By Paul Servini
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Ladies and gentleman, a warm welcome to our guest, this morning, John Albright. Good morning John and thanks for being part of our breakfast program today. Since the opening of your play, Idol, last week, the whole town is buzzing with your name. But nobody seems to know who you are. Do you mind telling us something about yourself?
Thank you, Joanna. Well the first thing of interest is that I'm quite an unusual first time writer. I was born way back in 1928 which makes me 79 this year. And that's very relevant to what I've written, as is the fact that I'm a family man. I've been married to Hilde now for 54 years and we have five children and 17 grandchildren with at least two more on the way. We are lucky enough to share together a large farmhouse which means we each have our own measure of privacy whilst sharing our daily life together. That's important because it was one of my motivations in writing. I had something important to say and wanted the family to share in it.
So in a sense it's a testament to your family?
Yes, indeed. The fact that the play found its way into the public eye was a big surprise. But then, as I told myself later, what is the public if not a further extension of the family. So, it's become a personal message to a much wider audience.
The play itself explores the reasons behind the rise of Hitler. That's something you experienced first hand, isn't it?
That's quite right. I was 5 when Hitler came to power and obviously can't remember much about that. But at school I joined the Hitler youth movement and very soon became quite convinced that Hitler and National Socialism was the only answer for our country. I'm ashamed to say so now, but for me Hitler was my God. I believed in him 100%. In the play I try to take a look at why that was.
Your play is obviously autobiographical. Do you think that's why it has caused such a stir?
Yes, but not just because it's my biography, but because it's the biography of so many others. It affects people of my own generation as well as those of every generation right down to our young people today. I discovered this when I became a teacher and was faced with so many people asking me why.
Albert Camus talking about why he writes, says: “A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.” Is that the essence of your play?
Yes, but it's not just a confession of guilt experienced. If that's all you've got out of it, then I'm afraid you've failed to grasp its real message. It's a confession of the power of guilt forgiven. Guilt experienced can be devastating. Just ask a psychologist, or anyone else involved in helping people get over guilt; they'll all say the same. For years I refused to face up to my guilt. I tried to rationalise it; to persuade myself I was misled into something I didn't really want, or tell myself I was no worse than others. But I didn't find any peace while running away from my guilt. At the same time it was impossible to face up to because it was so damning. It was only once I heard the message that guilt could be forgiven that I began to see a way out. There followed a lot of soul-searching but I finally realised that God indeed could forgive because his Son had paid the price for my guilt by dying on the cross. The day I grasped that, a crushing boulder rolled its way out of my life. The feeling was indescribable, or maybe I'd better day it's taken me almost 50 years to begin to describe it. That's what Idol is really about.
What an amazing story! Thank you very much, John. If you want to find out more, Idol is playing at the Stateside theatre, Munich until the end of the month.
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