Arthur Miller’s Forgotten Play about the Holocaust

Incident at Vichy, first staged in 1965, is a one-act play set in a Nazi detention center in France. Most of the action is in the form of conversations among detainees awaiting interrogation. Maxim Shrayer argues for the play’s enduring worth:

Incident at Vichy is . . . often discussed in the context of Miller’s response to the [1961] Eichmann trial and its coverage by Hannah Arendt [in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil]. One third into the play, [the Austrian prince] von Berg says to [the Jewish doctor] Leduc: “Well, don’t you think Nazism . . . whatever else it may be . . . is an outburst of vulgarity? An ocean of vulgarity?”. . .

Yet Miller didn’t merely cast onto his play the shadows of Arendt’s discourse on the “banality of evil.” The dynamics of Incident at Vichy—especially of von Berg’s transition from a guilt-tormented bystander to an incidental rescuer—dramatically complicate Arendt’s thesis. While the play alleges that Nazi evil has its own banal music and its own cardboard-operatic complexity, it shows that personal sacrifice as a response to evil can never be banal. . . . If every person of conscience were to make one act of personal sacrifice, how many victims of genocide might have been saved? To have said this, loud and clear, in 1965 was no small feat for any American playwright, Jewish or not.

After years of teaching and thinking about Shoah literature, I have come to value this play above all of Arthur Miller’s, including Death of a Salesman. . . . But I wouldn’t be writing this tribute today were it not for the profound impression the play made on me when I first saw it in the spring of 1987 in Moscow, my native city. When I saw it then, I was a nineteen-year-old refusenik finally preparing to leave Russia. While I had experienced firsthand both the banality and the complexity of evil, I hadn’t heard of Arendt and was, in some sense, a perfect tabula rasa to take Miller’s play on its own terms.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arthur Miller, Arts & Culture, Hannah Arendt, Holocaust, Holocaust fiction, Theater, Vichy France

 

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority