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By Wendy Kout

A GUIDE

Introduction

Welcome to SURVIVORS, a new play about the Holocaust and standing up to hate. A poignant drama written by playwright, TV and film writer Wendy Kout, SURVIVORS weaves together the true, inspirational stories of 10 Holocaust survivors whose ordinary and joyful young lives were transformed by fascism and the Nazi regime. Illustrating the risk of normalizing hate, this dynamic, uplifting work impels us to take lessons from the past, and think about how we can take constructive action to create a safer, more inclusive community. SURVIVORS is directed by Warren C. Bowles and features a diverse cast representing the many types of genocide stories.

 

“These true stories are a reminder of the past ... and a warning about the present and the future. We

must learn from the horrors of history, or history can repeat itself.” (SURVIVORS)

 

From the Playwright, Wendy Kout

“Dedicated to those who inspired this call-to consciousness work, our ten remarkable survivors and their devoted families. This play is dedicated to you and to the six million… and to all victims of genocide and hatred. Never forget. Never Again. Never is now.”

 

Characters

Six actors portray the ten survivors and other roles. Individuals depicted in the play are:

 

ROSEMARIE MARIANTHAL MOLSER (early 20’s) - German; well-off, funny, popular.

 

HELEN PRZYSUSKIER LEVINSON (early 20’s) - Polish; practices day and night to be a great violinist

 

ELLEN LEWINSKY (early 20’s) - German; sews and designs her own clothes; has a flair for fashion.

 

EVIE SCHUERMAN (early 20’s) - German; the youngest one

 

EVA VERZER ABRAMS (early 20’s) - Hungarian; speaks many languages, loves everyone/everything but her boyfriend.

 

ARTHUR HERZ (early 20’s) - German; loves photography, cars and sports

 

HENRY SILBERSTERN (early 20’s) - Czech; older brother Rolf best friend

 

KURT WEINBACH (early 20’s) - Austrian; chases facts, news and politics

 

ERICH ARNDT (early 20’s) - German; bikes a lot, wants to be an engineer or musician

 

CARL VOLDMAN (early 20’s) - Polish; youngest of his family but brave

 

Setting

The people represented in the play were living in Austria, China, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Switzerland. Some ended up in concentration camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergin-Belsen, Chelmno, the first extermination camp, and Terezin. Others, survived in surrounding forests.
 

Background

WWI 1914 – 1918

About 40 million people died in WWI, counting both military and civilian casualties. The number estimated varies widely. The Central Powers included the countries of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire (historically and colloquially known as the Turkish Empire, it controlled much of Southeast Europe, West Asia, and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries). The Allies were the countries of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, and the United States. By war’s end, the Central Powers had lost and delegates from 32 countries met in Versailles in June 1919 and signed a peace settlement called the “Treaty of Versailles.”

 

The Weimar Republic was Germany's government from 1919 to 1933, the period after World War I, until the rise of Nazi Germany. Germans struggled after WWI. The economy was poor, unemployment was high and there was political instability. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party told citizens they had solutions to Germany’s problems in the hopes of winning broad support. All gave way to the rise of Nazi power and set the stage for Hitler and the Nazis to take over and lead Germany into another war, WWII, and the Holocaust.

 

The Holocaust

In 1933, Adolph Hitler was sworn in as German Chancellor, and the first concentration camp was established. The Nazis, their allies, and collaborators systematically persecuted and murdered six million European Jews. Also killed were others deemed “undesirables” such as Gay people (LGBTQ), Black people, priests, anyone physically or mentally challenged, Jehovah witnesses, and the Roma and Sinti people.

 

The foundation of the Holocaust?  Anti-Semitism, the hatred of or prejudice against Jews, also widespread throughout Europe. When the word Holocaust comes up, people often think of the most famous camps. But in reality, Nazi Germany and its Allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites between 1933 and 1945.

Noted Events During the Holocaust

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April 1933 - Boycott of Jewish Businesses

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May 1933 - Book Burnings

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November 9, 1938 - Kristallnacht - Night of Broken Glass

Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed. Other targets included Synagogues, houses, hospitals, and schools.  30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. Afterwards, more laws were passed. Jewish children could no longer attend public schools.

The Concentration Camps

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Family members say goodbye to a child through a fence at the ghetto's central prison where children, the sick, and the elderly were held before deportation to Chelmno, Lodz, Poland, September 1942.

Jews from Subcarpathian Rus (UKRAINE) get off the deportation train and assemble on the ramp at the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in occupied Poland. May 1944.

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Liberation of Camps

July 23–24, 1944: Soviet forces liberated Lublin-Majdanek (Poland)

January 27, 1945: Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland)

February 13, 1945: Soviet forces liberated Gross-Rosen (Germany)

April 4, 1945: US forces liberated Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald (both Germany)

April 11, 1945: US forces liberated Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau (Germany)

April 12, 1945: Canadian forces liberated Westerbork (Netherlands)

April 15, 1945: British forces liberated Bergen-Belsen (Germany)

April 22, 1945: Units of the First and 47th Polish Armies, operating under overall Soviet command, liberated Sachsenhausen (Germany)

April 23, 1945: US forces liberated Flossenbürg (Germany)

April 29, 1945: Soviet forces liberated Ravensbrück (Women only, Germany)

US forces liberated Dachau (Germany)

May 4, 1945: British forces liberated Neuengamme (Germany)

May 6, 1945: US forces liberated Mauthausen (Austria)

On May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender became official.

 

“As the concentration camps are liberated by the Allies, the photographs and footage of the starved

and exhausted living and of the dead victims of the Holocaust shock the world.” (SURVIVORS)

 

Glossary

Anti-Jewish Measures: over 400 become law - things Jews could no longer do: Jews could no longer teach, go to a university, work in civil service, own businesses, ride in cars, go to restaurants or play outside.

 

Aryan Race v Dirty Jews: In Nazi Germany, the terms Aryan and non-Aryan initially were used to define who belonged to German society and who did not. In Germany, the Nazis promoted this false notion that glorified the German people as members of the "Aryan race." At the same time, they denigrated Jews, Black people, and Roma View This Term in the Glossary (Gypsies) as “non-Aryans.”

 

Hitler Youth: The youth organization of the Nazi Party in Germany dating back to 1922.

 

Kindertransport: the movement of German, Polish, Czechoslovakian and Austrian Jewish children to the United Kingdom before the outbreak of World War II.

 

Genocide

Genocide is the systematic destruction of a certain group of people based on their race, religion, or citizenship. Genocide was codified by the United Nations in 1948. While the Holocaust was the largest genocide in the world, there have been many others.

 

Dzungar Genocide took place between 1755 and 1758, resulting in the death of 480,000 to 600,000 people. The location was Quing Dynasty in China. The Qianlong Emperor ordered the genocide resulting in a mass extermination of the Mongol Buddhist Dzungar people at the hands of the Manchu Qing dynasty of China and the Uyghurs of Xinjiang.

 

Circassian Genocide took place between 1864 and 1867, resulting in the death of an estimated 400,000 to 1.5 million people. The location was Circassia, located on the northeast shore of the Black Sea. The Circassian genocide, or Tsitsekun, was the Russian Empire's systematic mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and expulsion of 95–97% of the Circassian population during the final stages of the Russo-Circassian War.

 

Armenian Genocide took place between 1915 and 1922 resulting in the death of 700,000 to 1.5 million people. The location was the Ottoman Empire (Southeast Europe, West Asia, North Africa). It was the systematic killing and deportation of Armenians by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire implemented primarily during death marches to the Syrian Desert and the forced Islamization of others, primarily women and children.

 

Kazakh Genocide/Famine took place between 1931 and 1933 resulting in the death of 1.3 - 1.75 million people. It happened in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (Central Asia, with a small part in Eastern Europe), then part of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic in the Soviet Union. An estimated 38% to 42% of all Kazakhs died, the highest percentage of any ethnic group killed by the Soviet famine of 1930 -1933.
 

Holodomor took place between 1932 and 1933 in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, resulting in the death of 1.8 - 7.5 million people. Also known as the Great Ukrainian Famine, it was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine. The Holodomor was part of the wider Soviet famine of 1930–1933 which affected the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union.

The Holocaust took place between 1939-1945 (starting date varies), resulting in the death of

6 million Jews. The number of non-Jewish people who died varies from 500,000 to millions, including Soviet prisoners of war, Serb civilians murdered by Ustaša authorities of the Independent State of Croatia, Romani men, women, and children and other people derogatorily labeled as "Gypsies," Non-Jewish (ethnic) Poles, Black people in Germany, Gay men, bisexual men, and other men accused of homosexuality, Jehovah's Witnesses, Germans imprisoned in concentration camps as "professional criminals" and "asocials," German political opponents and dissenters, and people with disabilities. The Holocaust took place in several countries in Europe and was perpetrated by the Nazis, their allies and collaborators.

 

Genocide by the Ustasha took place between 1941 and 1945 resulting in deaths of 357,000 to 600,000 Serbs and Jews in Croatia. It was located in the Independent State of Croatia (Northwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula). The Ustase were pro-German Croatian fascists. After the Axis invasion and partition of Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Germans established a dependent Croatian state. Led by Ante Pavelic, the Croatian regime began a genocidal campaign against minority groups and killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs and tens of thousands of Jews in Croatia.

Bangladesh Genocide took place in 1971 and resulted in deaths of 300,000 to 3 million people. It happened in Bangladesh, located in South Asia. The Bangladesh genocide was the ethnic cleansing of Bengali Hindus residing in East Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War, perpetrated by the Pakistan Armed Forces and the Razakars. 

 

Cambodian Genocide took place between 1975 and 1979 resulting in the deaths of 1.3 - 3 million people, along with mass detention and torture. It happened in Democratic Kampuchea in Cambodia. The Cambodian genocide was the systematic persecution and killing, mass detention and torture of Cambodian citizens by the Khmer Rouge government under the leadership of Communist Party of Kampuchea general secretary Pol Pot. 


Rwandan Genocide took place in 1994 resulting in the deaths of 500,000 to 1 million people. It happened in Rwanda, in Central Africa. The Rwandan genocide, against the Tutsi in Rwanda, occurred during the Rwandan Civil War. During this period of around 100 days, members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group, as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa, were killed by armed Hutu militias. 

 

Resources

This Guide is meant to provide some background knowledge of the time period reflected in SURVIVORS. Sources include: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Wiener Holocaust Library, (London), History Channel, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, and others.

 

Recommended Reading

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, by Samantha Power, 2002. It received the Pulitzer Prize.

 

Holocaust, Genocide, and the Law: A Quest for Justice in a Post-Holocaust World, by Michael J. Bazyler, Jewish Book Council Award winner in 2016.

 

Why? Explaining the Holocaust, by Peter Hayes, W.W. Norton and Company, 2017.

 

A great deal of information is on this website including a free online book, Genocides and Conflicts. It has specific sections on most of the major conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.

⦁ ⦁ ⦁ ⦁ ⦁ 

Survivors

A Play by Wendy Kout

Developed in conjunction with JCC CenterStage Theatre, Rochester, NY, Ralph Meranto, Artistic Director

For details visit Survivorstheplay.com

 

SIX POINTS THEATER ⦁ PO Box 16155 St. Paul, MN 55116 ⦁ 651-647-4315 ⦁ info@sixpointstheater.org

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