Warsaw theater staging 'Mein Kampf' play

The play's director said he wants to show that the language used today "is worse than the language of Hitler."

March 20, 2019 05:07
2 minute read.
A copy of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) from 1940 is pictured in Berlin, Germany

A copy of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) from 1940 is pictured in Berlin, Germany, in this picture taken December 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)


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A controversial theater in Warsaw is potentially courting outrage once again with its latest production: Mein Kampf.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Powszechny Theater in the Polish capital is staging a play with its dialogue pulled directly from Adolf Hitler’s infamous work. According to the theater’s website, the play is slated to premiere on Saturday evening, and is directed by Jakub Skrzywanek.

“We are exploring Mein Kampf to find out to what extent the ideas and proposals committed to paper more than 90 years ago remain relevant today,” the theater wrote in its synopsis of the play online. “Examining Hitler’s language and narrative, we ask ourselves questions about the language used today, including hate speech. We ask how many words had to be said before the Holocaust happened, and how many more words will have to be said for history to repeat itself.”

The theater gives little insight into how the play itself and its plot will be structured.

According to the Times, one scene is set in an art gallery, “during which two actors voice Hitler’s disapproval of modern art while others pretend to be exhibits.” Another scene is set at a dinner table, “where the characters spoke antisemitic diatribes from the book as if they were like polite conversation, while sipping soup.”

In 2017, the theater received threats and protests after it staged a play titled The Curse, about the Catholic Church, which condemned the clergy for covering up sexual abuse and included a scene simulating oral sex on a statue of the pope. The protests outside the theater even turned violent in some instances, but the theater refused to back down.

Tensions between Poland and Israel have been high in recent months, after a diplomatic row over the Polish role in the Holocaust. Antisemitic incidents across Europe have been on the rise; last week a Polish newspaper was slammed for printing a guide to “how to recognize a Jew” on its front page.

But the play’s director wants to stoke dialogue, as well as pushback.

“I want to show that the language used by politicians, by everyone, in Poland is worse than the language of Hitler,” Skrzywanek told the Times. He said that antisemitism in Poland is rising, and he wants the play to stir reflection – among both liberals and conservatives.

The Powszechny Theater said that while Mein Kampf is a hotly debated work, it is still influential and part of the international discourse.

It “remains one of the most influential books of the 20th century,” the theater wrote. “It can be bought, found online and, in some countries, even available for sale in bookshops... According to Google, it takes 0.35 seconds to find and access a copy of its Polish edition.”

The theater said its reflection on Mein Kampf is not intended “to just point the accusing finger at people and circles responsible for such actions. Perhaps the social landscape that nurtures the resurgence of national socialism is broader, and our personal entanglement in this process is greater than we might think.”

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