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Staged Reading: The Woman at His Side

Staged Reading: The Woman at His Side
  • September 1, 2016; 17:30-19:30; Filmtheater 't Hoogt, Hoogt 4, Utrecht
The Woman at His Side. Careers, Crimes, and Female Complicity under National Socialism
By Inga Dietrich, Joanne Gläsel and Sabine Werner

A staged reading on the role of women in the SS Sippengemeinschaft

In the train carriage, a woman confides in a total stranger: “My husband talks in his sleep at night … the father of my children is a murderer—how can I embrace him?” While the wives look after the house and the children, their SS husbands organise the extermination of the Jews, work as commandants in concentration camps or as doctors charged with eliminating those lives deemed ‘unworthy of life’. And the women? While the official propaganda cast them as angels in the household, they were more or less willing to adopt this role. Many of them spent the Nazi period in the field with their husbands. Through their day-to-day conversations and semi-private encounters in the home, they were comparatively well informed about the national socialist politics of extermination. In their diaries they describe their duties as representatives, mothers, house-keepers; and they supported their husbands in planning their careers. Who were these women?

In their staged reading, the three actresses from Berlin, Inga Dietrich, Joanne Gläsel, and Sabine Werner, illuminate a hitherto underexplored chapter in the history of National Socialism. Women as perpetrators. Innocent in the eyes of the law. What was the exact nature of their crimes?

The performance takes a subtle approach to this historical and moral grey area: using illuminating passages from original documents coupled with a minimalist aesthetic. The biographies of the individual women, their views and opinions about National Socialism during and after the war, together with their descriptions of the internal structure of the SS, form the basis of the performance.

The audience follow these seemingly harmless women from their often humble beginnings to a splendid villa with a view of the crematorium. Their motivations for tolerating the extermination of so many people are terrifyingly simple and prosaic: love, career prospects, a nice house, a little more money—the same things that have always motivated people, in other words, and still do so today.

The piece was commissioned by the Memorial at the House of the Wannsee Conference and is based on Gudrun Schwarz’s study Eine Frau an seiner Seite (1997). This is the premiere of the English-language version of the piece, translated by Kári Driscoll (UU).

The event is free and open to the public. Space is limited; please register in advance with Filmtheater ’t Hoogt.

Support for this performance comes from Utrecht University’s Research Focus Area Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).