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
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
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
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
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