A telegram sent by a producer of the Habima Theater in Europe to the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in 1937, in which he asks for permission for the theater to perform in Berlin, will be shown to the public as part of an exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of Habima, Israel’s national theatre.
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In the telegram, the theater requested Goebbels’ permission to perform in the only theater in Berlin that was still permitted to stage productions related to Jewish culture.
Shimon Finkel, an actor, and one of the founders of Habima, wrote in his memoirs that permission was granted, but Hermann Goering, a senior Nazi official, cancelled it when the actors were on the train to Berlin, and they never got off the train.
Finkel also wrote that before the Nazis came to power, Goebbels, who had literary ambitions as a young man and had written two unpublished plays, had written a positive critique of Habima and noted that the German actors should learn from them.
In the pre-World War II years, Habima which had moved its base from Moscow to Tel Aviv, performed throughout Europe, but mainly in Paris.
Considering that the letter was sent in 1937, before Kristallnacht and the systematic murder of Jews in the Holocaust, its contents are not surprising.
The Nazi government at the time was still interested in deporting the Jews from Germany, so having performances from Palestine would have accorded with their interests, purportedly sparking Zionist sentiment and encouraging Jewish emigration.
For example, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry headed by Goebbels supported the screening of the film “Land of Promise” (“Lechaim Hadashim” in Hebrew) from 1935-1937 in Nazi Germany. Yaakov Gross, a researcher of Hebrew film, found in his research on the topic that German security guards even kept watch at the screenings and made sure that only Jews could watch them.
These documents and others, including films of plays performed by the theater during its first decades that belong to the collection of the Israeli Center for the Documentation of the Performing Arts, will be on display at the exhibition called Genesis Ball (“Neshef Bereshit” in Hebrew) which was curated by Dr. Olga Levitan and designed by Dina Konson. The exhibition will open Wednesday at the Cymbalista Jewish Heritage Center at Tel Aviv University.