Play on Atrocities in Auschwitz Camp Opens in 15 German Theaters

The atrocities committed in the Auschwitz death camp were presented today in 15 German theaters in the simultaneous premiere of “The Investigation,” a documentary play by Peter Weiss, a German-born Jewish writer now living in Sweden.

“The Investigation” is called by its author “an oratorio in 11 cantatas” and is based on the testimony presented during the 20-month trial of 20 former SS guards and other camp personnel in which 17 were found guilty of participating in the killing of an estimated 4,000,000 victims, most of them Jews.

Erwin Piscator, head of the West Berlin Volksbuhne Theater, who accepted the play for the 75th anniversary of the Volksbuhne today, rejected arguments that the theater was not the place for the Germans to show penitance for the grisly crimes of the Nazis. After he announced the Volksbuhne would present the play, other companies in East and West Germany decided to follow suit.

Weiss emphasized in his play the role of German big industry in the Auschwitz camp, many large German firms having used Auschwitz Jews as cheap labor. Each of the 11 major scenes in the play deals with one aspect of the death camp’s murder machinery, such as “Cantata of the Ramp,” the “Cantata of the Fire Oven,” and the “Cantata of the Bunker,” where victims were chosen for death by gassing or other means.

The author said royalties will be placed in a trust fund which he said he would set up with publisher Suhrkamp Verlag in West Germany which will be used for Auschwitz survivors and for the education of their children.

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