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Ghetto


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A: Joshua Sobol Pf: 1984, Haifa, Israel Pb: 1984 Tr: 1986 G: Drama in 21 scenes; Hebrew prose and songs S: Vilna Ghetto, Eastern Poland, 1941–3; Tel Aviv, 1983 C: 15m, 4f, extrasIn 1983, Srulik, a former ventriloquist, reminisces about the Vilna Ghetto. As deportees arrive in the Ghetto, Kittel, a Nazi officer, orders that these talented Jews should stage shows in their own theatre. Despite being reminded by the librarian Kruk of the tastelessness of performing where 50,000 Jews were recently massacred, Gens, the chief of the Jewish police, welcomes the theatre as a way of saving some Jews. Weiskopf, an entrepreneur, gives employment to 150 Jews, mending and cleaning German uniforms. The actors rehearse a scene, in which they debate whether it is right to withhold their limited medical supplies from the more seriously sick. Meanwhile, Gens agonizes over choosing whom to condemn to the death transports. Dr Paul, a German scholar working on Jewish history, warns Kruk about the dangers of Zionist nationalism. Gens presides over the hanging of three Jewish black-marketeers. At an orgiastic cabaret, Kittel gives Gens the task of selecting 2,000 Jews for deportation from a neighbouring ghetto. Gens haggles the number down to 600. Weiskopf is killed for hoarding black-market goods. The actors stage their final performance: Nazi uniforms being harangued by a Jew-hating Hitler uniform. Kittel then guns down them and Gens, but Srulik survives.

A: Joshua Sobol Pf: 1984, Haifa, Israel Pb: 1984 Tr: 1986 G: Drama in 21 scenes; Hebrew prose and songs S: Vilna Ghetto, Eastern Poland, 1941–3; Tel Aviv, 1983 C: 15m, 4f, extras

Sobol's play, which is based on Herman Kruk's diaries of the Vilna Ghetto, goes beyond documentary in both its imaginative staging and its warnings to the Jewish public of today. As Dr Paul warns: ‘you'll…leave Zion, leave Palestine to the likes of Gens who'll grab it with both brutish hands’. Courageously, while depicting the horrors of Nazi genocide, Sobol's play also contains a message to those who survived.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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