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On the Significance of Memory
Three Plays about the Holocaust and Survival

Beate Hein Bennett

NEW YORK, January 26, 2017 -- On January 27, 2000 forty-six countries came together in Stockholm to hold the first conference of the new millennium. The purpose was to commemorate and honor victims and survivors of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi regime and subsequent genocides worldwide. On November 1, 2005 The United Nations officially declared January 27 as the International Holocaust Memorial Day.

On January 27, 1945 Russian troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the German concentration camps. As the 21st century grows in years, those who survived gradually fade from life, and as present horrors take daily center stage in our news media, the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons seem to recede from the public’s consciousness. As historical facts become for many questionable matters of opinion, and “alternate facts” become factoids, the Holocaust has become also a domain of doubters and deniers. It is ironic that in 2017 Theodor Adorno’s dictum, “After the Holocaust, there can be no poetry,” must now be counteracted by works of imagination that are based on lived facts, in order for living memory to remain a human tool by which to refute the deniers, in order to prevent a second death of those who suffered, and in order not to forget those who suffer now the threat of extinction.

The three plays which will be performed here in New York in the next few months all do what theatre can do: to present through individual voices individual stories of history lived by individuals whose names never graced the history books. Steven Spielberg’s repository of oral history which he began in 1994 in order to capture the myriad fates as told by Holocaust survivors may have inspired these writers. Human history, after all, is not abstract or a statistic but the compendium of individual lives—the individual story is at the heart of human experience.

The three plays will present dramatic narratives of survival. Among lesser known victims of the Holocaust were Sephardic and Ladino speaking Jews who were rounded up in Greece and Libya and ended up in the death camps; two of the three plays present tales of survival of such victims.

Victor Attar in "Golgotha."

LaMama on 66 E. 4th Street presents from January 26 – 29 “Golgotha – A Play on Sephardic Memories” by Shmuel Refael. A mono-drama about a Jew from Thessaloniki who survived Auschwitz, it is performed by Victor Attar, a prominent Israeli actor, under the direction of Geula Jeffett-Attar. For tickets, call 646-430-5374 or go online www.lamama.org.

From March 9 – April 1, The Workshop Theater at 312 W.36th Street, 4 fl East presents “Through the Darkness” by Alan C. Breindel. A group of four men and women tell their separate harrowing journeys; the figure of the writer partakes in constructing a composite narrative of human resilience in the midst of horrible suffering. The play is based on interviews that the author conducted with survivors over a number of years. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or go online www.workshoptheater.org

Cover of the novel by Yossi Sucary

From March 23 – April 9, La Mama presents “Benghazi -- Bergen-Belsen” by Lahav Timor based on Yossi Sucary’s 2016 novel by the same title. This play tells the story of the Libyan Holocaust through the fate of a Libyan Jewish family who was rounded up from their home and transported via Italy to Bergen-Belsen, a fate shared by many other Jews in areas that fell under the Fascist or Nazi sphere of dominance in North Africa during WWII.

While all three plays tell different stories of individual trajectories through the horrors, they also probe the deep and irreparable scars that are part of surviving such trauma. And yet they also celebrate human resilience despite the high cost of life retrieved from the jaws of hell.

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