Sunday, January 27, 2013

Episode Eight

         Wachter Responds to General Strassel.

The topic of the debate is The rights of the Third Reich vs. the Rights of Humanity.  Strassel has made a most compelling argument favoring the rights of the Third Reich, now Wachter must respond with an argument against Strassel’s perverse creed with an even more compelling argument.  If he fails, Lusia and little Genia will be their way to Auschwitz and death. 

To maintain continuity, the last few lines of Strassel’s debate are repeated here—

Strassel:   Those who follow us will be will be the pure Aryan conquerors of the entire world. Those of us of the present struggle will be viewed as saints.

Wachter:  Including you, Heinrich? Will you be viewed as a saint?

Strassel:   Yes, Albert, even I. I rest easy as night no matter what I may have to do during the day, nor what I have to do in the days to come. The future will prove us right.  I have finished, Albert, and I believe I have quite cooked your goose.  Now it is your turn.

Strassel sits, settles back in his chair, and sips beer. 

Now, on with the debate—

Wachter: [Begins to speak, hesitates . . .]

Strassel:   Nervous, Albert. That’s not like you.

Wachter:   I . . . there is so much depending on this—more than you know.
Strassel:   The lives of two Jews? Forget it. In a moment, I’ll give you some good advice as how to salve your conscience about them, if that’s what’s worrying you. 
Wachter:  You have deprived me of the strongest basis for my argument—the teachings of religion.
Strassel:   I let you off that hook by saying that whatever you said in that regard would have no influence with me. So I have saved you useless argument. [He leans forward.] Or perhaps you are up against the fact that you can’t dispute me on the basis of logic, only on the basis of religion, of superstition.
Wachter:    [With new assurance] No, logic alone will do quite well.  Let’s begin with this “utopia,” if it comes to pass.
Strassel:   It will.
Wachter:   If it comes to pass, it will be the utopia of a  master race—all Aryan, all looking alike, all thinking alike, and all acting alike.
Strassel:   That’s a simplification, but yes.
Wachter:   It sounds no better than a society of ants.
Strassel:   That is your opinion, for what it is worth.
Wachter:   To achieve this ant-hill society, you must destroy all the different ones.  Is that correct?
Strassel:   If they cannot be put to use, yes.
Wachter:   When you say “put to use,” do you mean slave labor?
Strassel:   Yes, until such time as their usefulness ends. 
Wachter:   And then you will dispose of them, is it not so?
Strassel:   Yes.  But what are getting at, Albert.  Get to the point.
Wachter:  This utopia you speak of . . .  when do you think it will come to pass?
Strassel:   As I said, the Fürhrer believes it will come in our lifetime.
Wachter:  You know, of course, that the Allied Armies have crossed the Rhine.  This means that the war is lost for you.  So much for your dreams of "Utopia".
Strassel:   What’s your point, Albert?
Wachter:   My point is . . . that this utopia is only  a dream, a dream beyond the present achievement of mankind.
Strassel:   So?  We must work for the future good,  must we not?
Wachter:   Yes, but not for the sacrifice of the present, and the people of the present. Not for this chimerical “utopia.”
Strassel:   I must say, so far your argument has been decidedly weak. But do go on, Albert.
Wachter:   What will be the cost of this doubtful Utopia?
Strassel:   Cost? In what respect?
Wachter:   In the cost of human life. What price is to be paid? You must answer my question, Heinrich. Is it the intent of the third Reich to annihilate the Jewish Race in Europe?
Strassel:   Yes.  Hitler himself said it. I heard him.
Wachter:   Hitler? When?
Strassel:   [His voice takes on a note of reverence.] I was one of a group of senior officers invited to the Reichstag to hear Hitler speak in private.  Himmler, Heydrich, Goebbels, Eichmann--they were all there. It was the  red-letter day of my life to be in such company.  It was January 30, 1939.  I will never forget the Fürhrer’s words.  He said: “Today I will be once more a prophet.  If the international Jewish financiers . . . succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will be the annihilation of the Jewish Race in Europe.”
Wachter:   He said that?
Strassel:   He did. And we were obeying him to the letter.
Wachter:  The world wasn’t listening, was it?
Strassel:  The world didn’t believe it. But we of the Waffen SS believed it.  The war came and we are acting upon the Führer’s words to achieve the Final Solution to the Jewish problem.
Wachter:   How many Jewish lives?
Strassel:  Five . . . no, nearly six now.
Wachter:  Six? Six thousand? Sixty thousand?  Six hundred thousand?
Strassel:   Six million.
Wachter:   [After a pause] Six million?
Strassel:   Yes, six million. And we are not yet finished.
Wachter:   God!  God! God!
  A soft wail is heard offstage from many throats and as if many hearts were suddenly broken.  The sound cuts off as quickly as it began. 

Strassel:   [Starting up in alarm]  What was that noise?

Wachter:   Genia, most likely.  Maybe she fell and hurt herself.

Strassel: [Looking around, suspicious] That’s an odd sound for a child to make.

Wachter:   [Hurrying to change the subject] Heinrich! You said six million dead! God!

Strassel:   God intrudes again, Albert?

Wachter:   Yes!

Strassel:  There’s been no objection on His part—no thunderbolts directed at us striking us dead.

Wachter:   But so many! How do you manage it?

Strassel:   The logistics of it, you mean? You mentioned Auschwitz.  There are many others—Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzek, Chelmno, Birkenau-at-Auschwitz—all death camps working 24-hours a day, and capable of killing tens of  thousands a day. The exterminating is not problem--it is the disposing of so many bodies that gives us trouble.

Wachter:  Now I say Lieber Gott! (After a pause.) Do you recall, Heinrich, as boys we used to talk about the distance of the stars?—that one of the nearest stars is millions of light years away?

Strassel:  Yes.

Wachter:  And do you recall that we agreed that the human mind cannot comprehend such a vast distance as millions of light years?

Strassel:  Yes. But aren’t you digressing?

Wachter:  No, I am not.  Neither can the human mind comprehend, not even dimly, the sorrow, the pain of loss, the agony of those six million so inhumanely put to death. The attainment of that remote, nebulous utopia is not worth the sorrow, the pain of loss, of not even one of those lives. 

Strassel:   [After a moment’s silence.] Is that your argument?

Wachter:  Yes.

Strassel:   Now I rebut. [Rises as Wachter sits.] First of all, there is no logic in your argument.  It is an argument ad hominem, as we students used to say—“to the man.” It is an appeal only to the emotions, to the affections, to humane feeling. I, on the other hand, offered you a series of good, sound reasons for what has been done.

Wachter:  Reasons?  What reasons can justify the slaughter of millions of innocent people?

Strassel:  Ja, innocent if you will, but necessary for the great goal of the Third Reich.  The different ones must be eliminated—flushed down the toilet of history.  Oh, there is a little temporary unpleasantness, but that is a worthy sacrifice to our great future. Oh, Albert it is the fate of Genia and her mother that concerns your conscience, it is not?  What you need is an attitude adjustment to put your conscience at rest.

Wachter:  You have no conscience, Heinrich.

Strassel:  Oh, but I do, Albert! If I killed your father or mother, or any other being I consider to be human, my conscience would bother me terribly.  I could not sleep . . . I would crave punishment for what I had done like, ah—what is his name, the man in the book Crime and Punishment?

Wachter:  Raskolnikov.

Strassel:   Yes, Raskolnikov, a Russian. But to answer your question:  yes, I have a conscience.

Wachter:  Then how can you . . .

Strassel:   Do what I do?  Why, only make a simple adjustment in one’s way of thinking, an “attitude adjustment, ” as I said a moment ago. That is all that is required.  You, Albert, must look at the different ones not as human beings, but as  sub-human , a species of vermin. When you kill vermin, your conscience does not enter into the picture—you have done a good thing in such killing; you sleep like a child. And there is a bonus—you can commit otherwise unspeakable acts with perfect equanimity.

Wachter:  Thus good men become monsters.

Strassel:  Oh, come off it, Albert.  As you were spouting idealisms, I was thinking more practically.  Perhaps Lusia has something you want—diamonds, perhaps, to buy her safety.  

Wachter:  No.  Lusia has nothing but the child.

Strassel:   Or, note this—if what I am about to say is true, you may keep those Jews just as if you had won our debate.

Wachter:  Really! I can keep them—Lusia and Genia? [Suddenly suspicious] What are you about to say?

Strassel:  In my experience, the undermenschen will do anything to stay alive for a month, a day, an hour—even a minute.

Wachter:  So would we all, in like circumstances.

Strassel:   The instinct for survival can be very gratifying for the sensual man.  Tell me, Albert, is Lusia  your whore?

Wachter: Lieber Gott!

Strassel:  [Nudging him.] Come, Albert, we all have our appetites, some a little strange perhaps. Again, if what I say is true, I shall leave you with both. It is Genia who is your whore!—or, perhaps both of them.

Wachter:  [Rising, angry.] That is beneath contempt!

Strassel:   You are not only an idealist, you are also a fool, Albert. You cannot be your brother’s keeper.

Wachter:  There, Heinrich: you have said it!  I am! I am my brother’s keeper!

Strassel:   Brother to the undermenschen?

Wachter:  Especially to them—those that you call vermin. As you do to the least of these, so you do unto me.

Strassel:   More religious blather.  You speak like an ass, Albert, not like a rational human being. 

Wachter:  Then let me be an ass.  Let me not be like you.

Strassel:   [In a rage] Now you insult me! Enough of this!

Wachter:  Allow my rebuttal!

Strassel:   Let’s hear it.

Wachter:  Thou shalt not kill!

Strassel:   What?

Wachter:  Thou shalt not kill!

Strassel:   [Laughs derisively] That is a rebuttal?  I give you logic, and you give me what?—a quotation.

Wachter:  Logic doesn’t enter the picture. Logic cannot justify or excuse so monstrous a crime as genocide.  Thou shalt not kill!

Strassel:   [Shakes head] Albert, my patience is gone. The debate is over, and you have lost. Not only have you  broken the ground rules, but you  have offered a highly illogical argument. It is surprising--when a boy, you were a  champion debater.

Wachter:  Beware, Heinrich.  The Allies have crossed the Rhine.  When you have lost the war, they will come looking for you.

Strassel:  The war is not lost.  The Reich is like a powerful spring, the more you compress it, the greater its energy to strike back.  The enemy is compressing us now, but we’ll soon smash them with the force of our arms— drive them back across the channel, back across the Rhine to Moscow.

Wachter:  And if that doesn’t happen?

Strassel:   I have no fear.  I have done my duty as a WaffenSS General, and as a soldier. I am beyond reproach.

Wachter:  I agree. You are indeed beyond reproach—far beyond!

Strassel:   I’ll ignore that remark.  [He puts on his death’s head cap.] In a final rebuttal, let me say this—[He loosens the flap of his holster, and draws the gun part-way out] This is a Lugar.  It contains eight  bullets.  It’s muzzle velocity is such that it will bore a clean hole right through you, with little  disarrangement of your parts. [He drops the pistol back in its holster.] My rebuttal is this: might makes right. And if this luger is not enough to convince you, I have 50,000 troops under my command.  Rebut that, if you can, Albert Wachter!

Wachter:  I cannot.

Strassel:   Then call those Jews out here!

Wachter:  I beg you—let them stay!  I ask as an old friend.

Strassel:   I am commanded by the Fürhrer to make this region Judenfrei! Call them out!  Oh, Albert, you won’t be lonesome.  This house is too large for just you and a housekeeper.  I’ll send some bombed out people to live with you—good Aryans all. They will be brothers you can keep in good conscience.

Wachter:  No!  Not Lusia! Not little Genia!

Strassel:   You are in no position to say no!  Call them out!
                                    End of Episode Eight

A grim end seems inevitable.  General Strassel will take Lusia and Genia and send  them to Auschwitz. Women with children were of no use to the Nazis as slave laborers in a concentration camp, because the woman with children would worry about the children and not devote herself to assigned labor.  And children under 14 were considered useless and thus expendible. So women with children  went to the gas chamber—more than two million of them in the Final Solution.   

 But no! This can’t be—not for Lusia, not for little Genia! But Edward Wachter will make a last, desperate attempt to save them. We’ll learn the surprising outcome in Episode Eight which will be published on January 28!
In the meantime, watch for Interval Eight, which will be published on Monday January 28.
We honor all of the dead today on this, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  We do this because we feel strongly about the killing of so many people, by such a few, in such a short space of time.  This must never happen again.  Blessings to you all on this day of remembrance.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Interval Seven - Let's Talk Theater

In this Interval Seven, we’ll do a brief recap of what happened in the preceding Episode Seven.  Then, a discussion of Live Theater and the actors who acted in A Ball for Genia: Edwin Wilson and Frank Platis.  And as a finale, a review by Thora of another powerful Holocaust-related play, Tosca’s Kiss, presented with great success at the Orange Tree Theatre in London in May of 2006.

In Episode Seven, General Strassel set forth his argument that the rights of the Third Reich and the rights of humanity are the same.  Wachter will argue against this perverted Nazi doctrine, 
with the realization that the lives of Lusia and Genia at stake. If Strassel wins the debate, and sends Lusia and Genia to Auschwitz, will they really be put to death?  The answer is YES!   Remember, sensitive ones! ! When Genia appears holding her ears, don’t look!
         Above is a photo of Jewish woman with two children. The little family was transported for two days  in a box car to Auschwitz. The  children need changing and they are all exhausted and hungry and thirsty.  It is a wonder that the little one wasn’t trampled to death in the packed box car. Women with children weren’t useful as slaves to the Nazis, so. . . to the gas chambers  they went—and all those others in the photo.  The angels must have wept.

Now, about Live Theater in America and England . . .

 It was once thought that the movies and television would mean the end of the presence of living men and women on the stage.  But not so!—there must be an instinct that ensures that “living theatre” will not disappear, but will thrive all over the world. The actor who played Genera Strassel in the play—Edwin Wilson— is an example. At the start of his career, he located a basement room in an avant garde restaurant named Café Voltaire, that was, in his eyes, begging to become a theatre.  So in that room—there was a crude stage at one end— he founded  his theatre and named it Sense of Urgency—an apt name for working with a  play such as A Ball for Genia, dedicated as it is to Holocaust Remembrance. His theatre has performed such classics as Pinter’s The Caretaker;  Arthur Miller’s All My Sons; and Joe Orton’s Reckless—all directed by him, and performed at major venues in  Chicagoland.  He is also an teacher of theatre at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Illinois, which is a school notable for its dedication to Holocaust Remembrance.  

Frank Platis, who plays Albert Wachter,  is a versatile actor who has worked in theater and TV, and film. He has appeared In such theatrical classics as Barefoot in the Park, Strictly Dishonorable, and The Dove Killers. Films include Marked, Message in a Bottle, and Teplitz.  He is also a theatrical collaborator in venues such as the Silk Road and Black Forest theaters. 
In the last Episode, two seminal books were mentioned: Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Brave New World is a dystopian novel which resolve’s General Strassel’s problem of  obviating the “different ones”  by scientifically creating “graded” individuals.  Babies are not born by women—their fetuses are “decanted” in bottles to create five classes  of beings from the Alphas to the Epsilon Sub-Morons. This grading is done by selectively  introducing alcohol in the bottles: no alcohol produces the Alphas who live the proverbial Life of Reilly; a large amount of alcohol produces the Episilons, who are capable of only the meanest jobs. So there is no possibility of conflict in such a society.  If anyone feels unhappy being “different"  they take a feel-good soma pill, and there is no conflict among the sexes because everyone is available to everyone else. A detailed  explanation and analysis of Brave New World is offered in the indispensable Wikipedia.

Nineteen Eighty-Four  is based on the practices of the Soviet Union under Stalin, who is identified as Big Brother complete with the mustache.  English socialism is also in the mix.  The society of Nineteen Eighty-Four is so strictly controlled that here is no room for individualism.  Television sets are two-way; that is, you can see the broadcaster and he can also  see you, so if you are slacking the government-required exercises in the morning, you will be called out by name and corrected by Big Brother. (By the way, two-way TV is now in the works in the U.S.!) The terms Doublespeak, Doublethink, Thoughtcrime (hate crime?), Newspeak and Memoryhole are all mechanisms of total government control, each with a contrary meaning.    An example is  Newspeak wherein the Ministry of Love is actually the Ministry of War, and the Memoryhole is censorship comprising a chute in that leads to an incinerator.  The society described is so complex that many pages would be required to describe it.  So it is best to again turn to Wikipedia for the an  excellent  description and analysis.

The two novels are of immense importance, so much so that reading them is a must. And an understanding of them is critical to recognizing the danger signals of a potential  dictatorship in our society today.
A Review of Tosca’s Kiss by Kenneth Jupp, a play based on the Nuremburg Trials, by Thora. 

This play was written in 2006 and the performance took place at The Orange Tree Theatre in May of 2006.  It was directed by Auriol Smith, and starred Steven Elder, Charles Kay, Julia Watson and David Yelland.

Here is some background to the play from

Nuremberg 1946. Rebecca West, celebrated writer and journalist, arrives to report on the world's first ever war crimes trial. She is witness to a young US prosecutor, Major Tom Morton, who faces the most difficult cross-examination of his life, because although Hjalmar Schacht may not have been a mass murderer, he was the economist who made The Third Reich work. And although Francis Biddle, his mentor, the American judge does not condone Schacht's actions, he sees that he is key to the post-war recovery of Germany. What the young lawyer sees is political expediency and moral compromise behind the official pursuit of truth and justice. As the public and personal collide nothing is simple when idealism clashes with political reality.

Julia Watson as Rebecca West and David Yelland as Biddle

The play, being a four-hander, and with several trial scenes, was ideally suited to the Orange Tree Theatre, which is a traditional theatre-in-the-round.  The audience became both jury and public witnesses during the taut and tense trial scenes between Major Morton (Steven Elder) and Hjalmar Schacht (Charles Kay).  The work is a fascinating study of politics, idealism, and betrayal.

Steven Elder as Major Morton

Tom Morton is the only character in the play who didn’t actually exist, and allows Jupp to explore the idealism of youth and basic morality against the backdrop of the Nuremburg Trials.  Major Morton, we are made aware, was present at the liberation of Dachau as a soldier, an experience which haunts him and colours his earnest and all-consuming desire to ensure that Schacht is convicted.  Alas, the wily Schacht turns the tables during cross-examination and brings in various pieces of information such as IG Farben, a German company which used concentration camp labour, was a subsidiary of the American company Standard Oil.  In the end, although Schacht’s guilt is plain to see, and nor does he show any remorse, the court sees that, for the reconstruction of Germany, they need Schacht.   For Morton, his acquittal has devastating psychological effects.

Charles Kay as Schacht

Here are some reviews:

"Kenneth Jupp's play, dealing with the Nuremberg Trials, makes fascinating viewing... The cross-examination of Schacht is riveting.  ...Worth seeing in Auriol Smith's taut, controlled production." The Guardian

"Kenneth Jupp's play about the 1945 Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi war leaders were tried for crimes against humanity, comes to a shocking climax. Auriol Smith's evocative production... packs both an emotional and cerebral punch." Evening Standard

"A masterly portrait of principled corruption". The Times

This performance at The Orange Tree Theatre was the only public performance of the fully staged play (presented with great effect by the staff at The Orange Tree, in terms of costumes, sets and props).  It did have an earlier reading at The Haymarket in 2004, including as cast member Harold Pinter.  Later on the rights were acquired by White Dog Productions LLC in the States, and a reading was given at the Manhattan Theater Club in 2010.
Now onto Episode Eight and Edward Wachter’s crucial argument. There is so much at stake—the lives of Lusia and Genia. But what about all those other Jews Wachter is sheltering? Suppose Strassel finds out about them? The situation can becom desperate. But Wachter is an intelligent man. Let’s hope he can prevail andd Strassel will go quietly away.

So, see you Monday, January 28, for Episode Eight!