Tags: Birkenau


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.


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.

The History of Invulnerability

In the early 1940s there was one Jew powerful enough to single-handedly challenge the Nazis: Kal El, a.k.a. Superman. The story of Superman creator Jerry Siegel and his tumultuous relationship with his legendary comic-book character and the tale of a little boy in Birkenau who believes he will survive because Superman is on his way.

The Puppetmaster of Lodz [Le Marionnettiste de Lodz]

Samuel Finkelbaum, is a puppeteer who escaped from Birkenau near the end of World War II. Now, five years after liberation, he remains in hiding with his puppets, who speak for him about his Holocaust experiences and are his only real companions in his Berlin apartment. He refuses to believe his landlady when she tells him the war is over. Part of the reason for Finkelbaum’s hiding is that he continues to be in love with his wife who perished during the Holocaust and he refuses to accept her death.