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‘the Investigation,’ Play Based on Auschwitz Trial, Opens in N.Y.

October 6, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“The Investigation,” a three-act play based on the verbatim transcripts of the 18-month long German trial of leading Nazis at the Auschwitz concentration camp, had its premiere here last night at The Ambassador Theater, and attracted wide attention among New York critics and audiences as an outstanding theatrical event. The drama was written by Peter Weiss, a half-Jew born in Berlin, now a Swedish citizen, who in the last two years has been praised here and in Europe as one of the outstanding playwrights of the day.

Mr. Weiss attended many sessions of the proceedings in a court at Frankfurt which lasted from January, 1964 to August, 1965, and resulted in the conviction of 20 Nazi defendants, six of them receiving life-term prison sentences and 10 of them being sent to jail for six years each. They had been convicted of participation in the murder of 4,000,000 men, women and children at Auschwitz — the vast majority of the victims being Jews.

On a stage set only with witness-box type chairs — with the judge, the prosecutor and defense counsel facing them from the theater’s orchestra pit — 13 Nazis were lined up, two others who represented Nazi Germany’s largest industries which employed slave laborers, and five witnesses, all evidently Jewish.

In scene after scene, the horrors of Auschwitz, the scientific death machinery developed there and at the companion camp of Birkenau with its gas chambers, and the cynicism the Nazis, are developed factually and, most of the time, without undue emotional emphasis. Simply, the Auschwitz story is told, with what New York’s critics called great impact. The word “Jew” is not mentioned once, Mr. Weiss contending that all humanity had suffered at and through Auschwitz — all Germans, the defendants, the victims and millions throughout the world who had permitted the Nazi genocide to happen.

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