Why didn't Hitler have a normal mustache?

Interview by Florian J. Haamann, Fürstenfeldbruck

After the Neue Bühne Bruck had to remove the Hitler satire "He is back" from the program in April due to licensing problems after the premiere, the play is now being resumed. In it, Gerhard Jilka plays Adolf Hitler, who appears in the middle of Berlin in 2011 and no longer understands the world. In the interview, Jilka talks about Hitler's acting skills, people's curiosity and frightening reactions.

SZ: Mr. Jilka, what is it like to be able to play Hitler again?

Basically nice. I am happy that we can show the piece again after all the quarrels. It's just a role that is insanely fun, and when you look at what great actors Hitler played, you don't have to be afraid or moral about playing that villain.

Hitler is something else than a normal villain. How did you prepare for the role?

I looked at material to rehearse the speeches and gestures. That is of course what you expect from someone who portrays Hitler. Interestingly enough, it was all rehearsed by Hitler himself. In his private life, for example, he didn't even have that scrounging R. But that was used on stage when there were no microphones yet, because it carried the sound through. There are recordings in which Hitler talks to some officers about the bad weather conditions during an attack, because you wouldn't guess that it was him.

But the gestures alone are not enough, are they?

The rest is done by the hairstyle, beard and uniform. Which, by the way, is not that easy to get hold of. For the rental you need a confirmation from the director and have to sign that you are not doing any nonsense. After the performance I have to lock it in a safe so that no one can get to it.

What did you think when you stood in front of the mirror for the first time in uniform and with a beard and hairstyle?

It wasn't that I thought, wow, now I've really become Hitler. It is more of a professional look at how you have masked yourself.

How did your environment react?

The interesting thing was that this weird fellow Hitler actually exudes a fascination, one can safely say such charisma, that people get curious. This greatest criminal of the 20th century manages to cast a spell over people, now as it was then. Even if it's just a copy on stage. It is actually the case that I am sometimes addressed by colleagues or by people with: "Yes, my Führer". It's rather strange.

And the audience?

What I find scary at times is that when I’m making the speeches, people are absolutely silent and every now and then even applaud and think it's great. When I listened to Hitler's speeches, the crap he dumped, it sometimes gave me goose bumps, really scared.

Would it be more difficult for you if the role was realistic and not satirical?

Yes, that would be something completely different. When I look at Bruno Ganz, for example, I can well imagine that he might have needed psychological support. I would need it anyway. Fortunately for us, there is an ease with it, that's why it works and you don't have to indulge yourself too emotionally. It remains external and a farce.

Why exactly did the piece have to be canceled in April?

There were problems with the author of the production because he didn't agree with the way we put the play on stage - that's why he banned it. We looked around and now found a version of the Altona Theater that comes very close to the one that was already played, except for a few small differences.

Resumption of "He is back" at the Neue Bühne Bruck on Sunday, October 4th, at 7 pm. Further dates: October 9th, 11th, 16th, 18th, 24th, 25th and 31st, always at 7 p.m.