Jeder stirbt für sich allein / Die Leipziger Meuten
Berlin, 1940: The elderly couple Otto and Anna Quangel lives a quiet life when they hear that their son has been killed at the front. Deeply shaken by the death of their only child, their doubts in the dictatorial regime grow and they decide to take courage and put up resistance: They distribute postcards on which they call upon their compatriots to revolt against the Nazi-regime and its warmongering – in the belief that this will make them open their eyes…
By capturing the Quangels’ desperation and helplessness as well as the emotions of the people surrounding them, which range from fear to cowardice to hate, “Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man dies alone)” creates a panorama of the almost banal relentlessness of life in the era of German national-socialism. Not until the end is there a delicate shimmer of hope within hopelessness: the realisation that even pointless actions are not in vain as long as they promise some measure of self-determination.
Hans Fallada, whose real name was Rudolf Ditzen, wrote this novel in 1946 within a mere four weeks. The story was based on true events, and the author was not to live to see its publication.
Leipzig in the 1930s: The Gestapo has its eye on groups of young people who are occupying public spaces, attracting attention with their similar clothing and hand-made badges. They are members of the “Leipziger Meuten”, the first known German oppositional youth movement, which counted up to 1,500 members and was intended as a subversive alternative to the Hitler Youth – with the aim of maintaining their own autonomy.
Towards the end of the 1930s, the leaders of the Leipziger Meuten were persecuted by the Gestapo, the judiciary as well as youth welfare services, and sentenced to prison for planning a communist coup – some of them were taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp. But the Meuten continued to exist.
1940s Berlin and Leipzig in the 1930s – Fallada’s “Jeder stirbt für sich allein” and the historical phenomenon of the Leipziger Meuten. Both deal with opposition in the national-socialist era, once within the parent generation, once from the viewpoint of young people. And both are not primarily concerned with political action but rather with the opportunity to fight for autonomy and self-determination in the face of a dictatorial system. The combination of both these materials creates a field of tension between the responsibility of the individual and the strength of a group.
With this interweaving of Fallada’s novel “Jeder stirbt für sich allein” and the historical reality of the Leipziger Meuten, Schauspiel Leipzig continues its course of double projects.