The Garbage, the City and Death (play)
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion, Religion
Artist: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Confronting Bodies: City officials in Frankfurt and Berlin, Jewish community organizations
Dates of Action: 1975, 1984, 1985, 1998
Location: Frankfurt, and Berlin, Germany
Description of Artwork: Fassbinder's play The Garbage, the City, and Death is a about a poor prostitute, Roma, who begins to prosper when she finds a wealthy client referred to as "The Rich Jew." "The Rich Jew" is a real estate speculator for the city government. Roma's husband and pimp, Franz, becomes discouraged by Roma's success and leaves her for another man. Roma convinces "The Rich Jew" to kill her. He avoids being charged with the crime, through his connections with the city government, and Franz is accused instead.
The Incident: Fassbinder's play was blocked from performing four times. In 1975 Frankfurt municipal authorities said they would not risk a scandal because of his play, fearing antagonism between German and Jewish communities. The first printing of the play was in the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Critics blasted the play for its alleged anti-Semitism. The publisher, Suhrkamp Press, withdrew all copies of the play and announced that it would not be reprinted until Fassbinder changed the name of "The Rich Jew." In 1984, two years after Fassbinder's death, the manager of the Old Opera in Frankfurt attempted to stage The Garbage... but was blocked by city administrator who claimed that the play wasn't suitable for the theater. The Garbage... was performed in 1985 but only for one night. On opening night members of the Jewish community took over the stage and stopped the performance. A few days later a private performance was held for representatives of the Jewish community and theater critics. After sharp criticism, the producer cancelled all scheduled performances. The Maxim Gorki Theater made the last attempt to stage The Garbage... in 1998. Jewish groups and prominent cultural figures in Berlin prostested, suggesting that it would damage relations between Germans and Jews, and the play was removed from the program.
Results of Incident: The Garbage... was never performed in Germany. It has, however, been performed by the Yoram Loewenberg acting school in Israel.
Source: Censorship, A World Encyclopedia, ed. D. Jones