Perpetrator Studies Network


1 September 2016
17:30 - 19:30
Filmtheater ’t Hoogt (Hoogt 4), Utrecht

Staged Reading: The Woman at His Side

Careers, Crimes, and Female Complicity under National Socialism

A Staged Reading by Inga Dietrich, Joanne Gläsel, and Sabine Werner

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 click here to reserve a ticket.

Inga Dietrich is an independent actress and has been living in Berlin since 1990. In addition to theatre work in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Vienna, she has been involved in numerous readings and audioplays. In 2000 she became the artistic director of Berlin’s Bloomsday, a literary festival dedicated to James Joyce. She has appeared in a number of films and television programmes since 1999. She is currently shooting a new crime drama for the ARD with Dominik Graf.

Joanne Gläsel studied acting at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover. Between 1985 and 2000 she was a member of the ensembles at the Münster City Theatre, the Oldenburg State Theatre, the State Playhouse Dresden, and the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin. Since then she has worked as an independent actress in theatre, radio, film, and television. In 2002 she was nominated for the “audience BAMBI” award in the category “Favourite Detective.” Since the 2011/12 season she has been a permanent member of the Pforzheim Theatre Company.

Sabine Werner has worked as an actress for twelve years at various theatres in Hamburg, Mannheim, and Dresden. Since 1999 she has worked as an independent actress on stage, radio, and television. Most recently, she has appeared in The Strange Little Cat, which was shown at festivals worldwide in 2014/15, as well as the hit TV-series Deutschland 83, among others. Her most recent theatre work in Berlin (2015/16) was BiestA, based on Claude Chabrol’s 1995 film La Ceremonie, which deals with functional illiteracy. In 2017 she will play the role of Beatrice in Arthur Miller’s View from the Bridge.

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).