: Zur Theaterpolitik der amerikanischen Besatzungsbehörden (Frankfurt a. M.: Lang, 1980), 323. On this episode and on the general question of occupational politics in relation to Shakespearean theater, see also Balz Engler, “The Noise That Banish’d Martius: Coriolanus in Post-War Germany,” in Renaissance Refractions: Essays in Honour of Alexander Shurbanov, ed. Boika Sokolova and Evgenia Pancheva (Sofia: St Kliment Ohridski University Press, 2001), 179–186.
¶ 104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0  Konrad Adenauer, second inaugural speech (1953), as cited by Helmut Dubiel, Niemand ist frei von der Geschichte: Die nationalsozialistische Herrschaft in den Debatten des Deutschen Bundestages (München: Hanser 1999), 45.
¶ 105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0  Emil Belzner, “Karenzzeit abgelaufen,” Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, May 2, 1953, as cited by Monschau, 153: “Nur wenn man die Deutschen für eine absolut mindere Gattung hielte, bei der sich Subtilstes der Kunst nachteilig auswirkt und barbarische Reaktionen hervorruft, wo andere ergriffen oder menschlich gefördert werden – nur dann, wenn man die treuesten Anhänger und Verehrer Shakespeares für derart unberechenbar und ‘unverbesserlich’ hielte, wäre es gerechtfertigt, ihnen bestimmte Kunstwerke vorzuenthalten.”
¶ 107 Leave a comment on paragraph 107 0  Hortmann, “Wo, bitte, geht’s nach Belmont?,” 218: “In den fünfziger und sechziger Jahren dominierten die ‘Wiedergutmachungs-Shylocks’, Seelenverwandte von Nathan dem Weisen, mit Erich Ponto . . . und Ernst Deutsch . . . als markantesten Vertretern.” Cf. Hortmann, Shakespeare on the German Stage, 255, where the term “expiation Shylocks” is used as an English equivalent for “Wiedergutmachungs-Shylocks.” Hortmann sets these terms in inverted commas and suggests that they were established usage.
¶ 108 Leave a comment on paragraph 108 0  On the ambivalence of the concept of “Wiedergutmachung,” see Weigel, esp. 8–17. However, the notion of “Wiedergutmachung” had originally been introduced in order to stress the obligation of “making amends” for the crimes committed under National Socialism; cf. Hans Günther Hockerts, “Wiedergutmachung in Deutschland: Eine historische Bilanz 1945–2000,” in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte 49 (2001): 167–214, esp. 167–169. For a detailed account of compensational policy, see Constantin Goschler, Schuld und Schulden: Die Politik der Wiedergutmachung für NS-Verfolgte seit 1945 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2005).
¶ 111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0  Heinz Hilpert, Vom Sinn und Wesen des Theaters in unserer Zeit (Hamburg: Hansischer Gildenverlag, 1947), 5: “Die Zeit ist kalt und dunkel und voll Not. Unaufhaltsam und pausenlos stürzt sie in die Ewigkeit. Ruhelos häuft sie Vergangenheit hinter sich. Schmal ist der Grat des Augenblicks. Unerbittlich schicksalhaft steht über allem das Gesetz der unaufhörlichen, ewigen Wandlung. Diamant und Granit, Flugsand und Sterne, Algen und Meere und alle Kreaturen bauen sich von Sekunde zu Sekunde ab und um. Ob sichtbar, ob unsichtbar, Mikrokosmos und Makrokosmos wandeln ewig Gestalt, Gehalt und Wesen.”
¶ 112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0  Ulrich Herbert, “Zweierlei Bewältigung,” in Zweierlei Bewältigung: Vier Beiträge über den Umgang mit der NS-Vergangenheit in den beiden deutschen Staaten, by Ulrich Herbert and Olaf Groehler (Hamburg: Ergebnisse-Verlag, 1992), 7–27, quote: 13.
¶ 114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0  Hilpert, Theater – ein Leben (1961), as cited by Mertz, 13: “Heute muß das Theater in erster Linie Seelsorger sein. Heute muß es mithelfen, den großen Schrecken der Zeit zu bannen.”
¶ 115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0  “Nein, den Kaufmann von Venedig bringe ich erst wieder, wenn 40 Juden im Parkett sitzen und darüber lachen.” Here as cited by Monschau, 178. The original source of the anecdote is a 1956 theater review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
¶ 116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0  f. h. [Franz Heinen?], “Porzia oder Shylock,” in Blätter des Nordmark-Landestheaters Schleswig, 1951/52, Heft 8, n. pag.: “So gesehen ist Shylock nicht die Hauptfigur des Spiels, Antonio, Bassanio, Graziano, Lorenzo, Jessika sind gleich gewichtig, und Porzia als ersehntes und erfüllendes Wesen überstrahlt als Angelpunkt des Geschehens bei weitem den Shylock.”
¶ 117 Leave a comment on paragraph 117 0  f. h. emphasizes the character of Merchant as a “playful parable of redemptive cheerfulness” (“Gleichnisspiel der erlösenden Heiterkeit”) and explicitly identifies his ideas with those of Max Reinhardt. He then goes on to declare: “Wir glauben, daß diese Sicht . . . auch heute unserer Frage an das Stück entspricht und daß sie uns die ersehnte Antwort seelischer Befreiung und gelöster Heiterkeit schenkt.”
¶ 118 Leave a comment on paragraph 118 0  Monschau, “Der Jude nach der Shoah: Zur Rezeption des Kaufmann von Venedig auf dem Theater der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik 1945-1989.”
¶ 121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 0  Gustav Landauer, “Der Kaufmann von Venedig” in Shakespeare: Dargestellt in Vorträgen (Frankfurt a. M.: Rütten und Loening, 1920), 1: 42–90; quote: 66 (“höchste und reinste Verkörperung des Lichtes, der Farbe, der Wärme und Harmonie”).
¶ 122 Leave a comment on paragraph 122 0  Landauer, 90: “[S]o bringt uns kaum ein anderes Stück Shakespeares zu so persönlicher Dankbarkeit gegen den Dichter, der recht von Herzen nachsichtig und gütig gegen uns allesamt gewesen ist . . . [H]at er Bassanio, Antonio, Lorenzo, Jessika, Graziano und Menschen noch minderen Grades eingelassen, so hat er auch uns die Pforte nicht zugesperrt. Wir sind es, wir, denen Shylocks Wut und Marterschrei nachtönt, wir sind es, die weiter leben, gedeihen und wachsen müssen wie dürfen, obwohl der Alte an uns verdorben ist und an uns, wie ein verwundetes Tier, das sich verkrochen hat, dahinstirbt . . . wir – ob Männer ob Frauen, ob Juden ob Christen, zumal aber das junge Volk – wir dürfen in Arbeit und Spiel unser selbst harren und auf das Reich hoffen, das Reich der gebundenen und losgelassenen Seelen, der Schönheit und Freiheit, der Gnade und Harmonie.”
¶ 128 Leave a comment on paragraph 128 0  Nyssen: “[N]ach dem letzten Vorhang [gab es] stürmischen Dank an Hanns-Ernst Jäger, Eva Katharina Schultz, Rosel Schäfer, Andres Wolff und alle anderen Darsteller . . . Und es gab für den Darsteller des Shylock einen Blumenstrauß der Bochumer jüdischen Gemeinde.”
¶ 129 Leave a comment on paragraph 129 0  There certainly was a continuity of Jewish life in Germany even after the Holocaust. An informative case study is Jürgen Zieher, Im Schatten von Antisemitismus und Wiedergutmachung: Kommunen und jüdische Gemeinden in Dortmund, Düsseldorf und Köln 1945–1960 (Berlin: Metropol, 2005). For a comprehensive history of Jewish life in Germany since 1945, see—among others—Anthony D. Kauders, Unmögliche Heimat: Eine deutsch-jüdische Geschichte der Bundesrepublik (München: DVA, 2007). A short history of Bochum’s Jews is provided on the website of the Bochum Jewish community (http://www.jg-bochum.de). According to this, in 1946 there were 33 Jews living in Bochum; in 1953 the three small Jewish communities of Bochum, Herne and Recklinghausen united; in 1955 a joint synagogue was consecrated in Recklinghausen.
¶ 132 Leave a comment on paragraph 132 0  “Die Musik im Kaufmann von Venedig,” in Das Neue Forum 5 (1955/56): 1–2, quote: 2: “Die Musik gleicht die Waage der Neuzeit aus. Daß die Frau sie pflegt, entspricht auch der Vision Goethes, der den Gang zu den Müttern über den Logismus der Männer stellt.”
¶ 133 Leave a comment on paragraph 133 0  “Die Musik im Kaufmann von Venedig,” quotes: 2: “Das Verhältnis von Geist und Materie stimmt nicht mehr. . . . [Portia] erkennt, daß die Welt der Männer nicht mehr die Kraft hat, aus ihrer Verstrickung herauszufinden.”
¶ 134 Leave a comment on paragraph 134 0  A. W. Schlegel, “William Shakespeares Der Kaufmann von Venedig,” in Das Neue Forum 5 (1955/56): 3: “[Shylock] hat eine sehr bestimmte, gebildete und originelle Persönlichkeit, und dennoch spürt man in allen seinen Aeußerungen einen leisen Anstrich von Judenthum. Man glaubt in den bloß geschriebenen Worten einen Hauch von jüdischer Aussprache zu vernehmen, wie er auch in den höhern Ständen ungeachtet der gesellschaftlichen Verfeinerung zuweilen noch übrig bleibt. . . . [D]as Beyspiel uneigennütziger Nächstenliebe scheint ihm die ärgste Judenverfolgung.” This is a faithful rendering of Schlegel, Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Literatur, ed. Giovanni Vittorio Amoretti (Bonn: Schröder, 1923), 2: 160–1.
¶ 135 Leave a comment on paragraph 135 0  It is difficult to say how palpably anti-Semitic Sellner’s 1942 production was. Bogusław Drewniak, Das Theater im NS-Staat: Szenarium deutscher Zeitgeschichte, 1933-1945 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1983), 251, assumes that it was openly propagandistic but fails to provide concrete evidence. The passage on Sellner’s Merchant in the Shakespeare Society’s stage report left room for varying speculations concerning the ideological character of Sellner’s work; see Werner Papsdorf, Ernst Leopold Stahl and Carl Nießen, “Shakespeare auf der deutschen Bühne 1940/42”, in Shakespeare Jahrbuch 78-79 (1943): 133. Here, it is pointed out that Wilhelm Meyer-Ottens—who would again play the role in a 1956 production in Trier—did not miss the opportunity to display “a robust and suggestive expressiveness” (“handfeste Mimik”); at the same time, the Göttingen production is contrasted to the Merchant shown at Berlin’s Rose Theater in the same year, noting that the former “did not withhold the serious and tragic aspects of the play.” While they offer few concrete facts concerning the actual production, reviews in the Göttinger Tageblatt and in the Südhannoversche Zeitung (both September 28, 1942) testify to the reception of Sellner’s Merchant according to the well-rehearsed rhetoric of National Socialist anti-Semitism.
¶ 136 Leave a comment on paragraph 136 0  Sellner in Christian Jauslin, “Zu Gustav Rudolf Sellners Shakespeare-Inszenierungen: Gespräch mit dem Regisseur”, in Shakespeare Jahrbuch (West), 1984, 32–43, quote: 39: “Die Theatersituation in Darmstadt. Wir hatten uns offenbar schon etwas hineingesteigert in diese Art des philosophischen Theaters und des Theaters, das gewissermaßen auch eine Art Purgatorium sein könnte. Auch eben für die Dinge, aus denen wir gerade herausgestiegen waren, denen wir entkommen waren.”
¶ 137 Leave a comment on paragraph 137 0  Sellner in Jauslin 40: “[W]er ihn gesehen hat als Shylock, der hat mit ihm und über ihn geweint. . . . Diesen leidenden Shylock von Noack, den werde ich mein Leben lang nicht vergessen[,] und ich werde immer sagen, daß es gut war, es zu dieser Zeit zu versuchen.”
¶ 139 Leave a comment on paragraph 139 0  Joachim Kaiser, “Shylock ist auf Erden nicht zu helfen,” Kleines Theatertagebuch (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1965), 69–71, quote: 69: “Kann man den Shylock retten? Oder muß man seine Seele in die Hölle fahren lassen und Shakespeares vielleicht brillantestes Schauspiel dazu?”
¶ 140 Leave a comment on paragraph 140 0  Kaiser, 69: “Ich bin der Ansicht, daß der Kaufmann von Venedig ein Demokratie-Test ist. Solange Theater- und Fernsehanstalten an diesem Schauspiel christlicher Ungerechtigkeit und jüdischer Rachsucht vorbeigehen . . . sind wir noch nicht reif. Nicht einmal für ein Stück, das gute dreihundertfünfzig Jahre alt ist.”
¶ 141 Leave a comment on paragraph 141 0  Kaiser, 69: “Aus dem (mit guten Gründen) Rachsüchtigen wurde da ein bekümmerter Nathan, ein milder Jude mit leidgeprüften Augen, ein Mitleid heischendes Opfer, das dankbar schien dafür, überhaupt in Venedig luftholen und den Rialto betreten zu dürfen.”
¶ 144 Leave a comment on paragraph 144 0  Gustav Landauer, “Der Fall Shylock,” in Das Programm des Württembergischen Staatstheaters Stuttgart, 1956/57, nr. 1, 4: “In dieser Dichtung haben wir zugleich ein Spiel der Lust und höchste Tragik, haben wir tiefste Entlarvung nicht nur Shylocks, sondern auch derer auf der andern Seite, bei denen wir Zuschauer stehen . . .”
¶ 145 Leave a comment on paragraph 145 0  Landauer, “Der Fall Shylock”, 3–4: “[D]aß der Druck so wirkt, das gilt für alle Getretenen, nicht bloß für Juden, auch für den Pöbel, wie er in Krawallen und Revolutionen auf die Straße steigt, auch für das moderne Proletariat . . .”
¶ 146 Leave a comment on paragraph 146 0  Hermann Missenharter, “Shylock der Weise,” Stuttgarter Nachrichten, September 17, 1956, as cited by Monschau, 175: “Trauer ist in seinem Blick und in seiner herrlich sonoren Stimme, Gram umspielt seine Lippen, auch wenn er von Haß und Rache spricht. Viel wahrer und für dieses Juden Weisheit bezeichnender klingt das Wort vom Dulden, das seines Stammes Erbteil ist. . . . [D]ieser venezianische Nathan, von Ponto zurechtgerückt, ist bei aller Tragik ein Ehrenmann durch und durch. . . . Auf jeden Fall begleiten ihn, wenn er, von der Taufe bedroht, sein Haupt verhüllt und gebrochen hinauswankt, die Sympathien des ganzen Hauses.”
¶ 147 Leave a comment on paragraph 147 0  Missenharter, as cited by Monschau, 174: ” . . . das erschütterndste, aber auch menschlich schönste Dokument zur Tragödie des Judentums im Dritten Reich, es wird heilsam und notwendig sein, davon Kenntnis zu nehmen . . . ”
¶ 148 Leave a comment on paragraph 148 0  A particularly striking view on Krauß’s Shylock comes from Richard Biedrzynski’s 1944 book Schauspieler, Regisseure, Intendanten: “And then, suddenly, as if it were an uncanny shadow, something revoltingly alien and astonishingly repellent drags itself across the stage: a marionette jingling its ducats, wearing a black gaberdine and a garishly yellow synagogue shawl––the Shylock of Werner Krauss” (qtd. in Wulf 282).
¶ 149 Leave a comment on paragraph 149 0  Erwin Laaths, “Der elisabethanische Shylock – ehedem und heute,” Der Mittag, September 9, 1957: “[Man würde] ohne einen prominenten jüdischen Schauspieler heutzutage kaum einen Shylock wagen können. Freilich wird dieser Schauspieler nicht mehr die unerhörten Prüfungen vergessen können, die seinem Volke widerfahren sind. Das verleiht der Verkörperung des Shylock durch Ernst Deutsch eine zuweilen beklemmende, den Atem verschlagende Wucht und Größe – eine erratische und doch seelisch leidende Einsamkeit.”
¶ 151 Leave a comment on paragraph 151 0  “P. A.,” “Ponto als Shylock: Der Kaufmann von Venedig in Stuttgart,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 18, 1956: “[E]s ist schwer, über einige Millionen Tote hinweg zu spielen, ohne sie ‘wegzuspielen’.” The phrase “über einige Millionen Tote hinweg spielen” has a range of potential meanings that is difficult to convey in English. Read literally, it invokes an image of actors communicating to the audience over a pile of dead bodies; at the same time, there is the sense that the continued performance of Shakespeare’s comedy is in danger of covering up the rupture in civilization by simply “playing on.”
¶ 153 Leave a comment on paragraph 153 0  Peter Zadek, My Way: Eine Autobiographie 1926–1969 (Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1998), 315: “Und Ernst Deutsch hat den noblen Juden Shylock gespielt, was ich damals zwar falsch fand, aber aus heutiger Sicht in der damaligen Zeit für notwendig und ganz richtig halte. Man hätte es gar nicht anders machen können. Es mußte irgendein Übergang, ein Weg gefunden werden, und daß man das Stück so schnell nach 1945 gespielt hat, war wichtiger als die Tatsache, daß Shylock dabei zu sehr der noble Jude war.”
¶ 154 Leave a comment on paragraph 154 0  Nicolas Berg, “Lesarten des Judenmords,” in Wandlungsprozesse in Westdeutschland: Belastung, Integration, Liberalisierung 1945–1980, ed. Ulrich Herbert (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2002), 91–139; quote: 138: “Die halben Zugeständnisse, verzweifelten Traditionsrettungen, konstruierten Annahmen und vorgeschobenen Unschuldsbehauptungen waren nicht das Gegenteil eines Nachdenkens über den Nationalsozialismus und seine Traditionen, sondern das Medium, in welchem es stattfinden konnte.”
¶ 155 Leave a comment on paragraph 155 0  On the so-called “anti-Semitic wave” of 1959/60, see Werner Bergmann, “Antisemitismus als politisches Ereignis: Die antisemitische Welle im Winter 1959/1960,” in: Antisemitismus in der politischen Kultur nach 1945, ed. Werner Bergmann and Rainer Erb (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1990), 253–275.
¶ 156 Leave a comment on paragraph 156 0  Zadek, as cited in Klaus Dermutz, Die Außenseiter-Welten des Peter Zadek (Salzburg: Residenz Verlag, 2001), 43. Here, Zadek voices his conviction that Merchant is at bottom an anti-Semitic play based on “the cliché of the evil Jew” (“das Klischee vom bösen Juden”). The passage concludes: “Ich habe ein paar Male versucht, dieses Klischee herzustellen.”
¶ 160 Leave a comment on paragraph 160 0  Karasek: “In Ulm wurde gerade die Bedeutung des letzten Akts für das Ganze spürbar. Zadek gewann hier aus dem anmutigen Bühnenbild, . . . das mit Papierblumen und barocken Putten die Poesie des Sommernachtstraums komponierte, für das Spiel einen Rahmen, der wie ein versöhnender Schein auf die vorausgegangene Wirklichkeit zurückfiel.”