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The Culmination of History's Anti-Semitism
Washington, 1996 - Was Hitler some kind of aberration in history, or was he just fulfilling a longtime wish of Western civilization? This is the question that The False Witness: The Trial of Adolf Hitler presents to the audience. The setting is the High Tribunal of the Eternal Court of Justice, and Hitler is on trial for the slaughter of six million Jews. The audience is sworn in as the jury; Thomas Jefferson is prosecuting attorney and Martin Luther is for the defense.
At first, Martin Luther seems a strange choice for defense counsel, but there are anti-Jewish writings of his based on the belief that the Jews were in some way responsible for the death of Christ. The playbill contains an extensive bibliography authenticating the dialogue of all the historic characters.
The defense calls a list of historic figures including Shakespeare, Wagner, Henry Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Pope Pius XII and the Apostle Paul. The prosecution calls only one witness, a medieval Jewish rabbi known as Ramban. Luther's strategy in calling all these characters is to point out that first, the Jews are a menace and are worthy of destruction and secondly, that Hitler was just doing what everyone wanted. There is no attempt on anyone's part to deny the horrors of the Holocaust.
Wagner and Henry Ford made direct attacks on the Jewish people and called for solutions. As for FDR and Pope Pius XII, their inaction and hesitation to do something more substantial to prevent the Holocaust is questioned, and the questioning of St. Paul leads directly to the theological underpinnings of Christian anti-Semitism.
Skillfully woven into the testimonies of the characters are short vignettes from the lives or writings of the various characters. These include a scene from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and scenes from FDR's presidency with a plea from Eleanor Roosevelt to do more about the situation of the Jews in Europe.
The playwright, Robert M. Krakow, was trying to show a stream of anti-Semitism as a part of Western culture from the earliest beginnings of Christianity, therefore depicting Hitler, not as some isolated renegade, but as a culmination of that stream. After the April 30 performance at the French Embassy, both the playwright and the director, Joseph Adler, took questions from the audience. One question led to the statement that if the audience went home troubled by this production, then the playwright, director and cast would have accomplished their task. In this respect they were a resounding success.

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