Some Kind of Shadow Machines Were Passing by

Heiner Müller on his perception of the end of the war

22 Jul 1990
Heiner Müller
Heiner Müller


In this interview Müller and Kluge explore the East German’s memories of the final days of the war. The session is introduced by a clip from the Russian film maker Sergei Parajanov’s 1961 film entitled The Ukranian Rhapsody. Here a soldier of the Red Army is writing a letter to his fiancee Oskana on the home front, describing to her his imagined vision of listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in the middle of battle. “In the past I rarely listened to Beethoven,” he says, “if he had composed only the Moonlight Sonata, the war would have had to stop in front of it too.” The scene then is interrupted by the arrival of German tanks.

Kluge opens the discussion with a question about a book by Curzio Malaparte, a writer of Italian-German descent, who authored two powerfully descriptive novels about World War II. Müller had helped get one of them republished, in part because it expressed views closely in tune with his own memories of the end of the war and immediately afterwards. One of these was the notion that while the battle between Germany and the Soviet Union was the first war between workers’ armies, it nevertheless retained “an odd remnant of even feudal chivalrousness among these fully industrialized troops.” Other related topics include a discussion of the problem of rape during the Soviet terror of 1945-46, the halt of the German Wehrmacht before the gates of Moscow, and Müller’s own adventures as a POW of both the Soviets as well as the Americans.