At Westerbork, in Holland, many of the artists were from vibrant artistic Berlin — they had tried to escape to Holland, but were arrested. The Nazi commander at Westerbork transit camp, A.K. Gemmeker, was proud of the highly talented celebrities. He also saw to it that there were classical music concerts, recitals and the widely popular cabaret shows, but every Tuesday Jews were deported to the gas chambers. The cabaret called “Humor and Melody,” premiered on Sept. 4, 1943 with 18 different skits, satirizing the daily life in the camp. The experienced German theater director Max Ehrlich created it with composers Willy Rosen and Erich Ziegler, and the Dutch Jewish stage designer Leo Kok. Dancers were part of the cabaret.
This afternoon I spoke with Joanna Caplan. She is an actress who has been working for a couple of years on a one woman show entitled “Total Verrückt.” The title means “Totally Crazy” and is lifted from one of the cabaret shows at Westerbork.
Camp Westerbork was the nazi transit camp in northern Holland where my mother was interned for about eight months when she was eight years old. The camp was a holding place for Jews that were rounded up throughout Holland until they were sent east to the death camps. Westerbork happened to hold many of the top singers, actors, directors, and musicians that were either Dutch or had fled from Germany to the Netherlands. They were able to put together several shows there at the camp which the Commandant enjoyed and supported. The performers were often able to stay longer at Westerbork and avoid deportation if the…
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