Last Sunday I went to the theater – yes, I do that sometimes yet not too often – and watched an interesting piece. Interesting in so many ways actually that it still gets more and more interesting the more I think about it.
That play was George Tabori‘s “Mein Kampf” [My struggle] featuring young Adolf Hitler living in a doss house in Vienna where he has come hoping to be accepted at the Vienna Art School (which of course he isn’t as we learnt in history lesson). However he gets to know the Jew Shlomo Herzl who also happens to live at this unfortunate place and who, though he is confronted with Hitler’s growing hatred against Jews, tries to be a friend and somehow also a father to Hitler. The drama actually has it that Herzl saves Hitler from death at some occasions as if he was seeing something good in the psychically labile countryside boy.
Psychologically spoken it’s a kinda mean piece: First it breaks the ice by making you laugh about Adolf Hitler (!) and then, just when it has bought your attentionand made you really listen it gets you from deep within. And even though a lot of the symbolism might not have been understood by the majority of non-Jewish non-Israeli it makes it very clear what happens in front of your eyes on that stage: That even Shlomo Herzl’s attempts will not be able to stop Adolf Hitler from what he is about to become. And after a last, disturbing scene it lets you out in the cool breeze of a summer evening in Austria nearly speechless yet full of words that cannot be spoken. It haunts you. Sometimes for days. And even those who have declared the Third Reich to be over by all means.
Seeing the reactions of the audience – mostly local people above 40 – was interesting too. I think most of them liked the play for one or another reason, though I couldn’t deny that one could hear one or another whispered complain about the decry of Hitler in the play. Most liked the – for Austrian standards – rather unconventional approach to Hitler’s biography depicting him not so much as incarnated evil but rather as a weak boy on the line between life and death. As for me that wasn’t new to me for I have seen and heard that approach in Israel for a million times (sure enough I felt it was a very typical Israeli play). However others complained that the topic was still used too much and there had to be drawn the all-famous line under the whole Issue.
As for me I liked the play a lot. Something absolutely worth me risking a culture overdose. Was ist because the play reminded me of Israel? Maybe. But I think mostly because it was not about showing us what we all know about Hitler and his life but rather those aspects we hardly consider. Things like how he became what he was. Things that make him look human, no more, no less. Maybe the worst of humanity but still human. It might be that this approach turns out to be the most beneficial in long-term-handling of Hitler and the Shoah [Holocaust]: Demystifying it thereby forcing us to remember that it could happen again. Yet also how people like Hitler (or Gaius Iulius Caesar) aren’t some kind of demon that cannot be fought against by normal people but rather very human beings that are as fragile as all of us. Hitler is not the exception we would like him to be. There have been individuals like him before and there certainly will be people like him again.