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Tags: Dr. Janusz Korczak
Children of the Night is a drama about the children in the orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto under Nazi occupation. It recounts the heroic acts of Dr. Janusz Korczak (1878–1942), who was the head of the ghetto’s orphanage from 1940 to 1942 and whose work, including the presentation of a Passover play which is depicted in this drama, was an attempt to bring normalcy and beauty, while reinforcing stories of Jewish heroism, into the lives of children who were facing imminent deportation and death.
Post-war German actors stage a play about Dr. Korczak, the head of the Warsaw Ghetto orphanage who accompanied his children to the gas chamber rather than stay behind in the ghetto. By having post-war actors deal with the issue, Sylvanus asks questions about the reverberations of the Holocaust in Germany. The play is clearly influenced by the play within a play structure that the Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello used in Six Characters in Search of an Author.
The play tells the story of the educator and Jewish doctor, Janusz Korczak, who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto. Korczak had a unique method of working with children, and even though he could have been saved, he went to the gas chambers with the orphans he protected.
World War Two, the Nazi Occupation of Poland, Dr. Janusz Korczak—writer, educator, physician, and passionate advocate for children—tries to keep the 200 Jewish boys and girls of his famed Warsaw orphanage alive and hopeful in the face of unbelievable deprivation and terror. In the horrible conditions of the Jewish Ghetto, Korczak does everything within his power to make sure his children are fed and clothed, cared for and safe. But there are rumors of a change in the ghetto. Tales of deportations to concentration camps are spreading. Korczak knows time may be running out. Against the rules of the ghetto, he permits his orphans to stage a magical play—The Post Office—to teach them about the one adult subject he has not yet broached with them: death. As the play is rehearsed, the rumors become reality, and Korczak must decide who can be saved and who must go on the final journey together.
The play dramatizes the trip of four children, sentenced to death by Nazis, in a truck on the way to their slaughter. The children act out future life events they have heard from their parents. They are accompanied by a German soldier, who is convicted of assisting Jewish children, and who is also on his way to the death camp. The character of Mr. Fugue, the German soldier, is ironically based on Janusz Korczak, who ran the ghetto orphanage in Warsaw, and who accompanied his children to the Treblinka extermination center.
Dr. Janusz Korczak is protecting Polish-Jewish children in a Warsaw orphanage: a violin prodigy, a troublemaker, a young girl abandoned by her mother, and a malnourished boy all struggle to survive. Even with the known end looming, we are engaged in the everyday details of keeping the children alive.
A depiction of the final heroic and selfless acts of Janusz Korczak, the director of the Warsaw Ghetto orphanage, as he prepares the children for their and his final journey to the Treblinka death camp.