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In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Heinar Kipphardt


“In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer”, first staged in 1964 and published in 1968, has come to be appreciated as a profound meditation on our conflicted feelings about the Cold War. Heinar Kipphardt uses the American government’s interrogation of Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, to explore an individual’s responsibility to his country and to humanity as a whole, and the right of a patriot to express views at odds with those of his government – eternal themes that continue to resonate today.

Hill and Wang, (a division of) Farrar, Straus and Giroux | Collection: Spotlight Dramabook


Heinar Kipphardt

Heinar Kipphardt was born on March 8th, 1922 in Heidersdorf, Lower Silesia, Germany (now Lagiewniki, Dolnoslaskie, Poland). As a playwright, he’s well known for the 1964 play “In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer” (“In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer”) (the English version is available on DCPAS). He died on November 18th, 1982 in Munich, Bavaria, West Germany.


His ‘Documentary Theatre’ was similar to Bertold Brecht’s ‘Epic Theatre’, staging historical events and analysing them through an unprecedented point of view. Some of his work include the plays “Joel Brand” (1965), about the extermination of Jewish people by the Nazi and the negotiations for the rescue of over a million Jews in exchange for trucks that took place in Budapest, in 1944. “In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer” (1964) focuses on the famous judicial procedure against the American physicist and, in a general sense, about the conflict between science and its political use.


A Neuropsychiatrist by training, Heinar Kipphardt reflects upon his trade in favour of a more humane psychiatry in the novel “März” (1976), whose protagonist is a writer who’s been psychologically destroyed by a “profoundly sick” society. His last plays include “Aus Liebe zu Deutschland” (1980) and “Bruder Eichmann” (1982).

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