Sartre writes plays as if they were detective stories and this latest play is no exception to the rule. It moves within a high velocity of mystery designed to keep the audience awake at all costs. There are five principal characters — a German industrialist, his two sons, a daughter and a sister-in-law, but there is sufficient plot to accommodate a host of others. The hero of the play is one of the sons, Franz Gerlach, who represents the innocence of Germany betrayed by the terror of Hitler. He returned from the Russian front to cloister himself for thirteen years in his room. Here he had once harbored a Jew, fleeing from a pre-war concentration camp. His father has six months to live and now attempts to persuade the mad son to return to life. Gerlach's other children, the son destined to inherit the family fortune, and the daughter carrying on an incestuous affair with Franz, live under the domination of the man in the room. The main plot resolves itself when Franz confronts his father and, regaining his sanity, admits his guilt in the Nazi terror: he had been a torturer and his father was an informer. Both destroy themselves and the incestuous sister enters the room of guilt to commence her penance as the play ends. Fast moving, with considerable action and psychological revelation, The Condemned of Altona is a play in the European style. It has only one weakness — common to most modern European plays. The playwright, although affirming a love for humanity in the abstract, never seems to display any compassion towards his characters. Still it is exciting reading and should be better theater.
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