FRANKFURT (Nov. 11)
Mayor Walter Wallman of Frankfurt said today he could not ban the performance of an anti-Semitic play by the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder but he urged the director of the government-supported Frankfurt Theater, Guenther Ruehle, not to stage it.
Wallman announced his decision to a largely Jewish audience attending a service at Frankfurt’s main synagogue marking the 47th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the first nationwide pogrom conducted by the Nazis against Germany’s Jews. The synagogue was packed with journalists from Germany and abroad.
The play, titled “Der Muell, Die Stadt und der Todt (Garbage, the City and Death), has as its central character a ruthless real estate speculator who in the original version is known as “the rich Jew.” The play has been modified to eliminate that appellation but German Jews and non-Jews — Wallman among them — consider it anti-Semitic.
It has been the center of a fierce controversy in West Germany since Ruehle was forced to cancel the premier on October 31 when the stage was occupied by 25 Jewish protestors who had purchased the tickets. Ruehle insists that the play will have its second premier this Wednesday, November 13.
Wallman said he could not ban the play, as urged by the Jewish community, because such a step could easily be challenged as a violation of constitutional guarantees of freedom of artistic expression. Hermann Alter, a spokesman for the Jewish community, declared that anti-Semitism is not art and therefore a ban would not be censorship.
He was supported by Karl Schneider, Minister of Culture of the Federal State of Hesse, who declared, “The feelings of those who have suffered under the Nazis is the reality. No third party can decide what those people ought to be able to put up with in the name of freedom of art.”