“The Wall” on Broadway
THE WALL, both the novel and the play, is the story of the Warsaw uprising in 1943 against the Nazis. It is a celebration of the outstanding instance of Jewish resistance to the Germans and a dramatic account of how that resistance grew against frightful odds among people who were like people everywhere–selfish, greedy, fearful, cruel, and narrow. Zionists, Socialists, Communists, Orthodox religious Jews, contended interminably before they could reconcile their special interests with the idea of resistance. People kept on striving for security for themselves, unable to believe that physical resistance was possible or even necessary -while thousands daily disappeared into the box cars going to Auschwitz. A rabbi goes passively, resigned to the gas chamber. A wealthy jeweler, Pan Apt, hides his identity, covers up even his circumcision by means of plastic surgery, and buys his way out of the ghetto. A used-furniture dealer, Fishel Shpunt, clowns and humiliates himself to ingratiate himself with the SS. The rabbi’s son, Stefan, joins the German-created Jewish police and tries to turn over his father for export to Auschwitz. The jeweler’s ugly daughter, Rachel, creates in her loneliness a school for children, engages in underground espionage, and discovers in herself the possibilities of leadership and courage which bring her respect and even love. In Dolek Berson, the hero, charming, talented, and unstable, is concentrated the struggle between self-interest and kindness, ease and action, personal safety and sacrifice to the fighting group. The resistance grows clumsily, painfully, and-save for its final expression of human dignity-ends in futility.
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