Survivor consumed by guilt

2nd June 1995 at 01:00
On Holocaust Memorial Day this spring a group of mainly Caribbean and Asian students from Newham College, London, watched a play about the holocaust.

Though far removed from those events in Europe more than 50 years ago, the students sat in concentrated silence during the show and, in the workshop and discussion that followed, showed that what they didn't know about the attempted destruction of European Jewry they more than compensated for in their knowledge of race hatred. Three weeks earlier, a black student had been murdered on college grounds.

Unmask Theatre Company's Double Jeopardy tells the story of Eva, a concentration camp survivor from 1944 to 1994. Recently she has given testimony against a suspected war criminal, the former SS officer in charge of her camp. The case is dropped because of insufficient evidence. Eva's story, told to her grand daughter, moves from the introduction of the anti-semitic laws in German occupied countries to the ghettoes, to the barbaric conditions of the camps.

Her guilt at surviving - she did paintings for Herr Braun in exchange for extra food - consumes her. Unmask's raison d'etre goes beyond the obvious telling of the story of a camp survivor. Through their workshop and 100 page resource pack aimed at Years 10 and 11, they aim to explore the holocaust as a means of challenging racism and prejudice today. Their strength is that they avoid emotionalism and polemic, allowing audiences to reflect on parallels closer to home. And for that this project must be applauded.

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