The unmarried woman is a densely packed piece of theatre. Not only is it highly stylized, but the material itself hits on a wide range of subject matters. It goes through women’s prisons after the war, a mother taking care of her daughter as well as her own mother, dementia, deferred guilt, a sexual fetish, and army deserters. The former is the basis for the entire play. The central point of the play, which manifests in both flashbacks and real time conversation, revolves around the trial of a woman who gave information to the Nazis on a deserter, leading to his execution.
Desertion throughout the war, and especially towards the end of WWII, was common, but under Wehrkraftzersetzung (the Third Reich’s military law that forbids “undermining military morale”) meant that if they were caught, they could be put in concentration camps, tortured, and sentenced to death. It’s estimated that 15,000 Nazi deserters put to death under these rules, of those between 1,200-1,400 were Austrians. Austria was one of the first countries annexed by Germany in the beginning of WWII, and many of their citizens were either drafted or joined up with the Third Reich. Austrian desertion is still a controversial topic in the country today, it’s only been within the last 10 years that Austria repealed the laws calling deserters traitors.This change came about due to the activism of a, then 87-year-old, Richard Wadani, who had deserted the Wehrmacht multiple times before joining the resistance fighters in France. He started lobbying the Austrian government in 2002 for “rehabilitation of soldiers who had been criminalized by Nazi military courts”, and it wasn’t until 2009 when a blanket rehabilitation went into effect, which dissolved all decisions by the Nazi courts regarding Austrian deserters and conscientious objectors. To cap it off a memorial to those deserters executed was unveiled in Vienna just 2 years. Mr. Wadani, 92 by then, was at the reveal of the memorial and able to see his 12-year battle for recognition come to fruition.