Tom Stoppard’s Latest Play Is an Angry Masterpiece about Anti-Semitism

Best known to American audiences as the screenwriter of Shakespeare in Love, the celebrated British playwright Tom Stoppard was eighty-three when his most recent work premiered on London’s West End. Leopoldstadt tells the story of an extended Viennese Jewish family, and its members’ various Gentile spouses, during the first half of the 20th century. Jonathan Leaf reviews the play, which recently made its Broadway debut, praising it as a “remarkable drama.”

Leopoldstadt is a triumph of the playwriting art. It’s also a triumph of marketing. That’s because its advertising and publicity campaign has sold the public on the idea that it’s a multigenerational saga.

It is that, but only secondarily. To a much greater degree, it’s a ferociously angry Holocaust drama. . . . Although Leopoldstadt has moments of levity and even a brief bit of farce, it is darker and grimmer than past efforts to depict the Shoah such as Schindler’s List and Europa, Europa. Stoppard has said that he thinks the word play should convey the spirit of a stage presentation; a night at the theater ought to be fanciful and fun. But Leopoldstadt is as lighthearted as a sermon by Jonathan Edwards and as relaxed as a vacation to Putin’s Moscow.

The music foreshadows the dire fates due to befall but a few of those present. This hellishness will be visited not only upon the adults but also the children. One of these, fascinated as he is by soldiering, will die in the First World War. Another returns as a one-eyed amputee. Much worse, however, is to come, and in an epilogue set in 1955 we learn the despairing ends of those with whom we have just spent the past two-plus hours. In between, we see [one older family member] being humiliated by a scornful fin-de-siècle dragoon and Nazi officials forcing the various family members to kneel and beg that they may be permitted to go on a little longer before they are shipped off to Auschwitz in cattle cars.

The play’s title refers to Vienna’s old Jewish ghetto—Leopoldstadt—and the suggestion is that the ease and comfort its deracinated characters think they have attained outside it is illusory. They are no freer outside and in greater danger.

Read more at Acton Institute

More about: Anti-Semitism, Austrian Jewry, Holocaust, Theater

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security