Warsaw, Poland – The Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw has staged a play, which premiered on Saturday, inspired by Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s 1925 political manifesto and autobiography.
According to its director, Jakub Skrzywanek, the play is meant to stir reflection and foster discussion about the rise of anti-Semitism in modern-day Poland and highlight the growing noxious climate of hate-speech. Earlier this year, a Polish newspaper ran “How to Spot a Jew” article on its front-page, while reports point to growing Holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitic rhetoric in Poland. Tensions between Warsaw and Israel also rose after a diplomatic dispute was sparked over Poland’s role in the Holocaust.
“I want to show that the language used by politicians, by everyone in Poland, is worse than the language of Hitler”, M. Skrzywanek told New York Times reporters,
According to the play’s synopsis, the performance is meant to “find out to what extent the ideas and proposals committed to paper more than 90 years ago remain relevant today. Examining Hitler’s language and narrative, we ask ourselves questions about the language used today, including hate speech. We ask how many words had to be said before the Holocaust happened, and how many more words will have to be said for history to repeat itself”.
Although parts of the dialogue will be directly inspired by Mein Kampf, little has been made public about the structure and narrative of the play. In one scene, an actor reads extracts from Hitler’s political autobiography while wearing a mask featuring the face of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the ruling Law and Justice Party and de facto leader of Poland.
The Powszechny theatre is no stranger to controversy. In 2017, it found itself at the centre of a public outrage after staging The Curse, a play condemning Poland’s powerful Catholic Church and its clergy for covering up sexual abuse.
Mein Kampf “remains one of the most influential books of the 20th century”, according to the director of the play, who points out how easily it can be bought today. The theatre is adamant about the fact it doesn’t just want to be pointing fingers, but aims to stoke a real public debate on the rise of anti-Semitism: “Perhaps the social landscape that nurtures the resurgence of national socialism is broader, and our personal entanglement in this process is greater than we might think”.