The traceless

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Die Spurlosen is a radio play by Heinrich Böll that was broadcast on November 8, 1957 on NDR and four days later on SWF . In the same year, the publishing house of the Hans Bredow Institute in Hamburg brought out the printed version.

Kaplan Brühl should reveal the secret of the traceless. The clergyman opposes the authorities for good reason.


Anno 1957: The 41-year-old chaplain Brühl disappeared overnight. Apparently he was called to administer the sacraments to a dying man. The chaplain could also - so the police detective Kleffer suspected - be in cahoots with burglars, known as those without a trace. This is the third time they have relieved the Central Bank of gold in the city.

It turns out, however, that the chaplain has nothing to do with the “gang of burglars”. The “dying person” to whom he was actually called is a woman. And the clergyman was not “called”, but instead kidnapped with gentle force into a house where those without a trace are hiding. The chaplain was held in the house for two days for “security reasons”. The “dying woman” is called Mrs. Marianne Kröner. Her husband - the burglar Kröner - suspects that Marianne came to the crime scene because she lacks spiritual support at her place on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean (probably north of Rio de Janeiro). Kröner is certainly right. Because Marianne recovers in the two days mentioned, so that afterwards she and her husband's “gang” can flee towards Rio. The story with the criminals is as follows: The gentlemen are the crew of a Wehrmacht submarine that disappeared without a trace in 1944. The crew had secretly taken in their wives and children on the Danish coast in 1944, deserted as a group and henceforth lived a Robinson life there on the South American coast. The economic basis of this existence was formed by those three break-ins, which were also made possible by the insider Dr. Krum, member of the "gang".

But that's not what Böll's radio play is about. It is actually about Marianne - deputy for the lonely person - who sorely misses the spiritual care, even without it can no longer live. Of course, Marianne's Robinson existence was caused by the Nazi state, which plunged her and hers into disaster with the war . Marianne's husband remains only the hatred of those who gave him the destruction orders in the war and who are now successfully playing the good citizens, the innocent lambs, in their homeland. This fits Marianne's attitude, which cannot stay in Germany. Because "everyone I loved is dead, and everyone I didn't love is alive."

In 1957, Böll accuses some of the pillars of German post-war society who have apparently learned little or nothing from recent history. He puts that charge in the mouths of Kröner and his wife Marianne (see above). This accusation is supported by the attitude of Kaplan Brühl. He fully understands the “gang of burglars” and their families. He does not give in to Marianne's urging to follow the “intruders” to her sandy Atlantic beach. After all, he has enough problem cases at home to attend to pastoral care. But he would rather let himself be put in jail by the criminal police officer Kleffer than betray the fleeing traceless with one word.


  • Bernáth discusses one of the cardinal questions of this radio play: "Who is worse ..., the robbed or the robbers?"


  • Heinrich Böll: The traceless . With an afterword by Rudolf Walter Leonhard. Hamburg 1957.
  • Heinrich Böll: The traceless. Three radio plays . Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1966.


Individual evidence

  1. Bellmann, p. 146, entry 1957.9
  2. ^ Heinrich Böll: Die Spurlosen (1966), p. 96 middle
  3. ^ Heinrich Böll: Die Spurlosen (1966), p. 101, 6. Zvo
  4. Bernáth, p. 81, 9. Zvo