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TWO CHARACTERS

 
Lily Spitz, a young Jewish Holocaust survivor from Vienna, Austria, and
 
Ernst-Alfred (“Alf”) Eger, a young Third Reich War Correspondent and Propaganda Officer from Hamburg, Germany
 
BACKGROUND
 
Possibly the only docudrama which interweaves the original, unpublished writing of two young contemporaries, each on either side of a terrible divide during the Third Reich.  With a few minor exceptions, Lily’s text appears in its original spelling from her Memoirs, which were written in English, her fourth language.  Alf’s texts are all close translations from his letters to his wife Gritt from occupied France in the 1940’s, but have been creatively edited to blend in with Lily’s narrative, demonstrating the complexities of the zeitgeist in the lives of individuals throughout Europe.
 
NOTE TO DIRECTORS AND ACTORS
 
In the original play, the actors exchange roles halfway through the performance.  This short scene may not allow for that alienation device, which challenges audiences to reassess their sense of identification and possible stereotyping.  Even when viewing this short excerpt, the characters can be experienced as diverse individuals.
 
It is hoped that future presentations of this scene and the play as a whole will avoid black and white paintings and easy pigeonholing, and, instead, help viewers to question their own attitudes, actions, and inactions vis-à-vis those fellow human beings who are labeled and dismissed as being “different,” “deficient,“ or “inferior.”
 
Lights out.
 
SOUND: Silence, except for Metronome ticking, slowly, for six seconds.
 
Lights on.
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, My goal is to become a journalist who has something to say through his work because he knows this world and the great language of his own people.  And so, just as today one’s weaker self is dissuading me against war as the robber of our fortune, so the inner self will warn me of the world and its greed.
 
I wrote in my diary, “Now the light falls onto my gold fountain pen with which I will conquer my new profession.”  Yours, Alf.
 
LILY
It was in fall of 1937.  [Fredl and I] intended to get married, mayby next summer. The winter past so fast for the two of us, we where so much in love and did not think, that anybody could be as happy as we where.
 
ALF
Let’s leave it to hucksters to become confused and get lost in the holes they created while knitting their own stockings.  We’ll sew up their Lord and laugh through this hole.   We’ll create a new pair, and lock people with fancy ideas in concentration camps. 
 
LILY
It was the 9th of May 1938, when a plain clothesman came to his mother’s apartment where also Fredl lived to take him to the police station for "interogation".  When he asked what that was all about, the detective told him, only for some questions.  When Fredl asked him, if he could take his bike along, because he rode it to his job in an office, he said no, he should it pick up later. (pause)  That was the last his family or I saw him for allmost a year.
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, Just when I’m writing the most important letter of my life to date I have to use a pencil (tsk tsk) – please understand the circumstances: after being ordered to southwest France as a press overseer, I managed to get promoted to work in the Paris suburb of St. Germain.  
 
Even though I write less than before, I now steer, lead, entice, manipulate, and mislead in order to head off the cross-flow of the French press.  I am busy translating French articles; that is one of the main things that should bear fruits later.
 
I negotiate with directors, with high-ranking clergymen; I make many newspapers wastepaper basket-ripe, promote only a few daily papers, and play one against the other.  In short, it is excessively interesting.  I have a murderous joy with this work.  My comrade in the air force, von Mueffling, said: “Man, Eger, I want to join the propaganda unit, too.”
 
Politically there’s a lot going on, more and more French activists are joining our plan.  You know as well as I that the red vermin must be destroyed, and with it the gold kings.  Yours, Alf.
 
LILY
A lot of running around followed, then we finally found out, that of many families, one man was chosen to be picked up. After finding they had taken all the men to a school in my neighborhood, I went there and when arrived I found only 3 women gazing up at a window of this school, but nobody was there anymore. These women had just found out, that their husbands had been transported early in the morning to Germany.  I fainted ....
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, Now my first letter from the field.  Fighting in enemy territory has been going on for five days already and we’ve cleaned up so much.  War is the man’s mightiest language; it throws one from the deepest hour of peace into the most violent struggle with death. 
On Friday, I lay with my nose in the dirt as an English plane sent three heavy bombs as a midday greeting.  A bomb threw a truck with soldiers into the air.  The Englishman was shot down and now we only experience the motorized sound of the uninterrupted flights of German fighter machines approaching.  Your Man.
 
LILY
After weeks we got finally a letter from Fredl. Most of what he wrote was censured, but at least we had heard from him. They had brought him to "DACHAU" Koncentration camp.  We could answer him, but if anything happened at the camp, they punished the men, by not giving them the mail or they were not allowed to write. 
 
ALF
Dearest Gritt, I just sent an article to the Schwarze Korps, [the magazine of the SS]. My pen is still hot with column enthusiasm.  Tomorrow I will be working on my “Letters to the Soldiers“ again.   Yours, Alf.
LILY
On November 9, 1938 was the infamous "Kristall Nacht."  The Nazis smashed the windows of the Synagouges than burned to the ground, pulled the Torahs out in the street and set them on fire, cloboerd Jews who were in the streets, with their rifles and picked up hundreds and hundreds of Jews (men only) and sent them in animal waggons to Dachau.
 
What we did not know was that Fredl with all the others from the May action, had been transfered to "Buchenwald", another Concentration camp.  We had not recieved any letter for a while and worried about his well beeing, untill finally came a letter, that he had moved to this new camp.
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, Sensibilities are slowly fading, the cadavers by the roadside see to that. The burning cities, our existence without rest or pause, the difference between hours and days seems to blur; we ooze dirt. Here come [more] prisoners.
 
For a long, long time I looked into the prisoners’ faces, I always talked to them, believe me, I pity these people, these typical victims who had believed that gold rules the world.   Your Man.
 
LILY
Now I heard about, that if you had any way to get your man back to Vienna, you had to go to the Gestapo, show there whatever paper you had paid for and they would release him.  For the first time I had to go to that infamous place.  They had taken over a big hotel, it was surrounded by police men, which did not let you in, unless you had paper which said that certain officer wantet to see you.
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, We know there are thousands of dangers that Paris and France offer on a silver platter.  But the world belongs to the brave, and now Gritt [, my bride,] will appear in the Parisian world where we have a German mission to fulfill. 
 
I believe that your optimism will not get lost in the terror of the wars to come like a thirsty animal in the desert.  What hundreds of thousands of women and brides are bearing for the nation, you will carry on your shoulders in a most exemplary way.  When, as volunteers, seven years ago, we walked through the swampy woods, we sang(pause) and then we let go of the spade—and took the gun
  
LILY
That [Gestapo] officer I was assigned to, was a polite man; he mentioned to me to sit down, while he looked up the papers I brought him.  Than he shook his head and said: That was not good enough.  Fredl had to have proof that he would go overseas, then they would release him.  So I went on searching for other possibilities and it was always the wrong papers I brought and each time my hope came down to disapointment.
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, I have begun to wonder when I look at the tanks in the streets below.  And it makes me look twice: once as a soldier who wants to destroy the enemy.  The second time as a human being who accuses the war mongers. The German caterpillars destroyed seed and limbs.  Oh ye caterpillar tanks, ye miracle of technology.  Oh you outsmarted humanity—your pride, your work, your motorized destruction: how far have you progressed
 
I wonder why doesn’t the caterpillar monstrosity pull a plow in order to feed all of you?  Yours, Alf.
 
LILY
One day I got a call from a friend.  He told me that he had heard about a certain lawyer, who had had ships passages for Shanghai.  It was a high price the lawyer asked for and we did not have the money to buy 2 tickets to Shanghai, so I bought only one.   When I went to the Gestapo, that officer exclaimed: "Well, finally I will get rid of you.  You will get your fiancée home in a week.”  I stared at him and I got the shakes.
 
How can anybody describe the joy of all of us, when Fredl came home?
 
We were lucky enough to trade the passage to Shanghai for two tickets to Italy.  We felt finally save, we had left Austria behind us.
 
 
ALF
Dear Gritt, When this letter reaches you, France will already have accepted the conditions of surrender – after a final, last cry for help to the world – to the chagrin of England, a country that deserves our completely justified hate. 
 
I predict the following: France must transfer its colonies to us, except for Tunisia and Djibutti for which Italy is responsible.  Racial aliens will be (pause) evacuated.  For the Grande Nation, we will leave no Air Force and only a ridiculously small war fleet to the "Victor" of Versailles.
 
And then it’s time to get hold of England, so that there will be peace on earth (pause) and that the Jew will leave Europe’s soil!
 
SOUND: Silence, except for Metronome ticking, slowly, for six seconds.
 
ALF
Lies mehr als meine Buchstaben, lies, was ich nicht schrieb, lies was mein Herz zerspringen lassen möchte. 
 
LILY
Read more than my letters, read, what I did not write, read that which could shatter my heart. 
 
ALF AND LILY TOGETHER
 
SOUND: Silence, except for Metronome ticking, slowly, for six seconds. 
 
Both Lily and Alf turn their backs to the audience and together, slowly walk to the back where two large posters have been draped over two chairs, facing away from the audience.  Then Lily picks up her poster and slowly walks toward the audience, stops, and slowly lifts the photograph of Lily high up so that her body becomes one with the picture.  Alf then picks up his poster, follows the same procedure, and slowly lifts Alf’s photograph in uniform and holds it up high.  Both stand there in silence with the metronome ticking until the audience cannot bear it any longer and start applauding. 
 
 
© 2007
This play may not be copied or performed without written permission. 
4 April 2007