Reading: The Courage to Be

Join us for the reading of 'The Courage To Be', followed by a panel discussion.

The Courage to Be

If one man was responsible for the catastrophe which befell Germany in the 1930’s, one man might have prevented it.

This play, is set in Zurich, 1963. German American theologian Paul Tillich meets his lifelong theological adversary Karl Barth for the final time, to look for answers and to work out what really went wrong in Germany in the 1930s: just as they had once worked out their opposition to Nazism. Both men had revolutionized theological thinking in the 20th century but in completely opposite directions.

They had argued over Hitler in the 1930s and had never resolved their differences. But why did the opposition to Nazism fail? Why did Hitler prevail? How could a country whose cultural heritage boasted Bach, Beethoven, Goethe, Heine and Schiller produce the shocking atrocities of the concentration camps? Why was the Church’s opposition so limited and its leaders so ineffective?

The answer to these questions – or the attempt to find them – emerges through this provocative new play, which concentrates upon the discussion between these two men, as well as Tillich’s wife and Barth’s assistant Charlotte von Kirschbaum.

Date: 04.06.2015

Following this reading by professional actors there will be a discussion of the themes raised.


  • Emma Callander (Associate Artist at the Traverse Theatre and director of this production),
  • Professor David Fergusson (University of Edinburgh), Professor Tom Greggs (Aberdeen University),
  • Dr Alison Jack, Dr Lesley Orr (both University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr Russell Manning (Bath Spa University).