Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Time Has Come

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."

To evoke Lewis Carroll  in Through the Looking Glass, “The time has come to talk of many things,” but  not about whether pigs have wings, but rather  to talk of the end of  the play A Ball for Genia, and a little about the play and who created it.  The playwright is Ralph E. Clarke, an all-around writer of more than sixty years, mostly about business affairs, including even patent applications. He confesses not to have written the play:  “It came and wrote itself—a clear case of automatic writing. I did not know these people, nor had ever had heard such  names as Dolek and Itzhak and  Wachter. They came and spoke and left and never roused themselves again except for an occasional plaint of ‘why don’t you get this thing out into the world.’
And so this thing came out into the world  the form of a weblog, known more popularly as a “blog.”  Whether it will ever play on a full stage is a question, although parts of  it has been performed in staged readings.  The whole thing could not have been accomplished without the help of two of my daughters, both writers of great promise, who will speak for themselves.
But to bring the play in to the world was an unforgettable experience for the memories it evoked.  To bring it about, it was necessary to look again into the faces of the victims pictured before their last agony—the Jewish man with the eyeglasses about to be shot in the head to fall into a ditch with the other victims…the little girl faced with  a death she did not understand, and the plea on her face let me live…the mother with her children who was about to face an end in a gas chamber of unfathomable horror—these can never be forgotten. Their pleas come down through the years—“Don’t forget. Don’t forget us…don’t ever forget—all multiplied six million times.
As to the other willing contributors:
Dr. Alison Clarke (PhD, English Language and Literature, King’s College London) lives in the UK with her actor husband, and cat.  She has lived in London since 1989.  She says:  “I remember the first time I read my father’s play.  I was amazed and moved and so impressed, but I wondered – why?  How? We’re not Jewish, and much as we have sympathy for what the Jewish people have suffered over centuries, and a real and true horror of the Holocaust, I didn’t understand where this might have come from.  Now I know.  And I am even more impressed by his writing – or he would call it his ‘translating’ - ability.  It has been a true joy to work on this blog with him.”  Alison had the privilege, if it can be called so, of visiting Auschwitz, an experience she will never forget.
 Christine (Clarke) Stumpf writes for the Examiner as Chicago Community Life Examiner.  Christine formerly wrote for New West Magazine and is now widely-read on Facebook, most notably for her accounts of the Chicago scene. Living in the heart of downtown, her finger is on the pulse of what's happening, and she is often at the hot spots. Believing that fun is vital, Christine likes to share it!  Some readers say they live vicariously through her; others consult her to help plan their trips to Chicago.  Again, she is amazed by her father's writings and feels privileged to have contributed to this blog.
 We are not going away.  We feel this so importantly, that we will continue to update you with information about Holocaust Remembrance, and we wish to be a voice against the deniers.  Yes, there are some.  But we will never stop promoting and respecting the memory of all who died.
Namaste.  Thank you for following us, and being with us.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Episode Fourteen - Finale

The bombing attack is over. The occupants of Wachter’s house are all asleep.  Falling asleep under a state of terrifying noise and imminent death was noted among the populace of London during the attacks on London as the body’s defense mechanism.  If conditions become too terrible to endure, sleep takes over. 

It is morning. The Rabbi, Itzhak, Dolek, are slumped in chairs, asleep. Lusia is asleep with Genia in her arms. Dolek and Sharon are also asleep close together. Sunlight is streaming through the disarrayed drape that no longer hides the window, and the usually dark room is now brightly lit.  Shards of glass cover the floor beneath the window.
   Itzhak starts up, nudges Marek.
Itzhak: Marek! Marek--wake up!
Marek: What . . .  what's up?
Itzhak: The sun--that's what up. It's morning.
Marek: So it is. [Yawns and stretches] Have we been here all night?
Itzhak: All night. Who could go to bed in such a racket? And—we’re still alive!
Marek: Come on! Let's see how badly the house has been hit. You take the second floor; I'll go to the attic. [They exit quickly.].
Dolek: [Waking] Sharon!
Sharon: Yes, yes--what is it?
Dolek: It's morning!--and we're alive!
Sharon: Good morning, my husband.
Dolek: Good morning, my wife. [They kiss.]
Lusia: Genia--wake up, it's morning. Holding you, my arm has fallen asleep.
Itzhak: [Running in, followed by Marek.] Rabbi! Rabbi! [Shakes him awake.] Wake up, already.

Rabbi: [Wakens, and half asleep, begins singing from the Sabbath service.] "Blessed are Thou, 0 Lord our God. . ."
Itzhak: No, Rabbi. That was last night! [Shakes him] This is this morning.
Rabbi: Oh! Well--what is it, now, Itzhak?
Itzhak: [Shouts] Everybody, wake up! Everyone, come in here!
Dolek: What's the excitement?
   The others offstage straggle in, murmuring sleepy objections to the disturbance.
Rabbi: What is it?
Itzhak: Marek and I looked around, all around the house--second floor, attic, everywhere. The house is untouched except for broken windows and shingles torn off.
Dolek: So we were lucky.
Itzhak: But that's not all. [Speaking with awe and wonder.] I looked out from all sides of the house. This house is still standing! There is not a building standing for blocks around. Only this house . . .  only this house . . . 

   All are amazed. After a moment of silence, the Rabbi says:
 And the Lord put forth his mighty arms and shielded us from the Angel of Death.
Itzhak: Maybe he is back.
Rabbi: Who, Itzhak?
Itzhak: God.
Rabbi: He was never gone, not really.
[A loud rumbling noise is heard from the street as from an immense motorized vehicle. The rumbling stops but the sound of a motor continues, followed by a grinding noise. All look at each other in alarm. Heavy footsteps are heard approaching the door, together with indistinguishable shouts.]
Itzhak: [At peephole] It's a man, with a tank. The turret gun is turning--it's pointed right at the house!
  All cry out in a fearful babble:  It’s the Wermacht! The house--they see the house! Nothing else around the house--It's the Gestapo!--they've come for us! What can we do?--Run!
Dolek: Please!--Be silent. Let us at least find out who it is.
Itzhak: I see a soldier--he's coming closer. He's got a gun. I can't tell what kind of a soldier. Be quiet, now!
Dolek: Quiet, everybody.
[A thunderous knocking is heard, as if made with a rifle butt.]
Itzhak: [Turns from door] Should we open it? [The knocking grows louder and more insistent.]
Rabbi: Open it.
Lusia: It's the gestapo!
Sharon: We'll all be taken--oh, no!
Rabbi: Take comfort, my friends--if it has come to pass that we must be taken, we will go together, with God.
Mrs. Winkleman: [Runs in, excited] It is a soldier--a British soldier.
[A moment's silence.]
Itzhak: British? [Looks through peephole.] By God, it is!
Rabbi: Open the door.
   Itzhak swings the door open, steps back.
OFFSTAGE VOICE. All right, you! Any trouble and you'll get an 80 millimeter shell right in there. [A soldier sidles into the room, rifle ready.]
Soldier: No fast moves now. Who are you people? German people?
Rabbi:  Yes, we are German people.  But come in, my friend. We are no danger to you.
Soldier:  Hey!--are you a Rabbi?
Rabbi:  I am a Rabbi.
Soldier:  How about that--a Rabbi! [Enters warily, rifle at ready. He comes face to face with Itzhak] Where am I--I feel like I’m in the East End of London!  
Rabbi:  Welcome!
Itzhak: Glad to see you!
Dolek: Are we ever!
 [There is a general babble of welcome.]
Soldier:  You're Jews, aren't you?
Rabbi:  We are Jews--like you?
Soldier:  Yes, I'm a Jew.
Lusia: [Hugging him.] Sholom aleichem! You have saved our lives!
Soldier:  Me? Sholom! My pleasure, lady. Glad to be of help.
ALL SAY. Sholom!
Soldier:  Sholom! From what I heard, no Jews are left. All in camps, or dead.
Rabbi: We are here. We have survived.
Soldier: How did you get here, in this house?
Rabbi: That is a long story.
Soldier:  Well, I haven't got time for it now--the gerries are on the run, and we want to keep them running clear back to Berlin. They all high-tailed it out of here after the bombing last night.
Dolek: Why did you stop here, at this house?
Soldier:  It's the only one left--sticks out like a sore thumb. Charlie--Charlie's he's the tank commander says waltz up there and take a look inside--might be full of krauts.
Itzhak: Yes, we are "krauts"--but not soldier krauts.
Soldier: [Shouting out the door.] All clear, Charlie.
Dolek:  Any sign of the Waffen SS?
Soldier:  Who? What's the Waffle SS?
Rabbi: You have much to learn, if you don't know about them.
Dolek: And you will learn, you and the world. We swear to that.
Soldier: If they're Nazi troops, they're miles from here by now.
Dolek: Thank God for that!
Rabbi:  Are we safe?
Soldier:  Safe? How do you mean safe?
Rabbi: Is it safe—for Jews to leave this house?
Soldier:  Who's to stop you? The occupation troops are moving in now--the town's an Allied armed camp. The war's over around here. We're the last to come through, the clean-up squad.
Rabbi: Did you hear?--we can go, my friends. We can go!
    All murmur with pleasure and excitement. 
Dolek: You are sure there's no danger?
Soldier:  Danger? No, the town's yours, as far as I know.
[All except the soldier and the Rabbi run offstage and return quickly with a joyful scrambling, each carrying their little bag of identity papers and money.  As they go and return, the Rabbi walks to the front door and looks out. A burst of sunlight is streaming in.]
Rabbi: How beautiful is the sun ... and the day. [Someone has brought the Rabbi's bag; hands it to him.] Thank you.
   A prolonged piercing yell is heard from the street, and the impatient revving up of the powerful motor:   Hey-y-y! How many goils you got in there anyway?
Soldier:  That's Charlie; he's a Yank. Come on, folks. It's a great day out there! [Exits.]
[They leave one by one, and in pairs. Each reacts to the light and sudden freedom. All are visibly moved, some to tears. Muted comments are heard--]
My mother may be alive somewhere . . . We're free--free! . . .my family . . . where can they be? . .
Sharon: Dolek, let us find Samuel.
Rabbi:  [He has been watching their departure with joy, yet with sadness at their words. He says quietly] May God aid you in your search, my people. [As the last of them leave, he moves as if to go, then stops.] Herr Wachter! Herr Wachter?
Wachter: [Enters] I must have overslept. Where is everybody?
Rabbi: They have gone.
Wachter: Gone? What do you mean, gone?
Rabbi:  We had a visitor, a soldier. He told us that the Wehrmacht has fled, and that the war is over here . . . that the city is safe for us now.
Yes, thank God. I did not stop them from going, even if it is the Sabbath day, And Herr Wachter . . .
Wachter: Yes?
Rabbi:  They are like children leaving a party. In their excitement and joy, they forgot  to say thanks and goodbye.
Wachter: Oh, that's all right.
Rabbi: But they will not forget you, ever.. I say thanks for them now--Albert.
Wachter: Albert? You never called me Albert before.
Rabbi: Before you were our savior, and were "Herr Wachter." Now you are a friend--an eternal friend--and you are Albert to me.
Wachter: Thank you, my friend. But there is no need for thanks. I could do no other.
Rabbi: I know, Albert. There is a tradition among my people, that in every generation there is a leavening of righteous Gentiles who help the Jewish people. [The Rabbi takes him by the shoulders.] You are one of those, Albert Wachter--a Righteous One of the Nations.
    Wachter is visibly moved and cannot speak for a moment.
Wachter: [Finding his voice] When you get your new temple, I'll come one day.
Rabbi: All are welcome, but you will be most especially welcome. Goodbye, Albert my friend. Now I must go and see who may yet be alive of my family. May the God of Abraham and Isaac be with you, Righteous One. [He exits through the front door, pausing to react to the light and freedom as did the others.]
Wachter: [Quietly] Goodbye, Rabbi. God go with you.
[There is a moment of silence. Mrs. Winkelmann enters.]
Wachter: Are you leaving too, Marie?
Mrs. Winkleman: Not if you want me to stay, Herr Wachter.
Wachter: I want you to stay.
Mrs. Winkleman: I will stay, but only on one condition.
Wachter: Condition? Of course, any condition. But what is this "condition."
Mrs. Winkleman: The condition is that I no longer have to act and talk like a typical German hausfrau.
Wachter: Did I ever ask you to do that?
Mrs. Winkleman:  You did--for my protection. And it worked.
Wachter: That's right. It did work. General Strassel  called you "a pure Aryan woman.
Mrs. Winkleman: Now can I be myself?
Wachter: Yourself?  What do you mean?
Mrs. Winkleman: Jewish.
Wachter: Of course, Marie. So much for General Strassel’s nose for Jews. [They laugh.] But do you know, now that they’ve gone, the house is so quiet. I’m going to miss them.
Mrs. Winkleman:  I, too.
    The yellow ball rolls onstage and stops at Wachter’s feet.  It is followed shortly by Genia and Lusia.
Wachter: [Wachter kneels and holds out his arms to Genia.] Genia! You came back! And Lusia!
Lusia: We never left, Herr Wachter.  Genia and I want to stay with you until…until Jareth comes.
                                  The End of Episode Fourteen
                                          The End of the Play

Plays and movies based on the Holocaust seldom if ever have happy endings. But why not? A great number of Jews who suffered through the Holocaust have lived to carry on and have made incalculable contributions to mankind and the lives of others.

And there will be no Interval Fifteen, but rather a denouemont where we will say farewell and thanks to our faithful readers. And perhaps—tell who we are that have created this blog.

So…until the Monday of April 30th!