Tags: Kurt Gerron

Camp Comedy

Camp Comedy focuses on the film director and actor Kurt Gerron, who, prior to the war appeared in Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera and with Marlene Dietrich in the classic film Blue Angel and who, in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, was forced by the Nazis to create a propaganda film, The Führer Gives a City to the Jews, extolling the virtues of the model camp. The play, which is highly theatrical and employs a narrator, uses actual cabaret material written and performed in Theresienstadt. Camp Comedy poses ethical and moral questions about survival and collaboration.

Sweet Theresienstadt [Sladký Theresienstadt: Vůdce daroval Židům město]

The play is based on documents about life in the Theresienstadt ghetto: the diary of Czech journalist Willy Otto Mahler, and the story of Kurt Gerron, a German-Jewish actor and director who was coerced into the filming of a propaganda documentary, The Führer Gives the Jews a City, that gave a false idea of life for the Jews in Theresienstadt. (The Führer Gives the Jews a City is also the subtitle of the play). Their stories are linked by the two characters’ belief that their privileges offered them some distance from the suffering of the other prisoners: Mahler had a somewhat elevated position at Theresiestadt, he worked at the post office, was a member of the Jewish administration and was the head of Block B in the Hannover Barracks. Gerron believed the Nazis’ promise of safety for himself and his family for making the documentary. The play portrays the irony of their self-deception. Both men, as well as Gerron’s family, died in the extermination camps.