NEW YORK (Nov. 19)
Mayor Ernst Zwink, of Oberammergau, the little Bavarian town where the Passion Play is performed by villagers at 10 year intervals, has given assurances that a revised script for the 1970 performance is free of any passages that could be construed as anti-Semitic. But the American Jewish Congress, long a critic of the play, is not taking Mayor Zwink’s word for it.
Dr. Joachim Prinz, chairman of the AJ Congress’ international affairs commission, has cabled Mayor Zwink for a copy of the revised text which the villagers have approved. Dr. Prinz has also asked the Mayor to send a copy of the script to Father Stephan Schaller, a Benedictine monk and high school teacher who labored two years re-writing the script to delete anti-Semitic passages only to have his version rejected almost completely by the villagers.
Dr. Prinz said, “it is hard to have confidence in the competence and intentions of the mayor and his friends when their position throughout has been that the original grossly anti-Semitic play was completely proper and acceptable. It is unlikely that they can cure a defect they cannot even perceive”
Father Schaller wrote to Dr. Prinz in September of his frustration in dealing with the villagers who had originally chosen him to re-write the play. He said, “the already weak will to reform the play disappeared completely” when Oberammergau was told by travel agents that the 1970 performance was sold out. Dr. Prinz appealed at the time to Julius Cardinal Doepfner, Archbishop of Munich, to intervene. A week ago he was informed by the Cardinal’s secretary that the prelate supported reform of the Passion Play and favored Father Schaller’s version. He added however that Cardinal Doepfner could only offer suggestions and could not interfere with the artistic contents of the play.
Dr. Prinz said, “We are gratified that Cardinal Doepfner has affirmed his support of our protest. We cannot however be so sanguine about the assurances offered by Mayor Zwink We are reluctant to comment on a proposal we have not yet seen or heard about in any detail.” Mayor Zwink however has insisted that “the text we have just adopted can stand up to any criticism.” He said the text committee had decided to adhere to a script written over 100 years ago by a Benedictine monk which “toned down” parts of the traditional text, especially those which tended to hold the Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.