Sunday, February 10, 2013

Episode Nine

                     Wachter Strikes Back

  Si vis pacem, para bellum . . . if you wish for peace, prepare for war.[i]

General Strassel announces that Wachter’s argument has failed, and that he will now take Lusia and Genia and send them to Auschwitz and sure death. 

To maintain continuity, the last few lines of the debate are repeated here.

Strassel: Call those Jews out here!

Wachter: Heinrich, I beg you . . . let them stay.  I ask as an old friend.

Strassel: You are in no position to say no!

Now, on with the play—

Strassel:  [He puts on his cap.] I command you!  Call them out here!

Wachter:  No! 

Strassel: [Reaching for his pistol.]  Albert: I repeat:  you are in no position to say no. Call them out here!


Wachter: [He pauses,  then says] I will, Heinrich. [Another pause] Come out my friends—all of you!

All the occupants of the house emerge from the doors and stand in silence.  Dolek, Itzhak and Feodor edge themselves behind Strassel, who is facing Wachter.

Strassel: Gott in Himmel! You’ve got a whole rat’s nest of ‘em!

Strassel draws his pistol.  Dolek, Itzhak and Feodor seize him, wrest his pistol away.  It falls at the feet of Wachter, who picks it up.

Itzhak:     I know this one. He was in command at Auschwitz. They called him the mad dog!

Strassel:  I don’t know you!

Itzhak:     I know you. You killed hundreds with that gun—just for sport!

There is a silence as those who have entered stare at Strassel with a hatred that is almost tangible.  They point toward him and begin a low wailing cry with ever-increasing volume of sorrow, of lamentation, of unutterable woe. It is a sound that might have come from millions of throats of the Jews forced naked into the gas chamber expecting a shower of warm water, and found instead a shower of deadly gas crystals.  Like a great organ, the sound swells in volume until it almost unbearable. 

Strassel:  [Shouting] I’ll call my troops . . .  I’ll kill you all. . .  you won’t get away with this! [The sound drives Strassel into a frenzy of rage and fear.] Stop! [He holds his ears as the sound reaches a crescendo, and turns rage on Wachter.] Verdamnt Jew-Kisser!

Wachter raises the pistol and  shoots Strassel. Strassel claps his hand to his forehead and silently slips to the floor. There is a moment of prolonged silence as they all stare at the body.  Then Itzhak kneels beside the body.

Wachter:  Is he . . . is he dead?

Itzhak:    He is dead. Shot in the forehead, and a nice, clean hole. You’re a real Jesse James with that pistol, Herr Wachter.  

Wachter: [Deeply shaken] We used to practice together.  I was the better shot.

Itzhak:     I believe it.

There is another silent pause, broken by the Rabbi.

Rabbi:  [His hands raised over Strassel.] Alav ha-sholem.

Dolek:   You are incorrigible, Rabbi.  Would God accept such a man?

Rabbi: Even so terrible a man has a soul. Words must be said for that soul.

Wachter:  You are right, Rabbi.  May God have mercy on your soul, Heinrich - my friend.

Dolek:   I say good riddance.

Rabbi:  the Holy One, blessed is He, does not rejoice in the downfall of the wicked. 

Dolek:   More to the point, Rabbi; we’ve got a dead body here.

Feodor:  A dead Nazi.

Itzhak:     Not your ordinary  run-of-the mill Nazi, but the big cheese himself.

Dolek:   What are we going to do with it?

Wachter:  He won the debate. He was right. Might does make right. And I told him: thou shalt not kill, and I killed him. [Sets gun on table and covers his eyes.]

Dolek:  [Motions toward Wachter and his distress. He says quietly as he motions toward the body]  Let’s get this thing out of here. [To the others] Leave us, my friends. 

[All leave except Wachter, Lusia, and the Rabbi. Itzhak puts the cap over Strassel’s face, and Itzhak, Dolek, Feodor body and carry the body through a nearby door.]

Itzhak:     So little blood. Perhaps a machine.  

Dolek:   An evil demon for sure.

Mrs. Winkelman: [enters from kitchen.] I heard. Can I help?

Wachter:  See if anyone is in the street.  He did say he came alone.

Itzhak, Dolek and the Rabbi return

Rabbi:   What are we going to do?

Dolek:  The body’s no problem.  It can go in the cellar cemetery.

Rabbi:   Ach!—such an infidel among our sacred dead.

Itzhak:    That’s a minor problem.  What should concern us—did he come alone? 

Mrs Winkleman:   [Mrs. Winkelman has been looking  through the peep-hole] I see no one on the street  . . . no soldiers . . . no one waiting.

Dolek:    So he did come alone.

Wachter:   That’s like him.  He likes . . . liked to handle things on his own.

Sharon:  Then they won’t know he’s here!

Dolek:  [Snorts]  Listen to her, will you.  He’d leave word where he was going, wouldn’t he? Everyone at Gestapo headquarters must have seem him leave, especially carrying a little girl.

Sharon:  I can hope, can’t I.

Dolek:    Spare me your hope!

Rabbi:   After dark, let’s dump him somewhere . . . make it look like an accident, like he was run over by a car.

Dolek:    A hole in the head he’s got! Some accident.

Itzhak:    You’re right Dolek, they’ll look everywhere for him, especially in this neighborhood since he walked here. 

Sharon:   We’re going to die, all of us!

Dolek:    Shut up, for god’s sake.  Let us think!

Rabbi:   Be comforted, Sharon.  An hour of life is still life.

Itzhak:    Very comforting, Rabbi. But just what in hell are we going to do?

Wachter:   If he had just shown a little mercy and had gone away without Lusia and Genia, he’d still be alive.

Sharon:   [Screams, points in terror.] He is alive . . . alive! 

All turn to see the figure of Strassel standing in the doorway of the room into which he was carried.

                                   End of Episode Nine

Strassel alive? How can this be? Perhaps it’s a miracle. But the world seems fresh out of miracles.  And if we must have a miracle, surely the resurrection of General Strassel is not a desired one.  Episode Ten, which will appear on Monday, February 18,  may resolve the mystery.

In the meantime, be sure to view Interval Nine next week, which will discuss other plays about the Holocaust.  We have discussed some films, yes, but what about the theater?  The most immediate form of entertainment and engagement?  Much more needs to be explored on this topic.  Hopefully some of these plays are available for performance at your theater, if you have one, beyond, of course, the very important Diary of Anne Frank (and those are adaptations of a much revered biography, important as it is).  It is the dramatist who writes, from nothing, creating something, about the Holocaust, that we are looking for.  There are some dramatists who have felt compelled to write about this very important topic, and we should look at them, and recognize them.

We look forward to discussing with you.

[i] Si vis pacem, para bellum is a Latin phrase.  The Luger pistol used by Strassel was called the Parabellum Pistole.

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