Browse the Plays
- Experience Chronicled
- Allegoric or Metaphoric Representations
- Concentration and Extermination Camps
- Deniers and Denial
- Germany, Hitler and the Growth of Nazism
- European Jewry Before the Holocaust
- The Ghettos
- Righteous Gentiles
- Nazi War Crimes and Judgement
- Other Victims of Nazi Persecution
- Perpetrators, Bystanders and Collaborators
- Survivors and Subsequent Generations
- Theater During Holocaust
- Women and the Holocaust
- Experience Chronicled
2.5 Minute Ride
2.5 Minute Ride is about author Lisa Kron’s relationship with her father, Walter, a German-Jewish Holocaust survivor who escaped Germany by Kindertransport in 1937 when he was 15 years old. The play recounts anecdotes of Kron family life: a grandmother with a house full of cosmetics because she felt sorry for the Avon lady; a brother who has to resort to looking for a Jewish wife on the internet; and her father who insists on an annual family trip to an amusement park in Ohio. But it’s a trip to Auschwitz Lisa takes with her ailing father that helps her better understand Walter’s personal history. Switching from the amusement park to the concentration camp, the play portrays Lisa Kron’s belief that “humor and horror are flipsides of the same coin.”
A Thing of Beauty
Based on a real character, the story of an Orthodox Jew who becomes an esteemed Catholic teacher and philosopher, and then, at an advanced age, joins the Carmelite Order of Nuns. The play deals with the agony of her decision to convert and the intense search for her by Nazi intelligence. Nineteen nuns are held hostage until she is captured and subsequently sent to Auschwitz.
An Angel from Auschwitz
A world in two acts: Act one is about an 18-year-old named Terry who, in 1971, tries to persuade his reticent father to talk about some terrible thing that he witnessed during World War II. Act two takes place a couple of decades later, when Terry, 40, is visited, along with his wife and 16-year-old daughter, by a Holocaust survivor who has come to make far-reaching demands on their lives and their emotions.
1961, the Eichmann trial is about to begin, and Nochi, a lawyer for the prosecution is still interviewing witnesses. He is driven by pure ethical considerations. He meets Anda, a nurse who survived Block 10 in Auschwitz (the women in this block were subjects of human experiments), and even kept a diary. But Nochi is confronted with government considerations—they do not want Anda to testify because Anda is from the "wrong" side of the political map (Anda was against Reparations, for example). Nochi risks his career and his relationship with his fiancée, Alona. Alona's father doesn’t like Nochi, mostly because of his past: Nochi came to Israel alone at the age of 8. He had to erase his European roots in order to fit in and make his way in society. But it is still not enough.
This about Anne Frank is based on her words, translated by librettist Melanie Challenger. It was originally written as a concert-length work and three movements were first presented as part of England’s Holocaust Memorial on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The entire work premiered in London in 2005. It was written as a chamber version that premiered in The Hague in 2009 on what would have been Anne’s eightieth birthday, and was performed by the Riverdale Choral Society at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York City, in 2018.
Inspired by actual events recounted in inmate diaries, this play tells the story of Jewish pathologist Dr. Isaac Jonah who, along with his wife and daughter, is interred at Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 where he is assigned to work in the laboratory of Dr. Josef Mengele. Jonah searches for strength when he is asked to help in the escape of Lena, a young girl who has miraculously survived the gassing that killed her entire family. He must weigh the safety of his own family against the life of this innocent girl. The nearly successful attempt leads Jonah to perform the most courageous act of his life as he goes against everything his religion and his medical degree have taught him.
The play depicts the horrors of the Auschwitz maternity barracks through the use of a female chorus speaking in verse and a prisoner who serves as a midwife. The midwife recounts the details of infants drowned, bodies fed to rats, infants with Aryan features being taken for adoption, and newborns starved to death because their malnourished mothers are unable to breast-feed.
Charlotte Salomon was a German Jewish artist from a prosperous Berlin family—her father was a surgeon and her stepmother a successful opera and concert singer. Salomon was one the few Jews to be admitted into the Berlin Academy of Art when the Nazis came to power. She fled to the south of France with her grandparents in 1939 following the outbreak of WWII, where she spent her time in exile creating over 1, 300 watercolor paintings. In 1943 at age 26, she was captured and sent to Auschwitz, where she was killed. Her diary, Leben? Oder Theatre?, on which the opera is based, is itself a part fiction and part non-fiction “Singspiel” or “song-play.”
Charlotte: Life? or Theater?
This musical is based on Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theater? (Viking Press, 1981). She grew up in Berlin in the 1920s and died in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 26. In 1939, in refuge in France, she discovered the truth about a series of suicides in her family. To make sense of her existence she began to paint Life? or Theater? with more than 800 paintings, text, and musical references. Music by Gary Fagin. The production follows Charlotte’s story.
Consequences: The Trial of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Examines Franklin D. Roosevelt’s immigration policies during WWII through the eyes of survivor Arthur Mandel. When Arthur dies and is seeking admission to heaven, he has two goals: to be reunited with his wife Leah who died in Auschwitz, and to avenge FDR, whose policies were the cause of her death. God grants Mandel permission to put FDR on trial, and from the confrontations of the trial, the play shifts back in time to the romance between Arthur and Leah, as well as to the horror Leah experiences in Auschwitz.
Crawling from the Wreckage [Et toi, comment as-tu fait?]
Reminiscent of Delbo’s Who Will Carry the Word, this is a work that uses documentary-like testimony of female camp survivors, based on the kinds of experiences Delbo had in Auschwitz.
East of Berlin
Standing outside his father’s study in Paraguay, Rudi is smoking cigarettes, trying to work up the courage to go in. It has been seven years since he left his family and their history behind him. As a teenager, Rudi discovered that his father was a doctor at Auschwitz. Trying to reconcile his inherited guilt, Rudi lashes out against his father and his friends, and eventually flees to Germany. While there, he follows in his father’s footsteps by studying medicine and falls in love with Sarah, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Questioning redemption, love, guilt, and the sins of the father, East of Berlin is a tour de force that follows Rudi’s emotional upheaval as he comes to terms with a frightening past that was never his own.
Edith Stein was a Jewish philosopher who came from an observant Jewish-German middle class family who converted to Roman Catholicism a few years after the First World War, joined a Carmelite nunnery and died, with her sister also a convert to Catholicism and nun, in the gas chamber at Auschwitz. She was later proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II. Giron's play chronicles her life until her death at Auschwitz.
Elegy portrays the relationship between a troubled young man and his Holocaust survivor parents. Shifting fluidly back and forth from New York in the 1970s to Kristallnacht and later in Berlin, brief moments at Auschwitz, and New York after the war, the play dramatizes the struggles of a second generation survivor and his father. Helmut, a poet in his youth before the war, struggles to suppress his memories of the past. Rummaging in the attic, Jerry stumbles on a poem in German and is stunned to learn of his father's poetic past. His mother asks him not to mention the poetry to his father, but Jerry cannot let his father’s poetry rest. In an effort to purge his own demons, Jerry confronts Helmut and tries to reawaken the poetry in his father’s soul.
The play begins as Etty is being transported to Auschwitz. In Auschwitz, she works at the Jewish Council registering the Jews that come into the camp and this keeps her and her family safe for a while. Her spirit and hope shines through even as she faces the notion that she, too, will eventually face death in this camp.
A postmodernist representation of post-war Germany’s inability to deal with the Holocaust honestly in media and social communication. The play is structured as a pastiche of scenes that are not held together by a specific plot line and in two parts, the second being a dramatized talk show. There seem to be references to the Wannsee Conference, where the Final Solution became German policy, death camps, and post-war Germany’s reactions to the Shoah and its perpetrators.
Fragments of Isabella
A dramatic recitation of Isabella Leitner's autobiography. Leistner, a Hungarian Jew, survived Auschwitz (where her mother and younger sister were killed when the arrived in May 1944), a labor camp, and escaped from a death march to Bergen-Belsen (where another sister died). After liberation by the Russians, she and two surviving sisters arrived in the United States on the day World War II ended.
A group of Japanese children wish to find out the story of the girl whose name is painted on an old battered suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum. It brings to light the life and fate of two Jewish children who lived in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation. The play takes place between two time frames: Tokyo in 2000, when the children of the Holocaust Education Centre and its director, Fumiko Ishioka, began their search into the identity of Hana Brady; and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and 40s, where Hana lived with her family, and ultimately became a victim of the Nazis.
I Love You, I Love You Not
A teenager learns to accept and honor her Jewish heritage. Daisy is visiting her grandmother at her home. Daisy is unhappy with herself and and her family life. Her grandmother provides her with emotional stability by providing her with grandmotherly advice and support but, most importantly, by recounting her experiences in Auschwitz where she lost her two sisters.
If This Is a Man (Se questo è un uomo: versionne drammatica)
This theatrical version of Primo Levi's autobiography, If This Is A Man (also known as Survival in Auschwitz) recounts his eleven months in Monowitz, one of three camps in the Auschwitz extermination center. Levi was transported to Auschwitz, following his arrest and internment in an Italian internment center for Jews, in February of 1944. He was liberated by the Russians in January of 1945.
Mixes theater, music, video, sculpture and puppetry to recreate the daily routine of mass murder at Auschwitz.
The story of Maximilian Kolbe, a gifted Franciscan priest who offered to take the place of Franek Gajowniczek, a Polish soldier interned in an underground bunker in Auschwitz, 1941. Kolbe died in the soldier’s place. He was canonized in 1982 and declared a martyr of charity.
Auschwitz is one of two acts of Peter Barnes’ Laughter. The play, which is an ironic, black comedy is set in the bureaucratic offices of government employees in Berlin. While the characters in the play seem to be representative of civil servants in any governmental setting, with the same petty concerns and battles, the audience is slowly made aware that they are responsible for the functioning of the Auschwitz extermination center. Much of their office jargon is the Nazi terminology used for the Final Solution. Near the close of the play, file cabinets in the office to reveal a gas chamber with disfigured dummies representing gassed victims and grotesque Sonderkommandos clearing the dead. The play closes with a grotesque comic performance by the cabaret artists Bimko and Bieberstein in the Auschwitz camp of Birkenau.
Les Chants d’amour des alphabets d’Auschwitz
A multi-hour spectacle, sometimes described as a “theatre marathon,” Les Chants is based on works by survivors of Auschwitz and other camps. The work, structured in chapters, is to be staged in various locales, as was done when presented.
Les Sept possibilités du train 713 en partance d’Auschwitz
Using his highly theatrical style, Gatti dramatizes the curious circumstance confronting some survivors of the Auschwitz extermination camp, who were forced to travel for months by train by their Soviet liberators, with ironic parallels to their earlier horrific transport to the death camp.
Based on the experiences of young German-Jewish artist, Charlotte Saloman, who painted over 1,300 pieces of art in less than two years before she was transported to Auschwitz in 1943. She was captured while hiding from the Nazis in the South of France and transported to the camp where she died at age 26. The play contrasts the dark journey to Auschwitz with the colorful imagery of her paintings.
Mania is an 80-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, who was subjected to Dr. Mengele’s experiments. Mania is a widow and mother of two who has schizophrenia. She wants to die, but before that, she wants to tell her story—what it was like there, what she went through, and what the Nazis made her do.
A vaudeville using humor, music and dance. A narrator weaves together four stories from the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. The play merges past and present through the viewfinder of a present-day troupe of actors. Rather than dealing with the tragedy and victimization of European Jews targeted for extermination, it instead deals with those prisoners who saw themselves not as victims but as resistance and who fought back against their oppressors.
My Mother’s Courage [Mutters Courage]
Based on the true story of the author’s mother’s experiences. Elsa is a 55-year-old Hungarian Jew who is rounded up and transported to Auschwitz. However, she argues her arrest was illegal and convinces authorities to transport her back to Budapest, where she survives the war.
Passazhirka [The Passenger]
Set after WWII, a married German couple, Lisa and Walter, are traveling by ship from Europe to Brazil where the husband is taking a new diplomatic posting. The wife, Lisa, recognizes a Polish woman onboard the ship as a former inmate of Auschwitz whom she believed to be dead. Not knowing whether this woman is real or a hallucination, Lisa is forced to confess to her husband that she was a camp guard in Auschwitz, and the woman, Marta, was a prisoner she oversaw. The opera is set on two levels: the upper deck where Lisa and Walter are sailing, and the lower deck depicting the concentration camp.
Passenger in Cabin 45 [[Pasażerka z kabiny 45]
Written by concentration camp survivor Zofia Posmysz, who was arrested in Poland in 1942 at age 16 and sent to Auschwitz for attending secret educational classes organized by the Polish underground. Because Posmysz was a Roman Catholic, she did not face the same fate as her Jewish inmates, but she did nonetheless suffer brutality at the hands of the Nazis and witness scenes of unimaginable horror. She wrote the radio play Passenger from Cabin 45 in 1959 from the perspective of her Nazi prison guard, Anneliese Franz.
Playing for Time
Based on the autobiography of Fania Fénelon, a Parisian singer who became part of the Auschwitz orchestra made up of female prisoners. The musicians play for the camp's Nazi leaders and for fellow prisoners leaving for work details and crematoria. Their position in the orchestra is a means to survival but also forces them to ask moral questions about how their artistry is being used.
Playing for Time [תזמורת על תנאי]
In the Auschwitz women’s camp there was an orchestra. Fania, a talented pianist and singer, becomes part of the orchestra. The play portrays the complex relationships between the orchestra members and the orchestra managers, and the way they deal with the horrors and hardship around them.
Based on the memoir
by Italian Jewish chemist and writer, Primo Levi, which describes his arrest as a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during World War II and his incarceration in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The play is a monologue told by an older Primo looking back at his life in Auschwitz.
Punch Me in the Stomach
A one-woman performance piece, in which Filler describes her childhood in a Jewish immigrant family in New Zealand and the experience of actually traveling back to Eastern Europe to tour the death camps with her father who was a survivor of Auschwitz.
A performance piece that uses striking non-realistic images, including actors emerging at the opening from a mound of dirt, related to the director's experiences as a political prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
SB6 (Scraps of Life from the Plate of Death)
SB6, an acronym for “Sonderbehandlung 6” or “Special Treatment 6” represents the last six months of life for the families sent in transports from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in 1943. The play portrays the experiences and dilemmas of life, rather than focusing on the imminent death, of a group of boys in the children’s block of the camp. 4,000 Czechoslovakian Jews were sent to their deaths precisely six months after their arrival in the camp.
Beginning in Auschwitz, Peter Singer manages survive the camp by trading on the black market, but not without consequences to himself and his fellow inmates. After the war, he moves to Great Britain, where he continues his dubious dealings and establishes himself as a slumlord.
The Beautiful Days of My Youth
BUCHAREST, Romania — The latest première at the Jewish State Theater in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, explores the horrors of the Holocaust via a survivor's memories of the Auschwitz and Plaszow concentration camps. "The Beautiful Days of My Youth" by Romanian Jewish Holocaust survivor Ana Novac follows the National Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations on Oct. 9, the day when deportations of Romania's Jews and Roma began in 1941. Some 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma were deported and killed under Romania's pro-Nazi regime during World War II. During the communist era, hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews emigrated to Israel. The current Jewish population is around 6,000, down from 800,000 before the war.
The Bureaucrat describes the Holocaust, Auschwitz, from the perspective of Rudolf Hess, its commandant, as he wrestles with the problems and agonies of creating the perfect killing machine, while at the same time loving his wife and children and going through the motions of a normal life. His constant struggle is to make this machine as efficient as possible. He is no psychopath, he is no monster, he is simply a human being, one of us. Yet he can commit the unspeakable, struggling not to think about it, like any good bureaucrat.
The Court Jesters [ליצני החצר]
Four Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz are chosen by the camp commandant to be his personal clowns. An astrologer, a midget, a juggler and a court judge are the four "lucky" clowns. During the day they work like all the other prisoners, and at night they perform for the SS officers for small pieces of bread. They all survive, and the play follows them later in life in Jerusalem and Argentina, where one of them is taking revenge.
The Good and the True
Drawn from the original journals of Czech athlete Milos Dobry and actress Hana Pravda, this is the story of two people who went through the same places and experienced similar tragedies—and yet they never met. The paths of their lives crossed each other but also passed each other. They both survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, death marches, and witnessed murder firsthand.
The Grey Zone
A group of Hungarian Jews are recruited to be Sonderkommandos, prisoners who assist the Nazis in gassing other Jews with the promise that they will not be killed. They soon realize that they, too, will be gassed and begin to plot blowing up the crematoria with smuggled explosives. However, when they find a young girl still alive among the corpses, they struggle to decide what to do with her. Caught by the SS, the girl along with all but one Sonderkommando are killed. He is left to question his moral decisions.
The Investigation [Die Ermittlung]
Weiss uses transcripts from the Frankfurt trials of Auschwitz SS guards to create his docudrama. However, the play is not an actual documentary and some of his decisions in shaping the material have been highly controversial. Weiss structures the testimony into verse, never gives the survivors testifying names just numbers (as they were given in the camp), and never mentions Jews. Weiss uses the play to argue that the Holocaust occurred because of capitalism and suggests that the oppressed could as easily become oppressors.
The Lilliput Troupe: A Play in Seven Dwarfs
This is the remarkable true story of the Ovitz siblings—seven Jewish vaudevillians with dwarfism who endure a year in Josef Mengele's laboratory. Structured as a vaudevillian retelling of Snow White, the play follows the Ovitzes on their journey from the mystical Transylvanian village of Rozavlea to Poland, where they come to know the most notorious war criminal of the twentieth century as "Uncle." The Lilliput Troupe spotlights the twisted relationship between captor and captive, the weight of survival, and the place of theatrics in a world of war.
This true story is a depiction of Lucy Deutsch, still 14, when she finds herself in Auschwitz alone among 600 adult women. She learns early to be determined, to keep her integrity undamaged against all odds, even though her life hangs in the balance daily. Later, becoming an orphan, thrown into a Russian prison, she uses her unwavering belief in herself to accomplish the impossible. Includes 25 songs she wrote for this play.
The Mitzvah is a one-person, one-act play—part of The Mitzvah Project, which includes a lecture and audience discussion. Half-Jew, Christophe Rosenburg, a decorated officer, and hardened killer, is serving in Hitler's army. He is dying and in a delirium. As his life is slipping away, he fantasizes about killing The Führer in a lethal replay of a moment a few years before when he stood with hundreds of soldiers and officers in a square in Berlin delivering an oath of allegiance to Hitler. The Chorus interjects and replies to Christoph's dream in an extended sardonic riff about "the hand"—that Christoph's fantasy is a ridiculous fiction; that Christoph's hand, rather than being the instrument that delivered the world from the nightmare of Hitler, is the Nazi hand that murdered uncounted millions of innocent lives. The scene shifts and the character changes from the Chorus to Schmuel Berkowicz, a poor Jew from Bialystok who finds himself on the train platform in Auschwitz where he is selected to work in the "Krankenbau"—the infirmary—which, as Schmuel learns, "is more like a mortuary." He recounts how he first meets a large, blonde-haired prisoner who, but a few months earlier, was a decorated war hero. It is Christoph Rosenberg, who has been severely beaten and is now, like Schmuel, a prisoner. We learn that Christoph has been brought to Auschwitz because he turned on the Germans, in a field outside of Bialystok, where he shot and killed a SS Captain, to stop the slaughter of local Jews. The Chorus fills in the background about Christoph, i.e., that he is a half-Jew who was able to stay in the German army only by obtaining a special exemption personally from Hitler. But, upon seeing the brutalization of a young woman and her baby by the SS, Christoph realizes that the blood flowing in the trench is the same blood that's flowing in his veins. To put an end to her suffering at the hands of the SS, Christoph first kills the young Jewish mother, and then turns the gun on the SS Captain. At the end of the play, in the same way that Christoph ended the life of the young mother, Schmuel puts an end to Christoph's suffering by suffocating him "with a rag—the rag he used to cleanse—in the infirmary that is more like a mortuary." At the end of the play, Schmuel says Kaddish over the body of Christoph draped Pieta-like on his lap.
Brief synopsis: Schmuel Berkowicz, an Auschwitz survivor is speaking to students in a college auditorium. As his testimony unfolds, different people he encounters, before, during and after the war, come to life including: a German half-Jew who was a First Lieutenant in the Wehrmacht; a Groucho Marx-esque American-Jewish comedian (The Chorus) who leavens the drama with acerbic commentary, probing the boundary between the absurd and the horrific; and an SS General who reminds the audience how quickly and alarmingly our contemporary world is erasing and sanctioning the dark history that produced him.
The Phoenix Cantata
The play is based on the experiences of Violet Czodik Fabian and her sister Gabriella Czodik in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. This true story depicts the choices Violet has to make after being liberated from Bergen-Belsen. Does she marry a fellow survivor and carry on the life she had before? Or does she choose a Catholic man who, as a medical student, is helping to save the lives of prisoners who are too sick to leave the liberated camps?
The Theatrical Representation of the Holocaust
Posted in UncategorizedAlso tagged history, poetry, Aristotle, Juan Mayorga Comments closed
The Westerbork Serenade
The Westerbork Serenade is the title of a love song written by Dutch singing duo, Johnny and Jones, just before their deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. The play tells the true story of Jewish cabaret performers held by the Nazis in the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork, and portrays songs and vaudeville sketches that were actually staged in the camp revues. Some of Berlin's greatest stars performed at Westerbork, thereby delaying their transport to death camps.
Based on secret research into the Channel Islands occupation by the Nazis and the true story of Theresia Steiner, one of three Jewish women deported from Guernsey and gassed in Auschwitz, Theresa reveals the collaboration of the government, police and ordinary islanders with the Nazis between 1940 and 1944. The play is a fictionalized retelling of Theresia’s story, incorporating physical theatre, music and dance.
In Germany in 1948, a rabbi gives Hebrew lessons to a German woman who wants to emigrate to Palestine. The rabbi is a survivor of Auschwitz and the woman, it is revealed was an S.S. member in the camp. The play deals with the moral issues confronting survivors and perpetrators in postwar Germany.
Two Charlottes [Dos Charlottes]
The play recounts the experiences of two women: Charlotte Delbo and Charlotte Salomon, who were both sent to Auschwitz during World War II. Charlotte Salomon was a young German Jewish artist who fled to France following the outbreak of war, where she created over one thousand paintings documenting her exile. She was eventually captured and died in Auschwitz at age 26. Charlotte Delbo was a French Christian writer well known for her memoirs and plays documenting her time as a prisoner in Auschwitz. While both Charlottes were imprisoned in the camp, they ultimately did not share the same fate and only Delbo survived.
Way to Heaven
About the sham Jewish settlement at Theresienstadt, or Terezín, in what is now the Czech Republic, set up by the Nazis to persuade observers that Jews were held in humane conditions. A make-believe utopia, Theresienstadt (the German name) was an effective propaganda tool. In reality, it was a concentration camp, and a way station leading to Auschwitz and other death camps.
Who Will Carry the Word? [Qui rapportera ces paroles?]
Based upon the actual experiences of Charlotte Delbo, Who Will Carry The Word? dramatizes the lives of women struggling to survive in an Auschwitz barracks. The women hope that the strongest of them will survive to bear witness to the horrors they experienced. The play is presented with almost no scenery, with the camp life evoked through almost poetic descriptions, and recreated by the two survivors.