Ursula Amrein

Ursula Amrein is Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Zurich. Selected publications include,“Los von Berlin!” Die Literatur- und Theaterpolitik der Schweiz und das “Dritte Reich” (2004), Phantasma Moderne. Die literarische Schweiz 1880 bis 1950 (2007), Das Authentische. Referenzen und Repräsentationen (2009), Lyriktheorien der Nachkriegsmoderne. Adorno, Benn, Celan (2013), and irritation |theater. Max Frisch und das Schauspielhaus Zürich (2013).

Humanist Realism: Kurt Hirschfeld and the other Germany in Swiss exile

Engaged by the Schauspielhaus in 1933, Kurt Hirschfeld had a decisive impact on the profile of the theater on Heimplatz/Rämistraße during and after the “Third Reich.” As a dramaturg, director, and artistic director, he positioned himself in intellectual and artistic opposition to a regime that erased the fundamental values of civilization. In 1945, Hirschfeld outlined the stance of the Schauspielhaus in its efforts to grapple with National Socialism as follows: “Our mission was to preserve a view of humanity that encompassed the full breadth of its manifold aspects and thus to create a position in opposition to the destructive forces of Facisim.”  This mission also formed the basis of his later approach to programming, which he referred to as “Humanist Realism.” This paper will use selected cases to illuminate Hirschfeld’s activity in Zurich and discuss his work in the context of the “Spiritual Defense” of Switzerland (Geistige Landesverteidigung), thus reconstructing an important chapter in the history of the Schauspielhaus as well.

Panel – Kurt Hirschfeld in Exile in Switzerland: The 1930s and 1940s in Zurich –