Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Der 20. Juli 1944 auf der Buehne

Susanne M Wagner, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation is concerned with the depiction of the historic events of July 20, 1944, their representation and reception in West German Theater, and analyzes the plays of Karl Michel's Stauffenberg (1947), Walter Erich Schäfer's Die Verschwörung (1949), Walter Löwen's Stauffenberg. Tragödie (1949-1952), Peter Lotar's Das Bild des Menschen. Eine Geschichte unserer Zeit (1952), Wolfgang Graetz' Die Verschwörer (1965), Hans Hellmut Kirst's Aufstand der Offiziere (1966), and Günther Weisenborn's Walküre -44 (1966). The consolidation of the Third Reich and the progressive seduction of millions consequently led to the resistance of a few. The more totalitarian a state is, the larger the differences between the government and opposition, and the more determined the resistance against it. The resisters turned their value systems inside out. They deviated from everything they had previously stood for as members of the Officers' Corps and the national-conservative elite. This is unparalleled, not only in Germany, but in military history as well, and therefore deserves reverence. A few Germans took on personal responsibility for events of the time; they accepted their fate as leaders knowing that they might forsake their own lives, and those of their families. In that respect, the unsuccessful assassination attempt and the failed coup are secondary to the catalytic effect that these events had on eventual post-war German Society: the democratic state can therefore not reflect enough upon these men and women, their motivation, and contribution to the andere Deutschland. The failed coup of July 20, 1944 is the most prominent example of German resistance against the NS-Regime and at the same time a symbol for the failure of the entire German resistance. The failure however may be seen as positive, since it avoided a revival of the devastating stab-in-the-back myth, and prevented Hitler from becoming a martyr. This dissertation confronts different levels of history and methods of dealing, arranging, and manipulating a historic event in literary representations, and situates the plays in the context of the popular historic drama. The connecting factor between the classic historical drama and the documentary July-drama is the historic topic. In both, the author plays with some aspect of world history. The seven plays, whose reception indicate societal developments in early post war Germany, are discussed in a predominately socio-political and historical context as a contribution to the cultural memory of the German resistance to Hitler. The complex moral responsibility, the theological question of legalizing the murder of a tyrant, the uneasy juxtaposition of unconditional obedience and critical thinking that lead some to disobedience, others to collaboration, are topics in world history that are of interest to any generation and culture. The answers to these problems and the background of the particular playwright, affect the depiction of the conspirators, who in extremes may be seen as heroes or traitors.

Subject Area

Language|European history|Germanic literature|Theater

Recommended Citation

Wagner, Susanne M, "Der 20. Juli 1944 auf der Buehne" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242321.