Actors from the Camari theater putting on the play 'Ghetto'.
Actors from the Camari theater putting on the play 'Ghetto'. Photo by Gerard Allon
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A unique website has just been launched providing a comprehensive guide to Holocaust theater.

Dozens of plays were written by Jews during the Holocaust period, with hundreds of dramas produced in ghettos and concentration camps during the tragedy. They are chronicled at English-language site The Holocaust Theater Online Collection (http://www.jewish-theatre.org/page2.html ), currently still in pilot form.

The project was initiated and supervised by researcher and Jewish theater expert Moti Sandak. The website's academic and editorial board features Prof. Gad Kaynar, head of Tel Aviv University Theater, Prof. David Alexander, and also writers Nava Semel and Dr. Michal Govrin.

A team of ten is currently working around the clock in order to complete the site's online data bank. About a thousand dramas relating to the Holocaust have been located. "Every play, no matter how obscure - including scripts that were never produced but are stored in archives - will be on the site [eventually]," Sandak says.

The site's search engine will allow browsers to read a synopsis of each play, learn about its historical background, and review archival papers related to the drama. It will also be possible for users to print some plays' scripts.

"The project's starting assumption is that the Nazis were unable to destroy human creative spirit," Sandak notes. "Instead of focusing on pain and trauma, we are researching cultural treasures.

"To the best of my knowledge, no such phenomenon can be found among other peoples," he adds. "In the midst of such suffering, death and slaughter, theaters were established and plays were written. Works by Shakespeare, Shalom Aleichem and many others were performed during the Holocaust. In some ghettos, including Warsaw and Lodz, cabarets and plays were produced. Plays were even put on at Auschwitz."

One subject to be addressed online will be culture at the Theresienstadt camp. The subject was analyzed at a one-day conference held last month at Yad Vashem. "During the first weeks of this camp's existence, cultural events were staged in evening hours, despite a curfew," says Dr. Margalit Shlain, one of the project's academic consultants. In 1942, a division for "fashioning leisure hours" was created in the camp, with actors active within it. The most ambitious production staged was Verdi's "Requiem."

Thirty international organizations support the Internet project, including UNESCO, Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Claims Conference.