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Reading of Anti-war Poem in Cemetery Banned by Court in West Germany

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The staging of an anti-war poem by Bertolt Brecht at the German war cemetery in Bitburg was banned by a court in Trier last weekend.

It was to have been part of an observance of the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II.

The Bitburg municipality asked the court for a restraining order on grounds that the dramatization would offend relatives of soldiers buried at Bitburg.

Those soldiers include members of the Waffen SS, the Nazis’ elite fighting corps whose members took a blood oath of allegiance to Hitler.

There were worldwide expressions of outrage in 1985 when President Reagan, escorted by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, placed a wreath at the Bitburg cemetery.

Brecht’s poem, “Legend of a Dead Soldier,” was to have been read and acted out at the site.

An actor portraying the soldier would be taken out of a mock grave and, in the words of Brecht, restored to life so that he could fight in a war again.

The staged scene, arranged by a group of West German artists and intellectuals, including Oscar-winner Volker Schloendorff and former High Court Judge Martin Hirsch, was intended as a warning against war and to convey the message that peace serves the best interests of soldiers, past and present.

Brecht’s daughter, Hanne Hiob-Brecht, said the group would appeal the court’s ruling.

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