Xinhaunet.com – April 23, 2012
Several dozens of high school students watching a play portraying the gruelling hardships of life in Vilna’s Jewish Ghetto during World War II applauded and cheered the Nazis, during Holocaust Remembrance Day last week.
During the play “Ghetto,” which was performed on Wednesday at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater before audiences from four high schools, some students disrupted the solemn tale by shouting catcalls at the actors, and cheered a Nazi who shot dead a Jew. Others called out “hit him harder” and “way to go” during a scene where a kapo beat a Jew, Army Radio reported Monday.
At the play’s conclusion, actor Oded Leopold called from the stage for the audience to halt their applause, and sharply chastised the students’ behavior.
“You embarrassed the Jewish people and the Holocaust,” Leopold said, adding “I hope what goes on in your heart is different from what came out of your mouths.”
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar called the students’ behavior ” a disgrace that pains the heart,” according to the Times of Israel.
Leopold told the Ma’ariv Hebrew daily that some of the actors burst into tears over the mocking interruptions.
“We cried because we were frustrated and offended,” due to the emotional toll of acting out Holocaust-related scenes, he told the newspaper.
The teachers chaperoning the students “didn’t lift a finger” to stop the outbursts, according to two of the actors, with one writing a letter to theater management criticizing Leopold’s on- stage remarks.
“Reactions from students are not in any way a disgrace to the Jewish people,” the letter read, although one principal said that “four of my students were removed by the teachers from the play,” Army radio said.
Cameri Educational Department Director Avi Kalma pointed out that this was the first such incident out of the thousands of students that had seen the play, whose performance is regularly performed on the solemn day commemorating the deaths of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis.
“Ghetto,” premiered in Hebrew in 1984. The award-winning play has been performed worldwide.