DUÆL - when the US army sought German intelligence

Allied commanders Montgomery, Eisenhower, Zhukov, and de Tassigny in Berlin, 1945.

Allied commanders Montgomery, Eisenhower, Zhukov, and de Tassigny in Berlin, 1945.

IT IS July 1945. Germany lies in ruins. For the second time in less than 30 years it has been vanquished by the other European powers and is occupied by the British, French, US, and Russian armies.

US forces have taken over southwestern Germany. There, in a large manor house, a German colonel is being interrogated by an American officer. The German may be the enemy, but he could prove useful to US interests - after all he is a good military man.

The colonel being interrogated as part of Operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY ), the US air force’s effort to persuade Luftwaffe members to go to the US and provide the US army with the benefit of their military and aviation knowledg. But is the colonel willing to collaborate with the occupying force?

This is the DUÆL, the new play from The Company Productions (which staged Trioka last year ), written by Jack Kirwan and Jack Kavanagh. It will be staged in the Town Hall Studio from Tuesday June 22 to Saturday 26 at 8.30pm, and in the Bank of Ireland Theatre, NUI, Galway, from Monday June 28 to Wednesday 30 as part of the Colours Fringe Festival.

However DUÆL is not so much about the Allies v the Nazis. It attempts to look at wider issues raised by WWII, including militarism and the idea of war crimes.

“We didn’t want to make the play one about Nazis,” DUÆL’s director Jack Kavanagh tells me during our Tuesday afternoon interview. “Many high ranking individuals in the German army at that time had fought in WWI and came from noble lines, so we are trying to look at the Prussian mentality that many of them brought to the military.”

The play is set mainly in the interrogation room, but involves flashbacks in the colonel’s memory to the Peace Treaty at Versailles, his time in Russia, the beginning and end of WWII, and the colonel’s role in the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War.

“Guernica was bombed by the Francoistas, Italy, and Germany for many reasons, but one was to show that airpower could change the face of warfare,” says Jack. “Many considered it a war crime but such things are very hard to prosecute.

“War crimes are defined by the Geneva Convention, but almost all countries at war have broken the convention at some point, so the issue becomes how to make the laws of the convention stick. This is one of the issues we look at in the play.”

As well as considering Nazi atrocities, the play also looks at the morally dubious actions of the US in the aftermath of WWII, when, through Operation LUSTY and Operation Paperclip, the Americans sough to convince Nazi scientists, military designers, and leading army men, to help develop and design weapons for America’s use.

“There was a lot of hypocrisy on both sides,” says Jack. “The Americans did this with every branch of the German military, picking their brains, and from their developing the aviation and weapons technology that they would use against their former allies, the Russians.”

The play’s title, featuring the Æ diphthong, is pronounced ‘duel’ and is keenly related to both the play’s themes and actions.

“The play features the interrogation of one character by another so there is a duality between the American and the German,” says DUÆL’s producer Padraic Harley. “It also refers to a dual at six paces with guns, as in many respects this is dual between two gentlemen.”

Many of these ideas being explored in DUÆL are controversial and Jack is hoping audiences will come with an open mind.

“Things like Operation Paperclip have not really been explored before, except in the film The Good German,” says Jack. “People who come to the show with their mind made up will not get much from it, but in DUÆL we are trying to be as even as possible, and those with an open mind will get something to think about.”

The cast is Anthony Daly, Vincent O’Connell, Maggie Kilcoyne, and Sam Ferry. The sound engineer is Bryan Rabbitt, the lighting engineer is Caroline Norris, and the stage manager is Rummy MacCullough.

Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777. For informaiton on the Colours Fringe Festival run see www.coloursfringe.blogspot.com

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