Treblinka Café

Pardon? About what will he have kept silent, about what will he have wanted to know nothing? You still don’t understand?

—Here, I will show you, with my slide projector . . . one moment . . .

(Fiddles with the slide projector, a deportation photo appears)
Here: Before

(Slide change: empty gas chamber—Majdanek)

(Slide change: another deportation photo)

(Slide change: gas chamber)

(Slide change: deportation train)

(Slide change: grass)
After—Do you understand?

(Slide change: gas chamber)
Or here: Before

(Slide change: empty, snow-covered winter landscape (detail))

(Slide change: gas chamber or crematorium, chimney)

(Slide change: snow)
And after . . . Do you understand now?

What are you saying?!—Snow, you say, yesterday’s snow, snow from the last millennium?—What, past its expiration, dead knowledge?! (Increasingly horrified) Dead knowledge, snow from the last millennium? Harry Piel, am I hearing you right? Treblinka Harry Piel, Sobibor Harry Piel, the lot of it Harry Piel?! The Lublin Operation Harry Piel, do you want to annihilate me?

Oh, now you take it back? Not Harry Piel, beach volleyball instead? The lot of it, beach volleyball?—Beach volleyball1 . . . (getting lost in his thoughts, darker now) Sports . . . races . . . boxing matches . . . In Treblinka, too—Sporting events, organized by acting camp commandant Kurt Franz . . . Competitions decided only by the death of the loser . . . You say Harry Piel, I say Kurt Franz . . . This commandant, by the way, had a dog trained to tear people to shreds, starting at the genitals . . . Kurt Franz, a trained chef . . .  He saw to it that not much more was left of Treblinka than a photo album of his bearing the inscription GOOD TIMES, which was discovered in his kitchen following his incidental arrest in the late 1950s . . . But beware, this Kurt Franz, pardoned long ago, may still linger among the living . . . Perhaps somewhere in Germany right now he’s warming up his blood sausage, cooking himself some soup, and musing: Buchenwald, Treblinka, Trieste, but above all Treblinka—GOOD TIMES . . .

But you’re betting on the FUTURE, the millennium, you say? The third millennium? (collected now, calm) The millennium, bullshit; as long as The Land of Smiles continues to be performed, the turn of the century has yet to take place . . . The future, pshh, there’s nothing stupider than the future, the future is stupidity itself . . . Only idiots like you bet on the future, I bet on the future perfect: You will not have known anything, you will have wanted to hear nothing . . .

But have a seat . . . Why Harry Piel? Why not SA-Man Brand or Hitler Youth Quex2?—Wait (looks through the slide projector for a still from the film)—Here, me as an SA-man, you as Hitler Youth Quex, we’d probably get along quite well . . . who, if not us . . . (advances toward “B” in a suggestive manner) You surely know—no, of course you don’t know, nevertheless—the one film is called SA-Man Brand because the Hitler Youth Quex from the other film had to blow SA-Man Brand so hard that his dick was branded with blisters. . . Nice, right? SA, Sturmabteilung, you know, by now you know Franz Pfeffer von Salomon . . . What? What do you mean, never heard of him?—Listen, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, SA, you must have heard of him, right? Ernst Röhm, the fat-ass, Chief of Staff, the Night of the Long Knives, the Visconti film, Helmut Berger, never heard of them? Comrade Sepp, what are you doing, last words, Munich, Stadelheim Prison, no?—But KRISTALLNACHT (imploring, beseeching) Kristallnacht you’ll have remembered, Kristallnacht, Reichskristallnacht, SA—nothing? Really, nothing at all? Never hea—

(After the cue Reichskristallnacht and the first word from B—an eruptive NO!!!—light on B, who—deus ex machina—leaps from his chair, as A disappears into the half-light, from which he does not emerge again, though he can still be assumed to be onstage—“A”); a change in style and tempo, FURIOSO, rebuttal, DESTRUCTION (little by little, of the stage layout, equipment, the subject matter, the language, the structure of the play, the scene, the “illusion” and so on):

B moves back and forth “like a madman,” knocking into chairs and table legs, throwing papers into the air, sweeping them off the table, throwing small props at the projection screen; each collision is accompanied by the sound of SHATTERING GLASS (simulated! not realistic!).

—The reverberations are occasionally powerful enough to cause The Magic Flute CD or record to skip as if out of fear and to stick in the same groove—on Monostatos’s aria “Everything feels the joys of love”—at high tempo—or, alternately, on the Queen of the Night’s “Hell’s vengeance” (the orchestral bars preceding the line “Disowned may you be forever”—above all when B “attacks” or when, after a pause (a change in rhythm), he starts in again with the same (“—even if—even if—”)).

—The simulated acoustics should, in short, sound as if B were breaking everything to pieces.

B (leaping suddenly from his seat in the half-light and beginning to pace back and forth, in changing rhythm, though faster than “A”)
NO, never heard of it!
Heard nothing, no!
No, and again, no!
Never heard of it—Kristallnacht!

(Runs into a table or chair—the sound of breaking glass, simulated as if B has run into a department store window)
Kristallnacht—never heard of it!
SA—never heard of it!
Never heard of the SA!
Nothing, no!
Nothing, never heard of it!
Not familiar!
Not familiar, knew nothing!
SA, not familiar!
Storm Battalion, Field Marshal’s Hall—no, never heard of it!
Pfeffer von Salomon—nothing!
Comrade Sepp, what are you doing—nothing, no!
Ernst Röhm—no! Sepp Dietrich—nothing!
Nothing, never heard of it!
The Night of the Long Knives—so?
Visconti, Helmut Berger—so? And?

Raise high the flag—never heard of it!

Raise high the flag, stand rank on rank—not familiar, none of it!
The Friedländer Department Store—never heard of it, ever!
Kristallnacht no!
No, and again, no!

(Crashes into something else—shattering glass)
Heard nothing!
Heard nothing, knew nothing.
Heard nothing—knew nothing; it’s that simple.

(A different intonation, rhythm, somewhat softer)
Friedländer Department Store
Wartime winter
Longing for a leader
Winter Relief
Wartime Winter Magic Flute

Winter Relief
Wartime Winter Magic Flute
(Imitating “A” at the window)
—Marvelous evenings . . . wartime winter settled over the land . . . brilliant premiers in early December . . . Cock-sure Fritz Fischer as Monostatos –

(Again ferocious)
It’s all theater!
The Wartime Winter Magic Flute—theater!
The marvelous evenings—nothing but theater!
Winter Relief, longing for a leader—theater!
Friedländer Department Store—theater!
Nothing but theater!
And what a theater!
Friedländer—why all the theater?
Kristallnacht—why all the theater?
Wartime Winter Magic Flute—what a theater, but why?
Why make such a theater?
Theater about The Magic Flute, about Kristallnacht, why?
Wartime winter, Winter Relief, The Magic Flute—not familiar!

Longing for a leader, never heard of it!
Kristallnacht—nothing, never heard of it!
Heard nothing.
No, knew nothing, heard nothing, not familiar, none of it familiar, never heard, never knew,
but—even if
even if
if so
if so
never knew—but—even if
never heard—but—even if
not familiar—but—even if
heard nothing—even if
knew nothing—even if
even if
even if
even if I’d known
even if I’d heard
even if this were familiar
even if
even if, then
no more!
Even if, then
never again!

In the future
no more!
In the future
never again!
In the future, therefore now,
no more!
In the future, therefore now,
never again!
(Throws or crashes into something—shattering glass)
Heard nothing, heard everything—so?
Knew nothing, knew everything—so what?
Yes, heard it all, but
can’t hear it anymore!
Yes, knew it all, but
don’t want to have known any longer!
Knew it all, but
don’t want to know it anymore!
Heard it all, but
can’t hear it anymore!
Hear nothing, see nothing!
Can’t hear any more
about those who
wanted to have heard nothing!
Don’t want to know any more
about those who
will have seen nothing!
Date’s expired!
Expiration date is past!
The café is closed!
Café closed!

(Change in tone, rhythm)
—Font of Life,
Death’s Head Squadrons—
Reich Main Security Office—
SS Security Police, Café Lerch—
Doctor Ernst Kaltenbrunner—
sorry, who?
Hanns Albin Rauter—
who, again?
Doctor Irmfried Eberl—
who, again?
Reinhard Heydrich—
sorry, who?
—No, not familiar.
No, there is no known
Reinhard Heydrich here.
No, there is no known
Doctor Eberl, Irmfried here.
No, there is no known
Hanns Albin Rauter here.
No, there is no known
Herr Doctor Kaltenbrunner here.
Yes indeed, one Doctor Kaltenbrunner
is unknown to us.
Yes indeed, one Hanns Albin Rauter
is unknown to us.
Yes indeed, one Doctor Irmfried Eberl
is unknown to us.
Yes indeed, one Reinhard Heydrich
is unknown to us.

  1. Since the late 1990s, Klagenfurt’s Wörthersee has been host to the International Federation of Volleyball world championships.
  2. SA-Mann Brand was a film made in support of Hitler’s election in 1933; it tells the story of Fritz Brand joining the SA to fight the communist threat. Hitlerjunge Quex is another anti-communist propaganda film from 1933, in which the protagonist rejects and denounces his father.