Performing Captivity, Performing Escape
Cabarets and Plays from the Terezin/Theresienstadt Ghetto
Distributed for Seagull Books
The concentration camp and Jewish ghetto at Terezín, or Theresienstadt, in what is now the Czech Republic, was a site of enormous suffering, fear, and death; but in the midst of this was a thriving and desperately vibrant cultural life. While the children’s drawings and musical pieces created in the ghetto have become justly famous, the prisoners’ theatrical works, though a lesser-known aspect of their artistic endeavors, deserves serious attention as well.
Performing Captivity collects eleven theatrical texts—cabaret songs and sketches, historical and verse dramas, puppet plays, and a Purim play—written by Czech and Austrian Jews. Together these works reveal the wide range of ways in which the prisoners engaged with and escaped from life in the ghetto through performance. The anthology opens with an insightful preface by novelist Ivan Klíma, who was interned in the ghetto as a child, and contains a detailed introduction by editor Lisa Peschel about the pre-war theatrical influences and wartime conditions that inspired the theater of the ghetto.
The array of theatrical forms collected in Performing Captivity speaks of the prisoners’ persistence of hope in a harrowing time and will be moving reading for students of the Holocaust.