NEVER AGAIN. NEVER FORGET by Thomas Putnam
Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There was a saying following World War II regarding the extermination of 6 million Jews, 15,000 people who identify as homosexual, and nearly a million people who were formerly known as Gypsies and now more accurately identified as Roma. That saying is/was “NEVER AGAIN.” And yet, the intolerance for those who are different from ourselves seems to be increasing rather than never happening again.
HG has some ties with the Holocaust. The HG Choral Program began as a result of a production of I NEVER SAW ANOTHER BUTTERFLY with lyrics by children of Terezin in what is now the Czech Republic. We produced it, we sang it; we took two busloads of singers and their families to The Czech Republic and visited Terezin. We visited the Holocaust Museum in D.C. shortly after it opened. We produced a play called AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME about Jews in The Netherlands who are imprisoned during WWII.
When we hear of anti-Semitic attacks recently, the resolute “NEVER AGAIN” doesn't make sense. How can we be going backwards? How can people continue to believe that Jews and Roma and Gays and any who people who are different from ourselves are a threat or inferior or dangerous simply because they are different? Where is the simple exercise of kindness, of welcoming, of acceptance?
In the past year I've seen two theatre productions regarding persecution of people who are Jewish. At Chautauqua I saw Paula Vogel's INDECENT and was simply blown away by the power and beauty of this exploration of antisemitism and homophobia. In NYC I saw the incredible production of Tom Stoppard's LEOPOLDSTADT; three generations of people who are Jewish and the devastatingly tragic effects of antisemitism.
I've quoted playwright Lauren Gunderson a number of times in the last few years. Something like “Theatre's superpower is empathy.” Empathy. Exercising empathy. Oh, what a dream that is where empathy is manifest. Can—should—HG exercise empathy? Is there anything that HG could do to further the resolute hope of “NEVER AGAIN?” Let us remember. NEVER FORGET.