(Pause, then a sudden thought, “diabolically”) What about INFECTIOUS MONONUCLEOSIS? Do you recall infectious mononucleosis? Infectious mononucleosis—that, at least; infectious mononucleosis must mean something to you . . . —No, not even that? Remarkable . . . Why shouldn’t you be familiar with infectious mononucleosis? It’s harmless, perfectly harmless; true, the Germans discovered it, but that was in the nineteenth century . . . infectious mononucleosis has next to nothing to do with the SS, no connection at all . . . It may be you’re only feigning ignorance, you’re playing dumb, perhaps you’re dissembling, perhaps you want to make a fool of me—You, testing me!! You, making a fool of me!! . . .
—Pay attention, I’m going to give you a series of prompts, just bear with me, pay attention: SONDERBEHANDLUNG, I say to you: SONDERKOMMANDO1 . . . Listen: fulfilling of duty, cold, outside, night, listen: fidelity to principles, listen: Syberberg . . . selection, I say to you, ramps . . . —Yes, ramps—No, not stage ramps, not ramp lighting, no orchestra pits . . . Light, yes, lighting of a sort, at least, the glare of floodlights . . . A kind of ramp lighting, only there’s no performance . . . they’ve no idea . . . The Municipal Theater is dark today . . . (to himself) – No idea of this sort of ramp lighting, of this sort of ramp; no idea of the pit below the trap, some will fall, others ascend . . .
(Pause: at the window)
Falling . . . ascension—Marvelous evenings, glasses and spirits raised in these sobering times . . . Brilliant premiers in early December . . . Monostatos: Cock-sure Fritz Fischer . . . Queen of the Night: guest-starring Fritzi Margaritella . . . And after the premier, again to Café Lerch . . . —Wasn’t there, back then . . . —was somewhere else . . . But where, where? (with an exaggerated gesture)—Where, oh! if only I knew to say . . .
(Directly to “B”) Gas vans—never heard of those either? Not gas vans, no? No, gas vans: Gas vans, no? Or racial hygiene—nothing? “Disinfection via sanitations technology?”—no? Showers and disinfection chambers—nothing? Dentists—no, nothing?—No, nothing, of course not, how could you—You seem to think you’re quite clever, but I can disabuse you of that . . . (with cunning) And you will have never heard, then, of Doctor Eberl. Dr. IRMFRIED EBERL, a fine name, don’t you think . . . ? It sounds so . . . cordial, doesn’t it? A native of Bregenz, by the way, studied medicine at Innsbruck . . . No, not a dentist, a medical practitioner, last residing in Blaubeuren, at least through 1948, then Blaubeuren became Blausäuren for him, too—fine word-play, no? . . .
—And before that? Before what, when? A little more tact, please. Our Dr. Eberl died young, just thirty-eight years old—a victim of duty, of a pledge, an oath—and before that he had been camp commandant at So—no, incorrect, at Tre—ah, one really needn’t be so forthcoming . . . —He’d been active in the Eastern Operations, at any rate . . . Ten thousand a day in his waiting room, waiting in line, in the courtyard, the train yard—That’s enough to overwhelm any physician, no matter whether he studied medicine at Innsbruck or not . . . ! Before that, he’d been in charge of several SPECIAL OPERATIONS institutes2, in Bernburg-Saale, for example, there he was afforded more time with the eighteen thousand patients he handled in just over a year and a half . . . Before that he was active in the Department of Health in Berlin—under Reich Health Director Conti, yes Conti, never heard of him?—And also in the Office of Public Health in Magdeburg-Dessau, and then, before that, he worked as a licensed physician in Vienna and Grimmenstein. That’s all . . . Bregenz—Innsbruck—Vienna and Grimmenstein—Magdeburg—Berlin—Bernburg-Saale—Poland, General Government—Blaubeuren—the end. Eberl, Irmfried, doctor—an enthusiast, a go-getter, sometimes perhaps a little overwhelmed . . . —No, still nothing, you’re not familiar . . . ?
(Pauses: goes to the window, listens; The Magic Flute, Sarastro singing; to himself)
SA SS SARASTRO . . . Wartime winter settled over the land . . . And after the performance—after the performance—hitting the dance floor . . . at the Café— . . . Café—
(To “B”—a new idea; jovial, to the point of cunning—) Does the phrase OPERATION REINHARD mean anything to you?—Reinhard, as in Reinhard Heydrich, Operation Reinhard, the final solution to the Jewish question in the General Government, Poland, overall balance more than two million; the operation was headquartered in Lublin, by the way . . . Operation Reinhard—a code name, of course—doesn’t ring a bell? That I can hardly believe . . .
Then it goes without saying that you’ve never heard of the director of this operation and his staff, assembled primarily of Carinthians, one Globočnik, and his adjutant, one Lerch . . . Odilo Globočnik, a civil engineer from Klagenfurt, high-ranking SS and police commander in the Lublin District, Himmler’s personal secretary to earth3—nonsense . . . what am I saying? . . . to the East, to Poland . . . Globočnik, SS Obergruppenführer, a Carinthian, a Klagenfurter to be exact, though not by birth, a native of Trieste, who made himself abundantly known throughout Carinthia . . . (half to himself) Strange, isn’t it, Upper Carinthians often aren’t even from Carinthia; they’re foreigners, habitués, immigrants . . . Some come from the south, others from the opposite direction—from Upper Austria, for instance, as did this scion of the former Upper Danube District youth group . . .
(To “B”) Globočnik’s ancestors are originally from Neumarktl, now Tržič, a region just beyond the Karavanks . . . Neumarktl, a strange name, and yet so familiar . . . Neumarktl—Trieste—Klagenfurt—Vienna—Lublin—Trieste—Klagenfurt—Krumpendorf—Paternion—an interesting biography, no? Globočnik, Odilo, born April 21st, 1904, Trieste—died May 31st, 1945, Paternion, buried on the banks of the Drava . . . —But you’ve never heard anything about this, you’ve heard nothing, know nothing, of course not! Right? Really, nothing?
(Enraged) Do you actually have the audacity to claim no knowledge of my favorite mass murderer, the first and foremost National Socialist exaggeration artist, yes, the first SS exaggeration artist, the most gifted mass exterminator that Carinthia and the Adriatic coast have ever produced, our Globus!—and you dare to claim you’ve never heard of him?!
(Calmer now) A real go-getter, you ought to know. You couldn’t keep that man behind a desk for long, paperwork was for lesser men, he had a whole nature, complete with a light and a dark side . . . (picks up a piece of paper, reads aloud)—Here, as described in a memorandum from SS Gruppenführer von Herff, on the occasion of his official tour of the General Government: His enthusiasm often leads him to overstep the prescribed limits and to forget those drawn for him within the Order itself, not, however, out of personal ambition but out of obsession, for the sake of the cause . . . His success absolutely speaks for him . . .
Success, understand: input, output, efficiency, effectiveness! Operation Search for German Blood, understand?—Not, so that you don’t misunderstand, a go-getter vis-à-vis women, vis-à-vis the mother. You know, of course, no, of course you don’t know—no, a go-getter in terms of extermination engineering feels a need to do too much on his own, he wants to do everything at once, he brooks no dissent, he’s obsessed, even . . .
—Oh, by the way, do you know—no, how could you?—nevertheless, do you know the joke that begins, Congratulations on passing your engineering certification exam . . . ? No? Well, I made it up myself and I’ve never told it before, so how could you know it, dummy? Anyway, it goes like this:
So. The congratulations on passing your engineering certification exam joke. (The mother’s voice, possibly in a grating falsetto) Odilo, congratulations on passing your engineering certification exam . . . !—Mother, thank you for your congratulations on passing my engineering certification exam . . . !—But where have you been, Odilo? I’ve been waiting so long to congratulate you on passing your engineering certification exam . . . But you might have guessed, Mother, I was at Café Lerch, where else . . .
—It’s a good one, don’t you think? Yes, a fine joke and completely incomprehensible . . . What has been built under the direction of this civil engineer? Much, but not all . . . Not everything was finished . . . The East Wall, for instance, the Panther-Wotan Line . . . —The EAST WALL, of course you’ve never heard of it . . .
—(Overexcitedly) In the west—West Wall—in the east—East Wall; North Pole—cold, South Pole—hot, is that so hard?
(Calmer now) Or a district in Lublin, the SS AND POLICE QUARTER, never finished either . . . What else did he have built? Warehouses, great big warehouses . . . And CAMPS, some camps—gas chambers . . . and pits, lime pits, each one bigger than the last, but never big enough . . . Later, grills, giant grills . . . pits and grills, you didn’t know, you never asked, why would you?
—Here (picks up a piece of paper)—from the diaries of Joseph Goebbels—Goebbels, never heard of him either, have you? No.—(Reading aloud through a megaphone, like a propaganda speech; or better: whispering through the megaphone)
The Jews in the General Government, beginning with Lublin, are now being deported (coughs?) further east. A rather barbaric procedure is in place, hard to describe exactly, and not much remains of the Jews themselves . . . The former Gauleiter from Vienna who is in charge of carrying out the operation, Gruppenführer G., does so with discretion and via a procedure that does not appear too conspicuous . . .
Well?—Never heard of that either, heard nothing, of course not, though it’s hard to miss . . . What is all this about? Which camp, and what went on there—What does Café Lerch have to do with it? That—
(Pause; listening to The Magic Flute)
—That’s what I’m about to tell you . . . Have a seat . . . —No, not you, not yet—Have a seat is what Globočnik is alleged to have said to Stangl on his first official visit to Lublin, on a bench in the park at headquarters, on a beautiful spring—What?—Yes, Stangl, the best camp commandant in Poland, Globočnik told Hitler. Stangl, never heard of him either, have you? No, of course not.—Have a seat, Globočnik is alleged to have kindly said, patting the bench beside him: Have a seat and tell me . . . Later, an adjutant—possibly Lerch, possibly von Mohrenschildt, probably Lerch—will have brought the plans for Sobibor . . . The general will have laid out the plans on the bench and in the grass, in order to explain to Stangl that this would be a kind of SUPPLY CAMP . . . A SUPPLY CAMP, do you understand? Not a prison camp, a supply camp, a kind of supply camp . . . not bad, right?
(Pauses; The Magic Flute: The two armored men) Do you hear that? The two armored men . . . (“translates”) He, who wanders troubled through these streets shall be cleansed, by fire, water, air and earth . . . (increasingly to himself) Fire, water, air and earth . . . Wrong order . . . —Air—more precisely not air—earth—fire . . . or, air later—or no air—fire—earth . . . but not water, never water; until, one time . . . one time—
(Struggles increasingly, as he speaks the following sentences, to keep from bursting into laughter)
—One time, it must have been toward the beginning, one time in Belzec—a pit overflowed . . . A pit overflowed! . . . The pit was . . . overcrowded, and the decay already so advanced that in the bottom of the pit everything—everything had liquified—And the pit itself was on—on—on a hill . . . And one day, the bodies—overflowed, flowed out of the pit and—rolled down the hill . . . (Pause) Hundreds, if not more, just like that, as if on their own, welled up from the pit and rolled down the hillside . . . A pit overflowed! Isn’t that bizarre? How could a pit overflow?! “One of our pits has overflowed,” said one witness, quoting another witness, to Commandant Stangl . . . And the camp inspector, Lieutenant Wirth, must have been thoroughly bewildered. A pit overflowed?! Globočnik in Lublin must have been furious . . .
(Pause; composes himself, again to “B”)—Where were we? What was it you wanted to know? Or wanted not to have known?—Ah, yes, what Café Lerch had to do with Operation Reinhard . . . Wait—here (takes a piece of paper, reads aloud)—Again, from a memorandum by Gruppenführer von Herff on his official tour of the General Government: “Sturmbannführer Lerch belongs to the coterie of Austrians that Gruppenführer Globočnik has gathered around himself—an old brother-in-arms and his man through thick and thin” . . . Globočnik, you know—Pardon? No, of course not, you never knew anything, didn’t hear anything—Globočnik, Lublin, the first and foremost National Socialist exaggeration artist . . .
—Here (picks up another piece of paper) Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, talking about Globočnik, after his visit; Hoess seems, as the host, to have been very annoyed . . . —“He was here to inspect the crematoria and the exterminations . . . But he was not in the least impressed.—His facilities were operating much faster than ours and he began throwing out numbers, of daily output and exterminations and goods delivered, into the billions . . . He exaggerated shamelessly and at every opportunity . . . He and only he could do it all on his own and do it the best . . . He wanted only to be in the lead, with his exterminations” . . . Weird, isn’t it, shop talk among mass murderers, mass murderers comparing themselves . . . (with a exaggerated gesture) He and only he . . . He alone! . . . (looks again at the piece of paper)
—Aha, another interesting passage: Hoess, after visiting Lublin in return, remarking on Globočnik’s staff, his “hardworking and ambitious colleagues,” including therefore Adjutant Lerch—(hesitates)—No, I can’t read that aloud, not here, not in this city, no, impossible. Hoess apparently had gotten the impression that all of them, invariably—Pardon? No, I can’t, I can’t read it aloud—That all of them without exception were—were—okay, very quietly, you didn’t hear anything, right?—that all of them without exception were—(whispering) were abortive existences . . . (still whispering) Abortive existences . . . Commandant of Auschwitz or not, that is outrageous . . . (in a normal voice) Outrageous! A café where, a little while later, both Udo Jürgens and Otto Retzer4 would get their start . . . ! True, Lerch outlived Hoess by almost forty years, but if they were both still alive, Hoess most certainly would have had a lawsuit on his hands. Outrageous, no one should have to put up with a thing like that . . . —Pardon? You’ve heard of Udo Jürgens, but the others—no, nothing? You’ve heard of none of these names, none of these places, none of these numbers, none of these details, you will have heard nothing, you want to have heard nothing?
(Different cadence, different tempo)
Belzec, on the Lublin-Lviv rail line, approximately six hundred thousand, fifteen thousand per day, max—never heard of it, have you?
Sobibor, on the Chełm-Włodawa line—approximately two hundred fifty thousand, twenty thousand per day—not that either? Or that in Sobibor a SIDE TRACK was in operation, a side track from the ramp into—into the other zone, in order to comfortably convey the non-gassable and those who had died during transport to the corpse pits—not that either, no?
(Cunningly) Then you likely will not have heard of the LAZARETTE in Treblinka . . . In Treblinka, the old, weak and sick, who were presumed unable to make the last leg of their journey down the PIPELINE, were immediately delivered to the LAZARETTE, the Treblinka Lazarette—a building façade with a Red Cross emblem on it, behind which was nothing but a grave for those to be executed by firing squad . . . Pardon? Treblinka, yes, near the main Warsaw-Białystok line, approximately eight hundred seventy thousand, peak output up to twenty five thousand a day—never heard of that either? Majdanek, on the outskirts of Lublin—up to a hundred thousand. No? Nothing? Never knew anything about it? Didn’t smell anything either?—Showers and disinfection chambers, women and children first—nothing?
(Quotations, spoken at different pitches)—Deep breaths, Lieutenant Wirth is said to have ordered at an internal demonstration. Deep breaths!—Quick breaths! You must breath quickly, these inhalations strengthen the lungs, they protect you against contagious diseases and are a good means of disinfection—Nothing in the least is going to happen to you . . . ! Deep breaths!—LIEUTENANT WIRTH, camp inspector, he too obsessed with the—task . . . (yelling, quoting)—I don’t give a damn what they have done with the shit in Sobibor! Wirth is said to have yelled, at Stangl’s suggestion that they place BUCKETS in the PIPELINE, which was to have proven helpful—I don’t give a damn, let them shit themselves, everything has to be cleaned up afterward anyway! Nothing? You smelled nothing? Never smelled anything?
—Pardon? What do the numbers mean, what’s the operation in question? That’s difficult to answer—it has to do with production, in a certain sense, the numbers are production numbers, it has to do with production and with—abstraction . . . with metamorphoses . . . with accumulation . . . (half to himself, half-joking)—But no longer by sword, instead by fire, only by fire . . . and air . . . and earth . . . Accumulation and private gain . . . Untenable conditions, like those in Treblinka, under Doctor Eberl . . . but Globočnik can’t be everywhere at once . . . Leaning against a barracks door in Treblinka, Globočnik ordered Commandant Eberl’s immediate dismissal, he’d take care of the rest from his office in Lublin.
(To “B”; reads aloud from—another—piece of paper)
—Here, from the final reckoning of Operation Reinhard: total sum in Reichsmark, one hundred seventy eight million, seven hundred forty five thousand, nine hundred sixty and forty six pfennig, of which: textiles at a value of forty six million, diamonds in the amount of sixteen thousand carats . . . Or, alternatively calculated, just for example, one hundred fourteen kilograms of pearls . . . one hundred and three thousand six hundred fourteen watches . . . twenty nine thousand three hundred ninety two pairs of glasses . . . three hundred fifty razors . . . Not bad, right? Three hundred fifty razors—that’s unbelievable!
—And? Still no idea?! No idea where the rest of the razors might possibly have wound up? None? Three hundred fifty razors, in the context of these balance sheets, it’s completely laughable! Almost one hundred seventy nine million Reichsmark total revenue, and of this, there are only three hundred fifty razors . . . Almost two million people, but only three hundred fifty of them brought along a razor? That I cannot believe, something here is amiss . . .
—Wasn’t there, unfortunately, not there either, always somewhere else, neither here nor there, missed out on everything . . .
(At the window) Joyful evenings of reprieve in the midst of needful times . . . Wartime winter settled over the land, for the fourth time now, to Café Lerch after the performance; the café owner, staff director Lerch, was perhaps home on leave, told us perhaps about his boss, about the scope of his duties in distant Lublin—told us – told?!—No, by no means told, not told, he will have told us nothing about his duties in Lublin, about his—um—administrative work, about his revered Globus . . . Told, ha! Told, for Himmler’s sake!—No, he will have kept silent; secret matters, secret matters of state, and far more secret still, the most secret of all, he will have kept silent as the grave, silent as a grave in the air . . . he will (changes his tone) have been at great pains to see nothing, to hear nothing, to see nothing and to hear nothing . . .
- Sonderbehandlung and Sonderkommando are euphemistic terms Nazi functionaries used in official documents related to the likewise euphemistic Final Solution: Sonderbehandlung, literally “special treatment,” refers to mass extermination; while Sonderkommando, literally “special unit,” refers to the Jewish camp inmates who were forced to assist in the murder and clean-up of fellow camp inmates.
- These Sondereinsatz institutes were the staging grounds for the so-called Final Solution, where euthanasia was practiced on the mentally ill and disabled.
- Himmel in German refers to heaven; Kofler often deploys the figure of Himmler, Hitler’s secretary, to travesty the image of a Nazi heaven on earth.
- Entertainers in postwar America