By Gary Greenberg
Special to JN
Was the Holocaust a historical anomaly brought
about by a singular madman or was it the culmination of a
prejudice passed down through such instruments as the Catholic
Church, Martin Luther, Wagnerian opera and the Bard of Avon's
That's the question examined in Robert M. Krakow's play, "The
False Witness: The Trial of Adolf Hitler." Palm Beach County
audiences will get a chance to pass judgement when the drama unfolds
at the Jan McArt Royal Palm Theater in Boca Raton Feb. 13-22.
Although Hitler is the one on trial, witnesses Pope Pius XII,
Martin Luther, Richard Wagner, William Shakespeare, Henry Ford
and Franklin Roosevelt ultimately are judged by the audience and
declared innocent or guilty of being accessories to genocide.
"The play focuses less on Hitler and more on the witnesses,"
said playwright Robert M. Krakow of Boca Raton. "It shows
the mythology that allowed Hitler to have a successful propaganda
campaign, and that the Holocaust wasn't
something that just happened out of the blue in
"Krakow started writing the play 10 years ago when he was
going through something of a Jewish identity crisis. "I'd
see a Woody Allen movie and was struck by the imagery - some of
which was funny and some of which was hostile and it made me wonder
about how Jews are perceived in, a historical extent," Krakow
He started the project by typing all 700 pages of Hitler's "Mein
Kampf" into his computer, word-for-word. Then he developed
a scanning Program to find certain -patterns and ran it some 25,000
"I looked for people who impressed him," Krakow said.
"Martin Luther, Ford, Wagner and Shakespeare all showed up
and were described in heroic ways. The witnesses I chose for the
play all represent different forms of anti -Jewishness, for example
- cultural, nationalistic and religious forms.
The play runs about 90 minutes and culminates with the audience
deliberating as the jury. "The audience members can become
very animated in voicing their opinions,
especially about the Roosevelt scene," Krakow
said. "President Roosevelt was a hero to so many of our senior
citizens, and we include revisionist history that raises questions
about some of his policies." The play has been performed
about 40 times, including a tour of university campuses and the
French Embassy in the Washington, D.C. area. Krakow and director
Nat Habib have reworked the show since its last staging in 1996,
and they have high hopes that it will be performed in many cities
around the country, including New York." I became emotionally
and intellectually involved in the play when I read it because
there were so many facts I never knew about," said Habib,
who ran the Riverwest Theater in Greenwich Village for 12 years.
"I'm sure a great percentage of people are likewise unaware
of these things, and I think it's important for as many people
as possible to find out about them."
Habib says he was impressed by the research Krakow did."
If anyone questions whether Martin Luther or Shakespeare or Ford
said what he has accused them of saying in the play, he
can document it," the director noted. Proceeds
from the show will go toward the Mount Zion Foundation, which
supports the Chamber of the Holocaust and the Diaspora Yeshiva
programs in Israel.
"The play makes people aware of history and what occurred,"
said Rabbi Gerald Goldstein, president of the Mount Zion Foundation.
"People have to be aware of what happened to prevent future
Playwright Krakow is a former Washington, D.C.-based attorney.
"When I was an attorney in Washington, I learned about purgatory,"
Krakow joked. "Part of the play's motif is Dante's 'Inferno,'
so I feel well equipped to discuss that."
The False Witness: The Trial of Adolf
Hitler" will play at the Jan McArt Royal Palm Theater, 303
SE. Mizner Blvd. in Boca Raton. Show times are noon Feb. 13 and
2O, 1 p.m. Feb. 15 and 22 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 and 21. Tickets
range from $25 to $50. For more information, call 967-8817.