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Passion Play Becomes Run-away Hit in Germany

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The 1980 Passion Play at Oberammergau has become West Germany’s run-away hit this-summer, a wind fall for ticket scalpers and black marketeers and an apparent vindication of Oberammergau’s Mayor Ernst Zwink who opposed changes in the text to remove anti-Semitic material on grounds that the play in its present form was a commercial success.

The controversial production, depicting the suffering of Jesus, has been performed in Oberammergau at the beginning of every decode since 1680 and is of major economic importance to that Bavarian village. Long regarded as a source of blatant anti-Semitism, blaming Jews collectively for the crucifixion, the text has been toned down considerably.

But according to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and other Jewish and non-Jewish sources, it is still rampant with anti-Jewish bias, rooted in a tradition of hostility and contempt toward Jews and Judaism. Zwink was elected mayor two years ago on a platform rejecting calls for substantial reform of the text. Lately, he has noted that the success of the current version proved that the text should not be tampered with.

The demand for tickets has exceeded past records and has given rise to a flourishing black market, recently detected by Munich police, which bought up blocs of tickets at the average price of 60 Marks and sold them for more than double their face value. Since the beginning of the years, the police have brought charges against several speculators. In one case, an organized group of 68 visitors to Oberammergau bought tickets and sold them illegally after erasing the original price.

The only tickets available legally are those returned by purchasers who cannot attend the performance. Every day there are huge queues outside the box office waiting for the 30-50 returned tickets.

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