BERLIN (Oct. 3)
The horrifying truth of Nazi atrocities against the Jews of Europe in World War II, in the form of a hit Broadway play based on the true diary of a young Jewish girl swallowed up in the holocaust, came to Germany Monday night–and German audiences reacted with shocked silence. The play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” opened simultaneously in six West German and one East German cities.
In three of the theatres, silence was the reaction as the curtain came down, and attempts at applause were snuffed out. In four others, a long period of silence was followed by an ovation for the actors. In Duesseldorf, Leo Mittler, a Jew, who directed the play there, told newsmen that people kept calling the theatre during the night to tell him of their sense of deep shame. Even newspaper critics, he added, had called to say that they simply did not know how or what to write about it.
First critical reactions included that of “Der Kurier” here, which said it was “an evening that Berlin will not easily forget,” and added it would awaken “the dullest heart and shake the most deadened nerves.” The Hamburg newspaper, “Die Welt,” described the play as “completely factual and completely without false tones.” The critic for the “Nacht-Depesche” told his readers the work should serve as a reminder of the “already half-forgotten truth.”
Observers here saw especial significance in the audience reaction, because of previous indications of reluctance on the part of Germans to admit the truth of the atrocities. Movies of actual concentration camps shown here just after the war were received with disbelief and derision.