Frankfurt Jewish Community is Determined to Prevent Fassbinder’s Play from Being Staged Despite Anon
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Frankfurt Jewish Community is Determined to Prevent Fassbinder’s Play from Being Staged Despite Anon

The Jewish community of Frankfurt reaffirmed yesterday its determination to prevent any further attempts to stage Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s play “Garbage: The City of Death,” which it considers anti-Semitic, despite telephone threats to its leaders from anonymous callers. The callers warned that Germany would not allow the Jews to recapture their position of power in this country.

Meanwhile, the play’s director, Guenther Ruehle, reportedly announced his intention to postpone the official premiere of the play until November 13, and to begin negotiations with the Jewish community to allow him to stage it at that time. Ruehle also reportedly said tonight’s rescheduled premiere had been cancelled out of concern that demonstrations around the play could become violent.

Ruehle had rescheduled the first performance of the play for tonight after the original premiere was disrupted on Thursday evening (not Friday, as inadvertently reported yesterday). A group of 30 Jewish protesters took over the stage and prevented the show from going on; a three-hour discussion with and among the audience ensued.

Yesterday, Michel Friedman, a spokesperson for the community, said that its members had purchased enough tickets to all upcoming performances and would occupy the stage before each show began, the tactic they used successfully at the scheduled premiere.


The West German press has reported extensively about the action taken by the Jewish community, which some reporters termed its “coming-out.” Never before in West Germany’s post-war history, noted some commentators, had the small and exhausted Jewish community here reacted so vehemently to what they considered an anti-Semitic campaign. Some papers warned, however, that the Jewish reaction would touch off a wave of anti-Semitism in the country.

The conservative daily, Die Welt, noted that it was Jews and only Jews who were the protesters who forced the cancellation of the premiere of the play. “Once again … they stood there alone, in the heart of Germany, in 1985,” its editorial said. The editorial also attacked Ruehle for insisting on staging the play.

But another conservative paper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which has opposed the performance all along, warned the Jewish community against taking the law into its own hands. “The best protection for the Jews, the only protection for any citizen and for any minority, is sticking to the law,” its editorial stated.

The leftwing Frankfurter Rundschau, in an editorial by its editor-in-chief, acknowledged that there were differences of opinion among the staff as to whether the play should be staged. However, in reporting on the controversy, the paper gave prominence to opinions expressed by those who supported the performance and who opposed or ridiculed the Jewish response to it.

The leftwing Die Tagezeitung of Berlin ran the story of the Jewish take-over of the stage on page one, reporting extensively on the discussion that took place in the theater that evening. The paper’s readers are mostly supporters of the Green Party and the Young Guard of the Social Democrats, both of whom have supported the play’s performance.

Commentators on the state-owned West German television station suggested that the response to the play was highly contested among the members of the Frankfurt Jewish community. This assessment was challenged by a community spokesperson, who stated that a majority of more than 80 percent supported the community’s policy of preventing performances of the play.

In a related development, Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat has appealed to his counterpart in Frankfurt to do all in his power to insure that the play not be staged at the municipally-supported theater.

In a telephone conversation with Frankfurt Deputy Mayor Hilmar Hoffman, the city’s director of cultural affairs, Lahat expressed the hope that the feelings of the people of Israel on this issue would be taken into consideration. Tel Aviv and Frankfurt have a twinning agreement and a friendship and cultural pact.

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