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 Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security