By Johannes Breckner
17.11.2015 / Wiesbadener Kurier
MANNHEIM – The copyright protection for “Mein Kampf” will expire at the end of this year. Should Adolf Hitler’s shoddy programmatic effort be allowed in Germany? The directors’ collective Rimini Protokoll explored.
Parents love when their children make them something for Christmas. But Sibylla Flügge’s mother must have been astounded when she opened the package that her daughter left under the tree. Not only had the fifteen year-old read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”), she had also written her own, abridged version, typed it neatly and given it a pretty, hand-drawn cover. This in the house of a pastor who was known as the parish ‘red Rufus’.
Something became of that little girl anyway. Sibylla Flügge studied law and entered academics, and today she is a professor who specialises in women’s rights. And on certain evenings, she is also an actress. For their theatrical investigation “Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf, vol. 1 & 2”, the directors’ collective Rimini Protokoll has once again brought people with a special relationship to the subject matter onstage. The young jurist Anna Gilsbach, for example, who is an expert on copyright law and the paragraphs on incitement of hatred; the book restorer Matthias Hageböck from Weimar; the blind performer Christian Spremberg; the musician Volkan Türeli, who paved the way for Turkish hip-hop in Germany and sings out against the hate of right extremists. And the lawyer Alon Kraus from Tel Aviv, who likes to host young, German overnight guests and draws women in cafés into conversations about National Socialism. The Eichmann prosecutor was his professional role model, and reading “Mein Kampf” helped him through his studies – reading it gave him the power to write three unfinished seminar papers.
Such are the unusual points of approach to Hitler’s miserable work. The timing of the production – which premiered at the festival Kunstfest Weimar and guested the National Theatre in Mannheim as a co-production – was by no means a coincidence: at the end of this year, the copyright held by the Free State of Bavaria will expire. Whether or not distribution of the book will be permitted will be a question for the courts, and the expert Anna Gilsbach can’t say it with certainty, either.
The Story of an Investigation
Directors Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel bring their performers together to explain the nature of the question at hand. This isn’t the high art of theatre; the subject matter this evening is an illustrative recounting of the investigations undertaken by the ensemble. A surprising number of copies of the book came to light. Hitler was also a bestselling author, and the royalties from his early polemical writings made him a millionaire. By the end of the Second World War, more than twelve million copies had been printed, and later there were illegal editions in Germany and translations into many languages, including Hebrew.
Through many brief scenes, the theatre evening investigates the fascination of the book – a book said to just stand, unread, in the bookshelf.
The evening offers little analysis. Rimini Protokoll does not want to teach the audience, but instead send them on an imaginary journey with the performers. And the directors don’t find it in the least bit embarrassing if they arouse the curiosity to examine the book more closely. Shortly before the period of copyright protection runs out, the evening calls for composure: Reading “Mein Kampf” may help with understanding history. It won’t recruit new Nazis.
Translation by Justina Bartoli