Through the years, some individuals have questioned what regular, on a regular basis residents in Nazi strongholds have been doing and considering throughout the Holocaust. Particularly after they have been solely miles, generally yards, away from the horrors of the focus camps, the place hundreds of thousands of individuals — Jews, homosexuals and Roma, particularly — have been being obliterated, exterminated.
Have been they oblivious? Unconcerned? In denial? Complacent? Complicit?
Many years in the past, my sister was in Poland, trying to go to the Auschwitz/Birkenau focus camp advanced. She knew she was shut, however in a close-by café, not one of the residents she requested was capable of inform her the place it was or how one can get there.
When he heard about an album of never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photographs from Auschwitz, Moisés Kaufman and his colleagues set to work. Kaufman, the son of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Venezuela, is the founder and creative director of the Tectonic Theater Undertaking.
The corporate makes use of a trademarked theatermaking technique, Second Work, a rigorous strategy of analysis, interviews and collaboration, to create non-fiction tales in a theatrical context.
Tectonic created “The Laramie Undertaking,” in regards to the grisly 1998 homicide of a younger homosexual man, Matthew Shepard, in Wyoming; and in addition, amongst others, “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde.”
Now, in a brand new play written by Kaufman (who additionally directs) with firm constitution member Amanda Gronich (who additionally co-created “The Laramie Undertaking”), Tectonic is on the La Jolla Playhouse for a world premiere co-production, “Right here There Are Blueberries.”
The idea of the work is a photograph album that was anonymously donated in 2007 to america Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., by a retired U.S. Military lieutenant colonel. He’d discovered it in a garbage can in a closet within the basement of an deserted Frankfurt condo constructing the place he was briefly housed simply after the battle. He held onto it for 60 years.
Featured inside have been 32 pages and 116 surprising pictures — of Nazi high brass, medical doctors and on a regular basis employees at Auschwitz, together with a bevy of younger girls, ages 17-30, a part of an SS group known as the Helferinen, a hand-picked feminine Nazi elite who served as phone, telegraph and radio operators at Auschwitz. (Not one of the Helferinen have been ever prosecuted).
The album included the proud private recollections of Karl Höcker, the adjutant/administrative assistant to SS Main Richard Baer, the final commandant of Auschwitz. The photographs, taken between 1944 and 1945, present the teams laughing, singing and partying, feasting on blueberries, stress-free and sunbathing with their households in a chichi chalet, a resort lodge known as Solahütte, located throughout the Auschwitz advanced.
In the meantime, a brief distance away, inside view, 1000’s have been ravenous, being shot, crushed or gassed to dying.
Kaufman and his group had their work lower out for them.
All I might take into consideration all night was Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish political thinker who turned a naturalized American citizen in 1950. In 1961, she requested The New Yorker if she might cowl the Israeli trial of Adolf Eichmann. It was then that she coined the time period that appalled so many: “the banality of evil.”
Eichmann was a bland, balding bureaucrat — who was executed for horrific crimes in opposition to humanity, as one of many main organizers of the Holocaust, what the Nazis known as “The Remaining Resolution to the Jewish Query.” He was, Arendt wrote, “terribly and terrifyingly regular.” She was excoriated for saying so.
It’s a lot simpler to hate a bona fide monster. However as we study in “Blueberries,” the leaders of the Auschwitz focus camp, as proven within the picture album, weren’t born monsters. They began out as a financial institution teller, a confectioner, an accountant. They have been Nobodies, puny functionaries who turned, of their minds, and as half of a bigger ideological group, Somebodies… individuals who had energy, together with the facility to resolve who lived and died.
In a startling thematic confluence in native theaters, no fewer than 4 current exhibits have touched on or spotlighted the rise of fascism within the Nineteen Thirties: “Lempicka” at La Jolla Playhouse, “Witnesses” on the California Heart for the Arts, Escondido, “Cabaret” at Cygnet Theatre
and now, “Blueberries.”
Three of these theater works (“Witnesses,” “Cabaret” and “Blueberries’) ask the pointed, gut-wrenching query, ‘What Would You Do?’
We right here, proper now, in America, can not afford to disregard — or be detached to — what’s happening round us.
“Evil comes from a failure to suppose,” Arendt wrote. “Each genocide begins with phrases.” That exact rivalry is paraphrased in “Blueberries.”
As soon as once more, horrible phrases and ideas and unthinking individuals are crowding out purpose and rationality. As soon as once more, it began with phrases — and untruths. And it’s being perpetuated by those that consider these phrases and repeat these untruths.
Not all of them are the monstrous, hate-filled, violent people who stormed the Capitol. In seeking out info, conducting interviews, getting first-person info, the January 6 committee is doing simply what the Tectonic Theater collaborators do.
On a deceptively easy set (designed by multi-award-winner Derek McLane), comprising movable desks and tables rimmed with neon lights, and opening/closing partitions to help the chilling projections (David Bengali) of the archival photographs, the historians and archivists on the Holocaust Museum sift by the information and the donors (one other picture album emerged after the Höcker pictures have been publicized internationally and somebody acknowledged his grandfather within the photos), to attempt to unravel the story. The story, in fact, is bottomless.
“I can’t assist questioning,” one of many historians says, “what every of us has left behind in containers.”
Why did the lieutenant colonel maintain onto the album for therefore lengthy? Why was there such cautious documentation of the events and celebrations and blueberry-eating of the Auschwitz workers?
In contrast to all prior focus camp pictures, no prisoners have been proven in these photos. There have been a number of high-profile Nazis on show, although, together with Rudolf Höss, deputy Führer to Adolf Hitler, and the notorious “angel of dying,” Dr Josef Mengele.
Our narrator/information by the unraveling course of is Rebecca Erbelding (performed by Elizabeth Stahlmann), archivist on the Holocaust Museum. We additionally hear deal from Judy Cohen (native favourite Rosina Reynolds), curator of the museum’s photographic assortment on the time of the acquisition.
The entire eight versatile actors play a number of roles, blithely crossing boundaries of age, race, gender and nationality (although it isn’t clear why solely some of them have accents). They even take turns offering the soundscape for the piece, together with singing alongside, reside, to accordion-playing as proven within the photographs (sound by Bobby McElver, wonderful lighting design by David Lander).
We don’t study an excessive amount of about any of them, besides perhaps Karl Höcker, the ever-smiling proprietor of the album, who supplied the hand-written picture captions, one in all which provides the present its title. And Rainer Höss (Charlie Thurston), guilt-ridden grandson of the creator of Auschwitz, who at one time feared that violence and the “exhilaration in cruelty” is likely to be inherited in his DNA.
The findings are advised in a dispassionate, simple, documentary model; there’s no sensationalizing or sentimentalizing, no taking part in on tear ducts or heartstrings.
That’s what makes this kind of factual, journalistic theatermaking so compelling. You’ll be able to’t refute the revelations, however you must digest and interpret them for your self (There are post-performance discussions/viewers talkbacks on August 16, 17 and 18 that can assist you course of the alarming disclosures).
The most important shock, maybe, was the chalet the place “good employees,” at each stage, may very well be given a couple of days depart/reprieve as a reward for his or her contributions, presumably to the trigger — of killing 1.1 million individuals in that largest and most well-known of focus camps.
It defies comprehension. In spite of everything these years, because the survivors are dying off daily and extra individuals change into Holocaust deniers, it’s wonderful that there are nonetheless discoveries to be made in regards to the Holocaust. The content material of “Blueberries” affords a unique viewpoint from the same old stories; these hair-raising revelations come from the perpetrators (and their descendants), not from the victims.
In these most horrible of anti-Democracy, freedom- and rights-stealing instances in America, there are nonetheless salient classes to be realized.
Historical past can, and infrequently does, repeat itself. We’d higher beware… and remember.
- “Right here There Are Blueberries,” a world premiere co-production with the Tectonic Theater Undertaking, runs on the La Jolla Playhouse, Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, by Aug. 21
- Performances: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Tickets ($25-$62) might be obtained at 858-550-1010 or lajollaplayhouse.org
- Operating time: 90 min.
- COVID coverage: Masks are required indoors in any respect La Jolla Playhouse venues.
- Word: Whereas development continues, there are shuttles from the distanced parking zone.
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and evaluations might be discovered at patlauner.com.