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A: C. P. Taylor Pf: 1981, London Pb: 1982 G: Trag. in 2 acts; prose with songs and recitative S: Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, etc., 1933–40 C: 9m, 3f, musicians, extrasDr John Halder is a lecturer in German literature at Frankfurt University. Married with two children to a concert pianist, Helen, who never cooks or cleans, he eventually leaves her for a student Anne. His best friend is a Jewish psychiatrist Maurice Gluckstein, who becomes an ever-greater embarrassment to Halder, as anti-Semitism sweeps the country. Halder has a mother suffering from senile dementia, and his novel supporting euthanasia comes to the attention of the Nazi leadership. He is invited to advise on the use of euthanasia in cases of severe mental disability. Persuaded that he might be able to ensure that any programme remains humane, he accepts and even joins the SS. Halder becomes more and more drawn into Nazi excesses: disposing of mental patients, book-burning, lecturing on the pernicious Jewish influence on literature, eventually participating in the horrors of the Kristallnacht. Eichmann now orders Halder to oversee the transportation of Jews to labour camps, and then, to cope with overcrowding, to establish at Auschwitz a camp where those who are unfit can be disposed of ‘humanely’. Throughout, in his head, Halder hears songs and music (played by a live band), even Hitler playing a Jewish folk song on a fiddle. Arriving at Auschwitz, he discovers the band is real.

A: C. P. Taylor Pf: 1981, London Pb: 1982 G: Trag. in 2 acts; prose with songs and recitative S: Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, etc., 1933–40 C: 9m, 3f, musicians, extras

Taylor tries to understand how an essentially ‘good’ man could become embroiled in events that led to the worst deliberate genocide of human history, and by so doing offers a metaphor for the rapid decline of a civilized country into barbarism. Believing that he can ensure humaneness in the execution of Nazi policy, Halder slides from a not unreasonable belief in euthanasia to becoming a war criminal.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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