Die Berliner Ermittlung, nach einem Oratorium von Peter Weiss
The Berlin Investigation, on an Oratium by Peter Weiss
Berlin, Germany 1998
Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz
In January 1998, letters were sent to seven thousand subscribers and friends of three Berlin theatres, inviting them to take part in a work of art. They were invited to read out parts of Peter Weiss’s Die Ermittlung (The Investigation), an oratorium written in 1965 and based on the statements given by Nazi perpetrators, victims and witnesses during the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt (1963-65). As many as five hundred participants worked on the text in public seminars organized by the artists. One hundred and fifty of them agreed to have their photographs printed in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, along with quotations from Peter Weiss’ play.

In this public piece, which took place in different locations and media, fifteen children from Berlin and thirty immigrants who were in the process of learning to speak German, recited the questions of the judges and prosecutors from The Investigation for a tape recording. Furthermore, listeners of four radio stations spoke passages of the Weiss text onto answering machines, which were then turned into jingles and broadcast randomly during the radio programmes. The national ZDF television programme produced ads with public celebrities reading short passages from The Investigation.

Finally, in five theatre performances from May 25 to June 1, the general public read the play. This play without actors took place at the Hebbel Theater, the Berliner Ensemble, and the Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz. The stage set was Gerz’ installation EXIT/ Materials for the Dachau Project, 1972, which could be visited as an exhibition.


A production by the Hebbel Theater, the Berliner Ensemble, and the Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, in collaboration with Der Tagesspiegel, ZDF, Deutschlandradio and SFB-Hörfunk; Project Manager : Maria Magdalena Schwägermann ; Director: Lukas Hemleb; audio composition: Uwe Mengel; Production Manager: Niels Ewerbeck. Installation EXIT/ Materials for the Dachau Project, 1972 (collections Kunst Museum Bochum and Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein).

Publication:
- Die Berliner Ermittlung, nach einem Oratorium von Peter Weiss
Theater der Zeit, Berlin 2005 (German)

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Photo: Cristina Damasceno
 
Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, 02.04.1998