Yiddish Play About Resistance to Nazism Having Its Premier in Warsaw

A Yiddish play about Jewish resistance to the Nazis written in Russia more than 30 years ago is having its world premiere at the Yiddish State Theater in Warsaw. It is “Widerstand”–meaning “resistance”–by Soviet Jewish author Noah Luriah, who died in 1960. Among the audience at a performance last week were the Israeli and other delegates who were in Poland for the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Jacob Rotbaum, the producer, told Dr. S. Levenberg, chairman of the World Jewish Congress International Affairs Committee, that the original manuscript of the play had been posted to him, with a strong recommendation, by the great Soviet Yiddish actor, Solomon Mikhoels, whom Stalin had murdered in 1948.

Although extracts of the play had previously been performed in the West as well as in Poland, this was the first time it had been staged in its entirety. The present production lasts about two hours and several of the 36 actors are non-Jews, although this is not apparent from their fluent command of Yiddish.

Set in a small East European shtetl, “Widerstand” shows how the Jews reacted when the leader of the Jewish communal council, the Judenrat, announces the deportation order handed to him by the German SS. They form into three groups–one which wants to obey it reluctantly, the second which optimistically believes that there will be fresh air and good food at the labor camp, and the third and smallest group which distrusts the Nazi order and says they must resist to the death.

The Yiddish Theater, which has a staff of 120 people, shows plays each week on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In the summer, it is open nightly for a fortnight. Many of the audience are non-Jews, including tourists.

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