What Would Become Israel's National Theater Asked Goebbels in 1937 to Perform in Berlin

It was the year before Kristallnacht and Goebbels granted permission, but a senior Nazi cancelled it at the last minute

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FILE - In this Oct. 30 1938 file photo, Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels speaks to members of the National Socialist party on the 10th anniversary of their foundation in the  overcrowded sport palast in Berlin. The lakeside property in the German capital once owned by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels is up for sale at auction.  Bids are now being taken for the 70,000-square foot (6,440-square meter) plot on Schwanenwerder island, an exclusive area in western Berlin where Goebbels and his family lived from 1936 to 1943, spokeswoman Irina Daehne for the real estate agency selling the property for the city said Wednesday. The Goebbels family returned in 1945 before moving into Hitler's bunker complex in the capital's downtown area.  The Goebbels villa, which he purchased from a Deutsche Bank board member, was destroyed after the war and a 7,650-square foot (710-square meter) brick bungalow built in the 1950s now sits on the site.  (AP Photo,File)
Nazi Propaganda Minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels speaking to members of the National Socialist Party in 1938.Credit: AP

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.

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also wrote that before the Nazis came to power, Goebbels, who had literary ambitions as a young man and had written two unpublished plays, had written a positive critique of Habima and noted that the German actors should learn from them.

The telegram sent by a producer of the Habima Theater in Europe to the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in 1937.

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.

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