'False Witness': good history lesson, but not for the light hearted

By Skip Sheffield

As a history lesson, "The False Witness: The Trial of Adolf Hitler", is disconcerting and invaluable. As a play, it is still a good history lesson.
"The False Witness" continues a limited run a 1:00 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday and 1 p.m. Tuesday at Royal Palm Theatre, on the same stage that Jan McArt normally produces frothy, light-hearted musical comedies.
There is nothing musical or very funny about "The False Witness". It is, after all, Robert Krakow's scholarly research into the origins of
the Holocaust.
Even students who flunked world history know that Hitler never lived to stand trial. He took the coward's way out by committing suicide in 1945 with his mistress, Eva Braun, when it became obvious his

mighty Third Reich was in ruins.
Lawyer-turned-playwright Krakow has turned his legalistic expertise into a tool that challenges the conventional view of Hitler as an aberration, a madman lunatic who somehow cast a spell over the German nation and the world.
Krakow's chilling thesis is that Hitler did not work alone; that he had the weight of history, literature, art and politics he could draw upon in his relentless campaign against the Jewish people.
Set before the "Gates of Eternity" before the Criminal Court of the High Tribunal, "The False Witness" pits prosecutor Joan of Arc (Bianca Du Plessis) against defense attorney Martin Luther (John Stevens) over the culpability of Adolf Hitler in the murder of more than six million people in World War II.

The choice of Martin Luther is significant, for he is a pillar of the modern Christian church and even has a branch of the Protestant church name after him (Krakow originally had the Apostle Paul [as a
witness for the] defense, which strikes even closer to the heart of Christianity).
In his copius research, Krakow has uncovered Luther's dark side: a bitterness and hatred for Jews stemming from their role in the crucifixation of Jesus Christ. John Stevens brings a disquieting religious zeal along with a wise-guy attitude to his Luther. At the same time there is little Christian compassion or charity in his character, who in essence says Hitler was just acting out the wishes of hundreds of years of anti-Semites who blamed the Jews for everything from the

Black Plague to an international banking conspiracy to amorality in Hollywood.
I think the unspoken hope by Jews and Christians alike is that Hitler was an aberration, that something like the Holocaust was a one-time event that could never happen again. Krakow's work is a stern reminder that we should not be so naive; that anti-Semitism and prejudice endures even in the supposedly most righteous places.

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