Tags: Auschwitz-Birkenau


The stage adaptation of Lanzmann’s documentary highlights his interviews and reflections from survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators. The play consists of six vignettes representing death camps, towns, and ghettos: Chelmno, Auschwitz/Birkenau, Sobibor/Vilna Ghetto, Treblinka, Berlin, and Warsaw. Twenty-three actors, led by Michael Clendenin in the role of Claude Lanzmann, portray real-life individuals from the Holocaust. In between vignettes, photographs from the locations of the concentration camps are projected on the stage. A cellist and violinist perform music written by Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust.

Testimonies of the Holocaust: A Dark Operatic Drama

Testimonies of The Holocaust is a dark, operatic style, musical drama with form and aspects of a combination of an opera, a Greek tragedy, Judgement at Nuremberg, and a musical drama. It is set in the Auschwitz Death Camp, and contains a text from The Old Testament, and excerpts from the book We Wept Without Tears, by Gideon Grief which contains first-hand accounts of inmates who were actually in Auschwitz. The texts from the Old Testament were chosen because they seem to reflect on situations, similarities, and conditions actually within Auschwitz. As in a Greek Tragedy, the “Chorus” has a prominent part in the work, and acts as a commentary voice in the overall work, and responds to actions on the stage, as well as setting the mood of each scene. These two things are essential to the overall form and flow of the work. The work uses a standard, full symphonic orchestra. The Narrator (Tenor voice) acts as both a narrator and has solo tenor singing parts within the work. The entire work takes place within or near the Camp Courtyard, therefore scenery changes are minimal. I had much internal debate within myself as to whether or not I would consider nudity or partial nudity within this work. Nudity was part of the Auschwitz experience for most inmates. I decided to allow the overall Director of any production of this work to decide how much, if any, nudity would be used within the work. The construction of this work took, off and on, about 8 to 10 years, and was, at times, very emotionally draining and difficult to deal with because of the only hope that any performance of the work will bring catharsis, reflection, and understanding of the Holocaust, and its effects on those who were part of it, and those who endured the unendurable. ---H. Gunter.