Sometimes people come up with ideas that are just so mind-bogglingly inappropriate that I have a hard time grasping them. Case in point, recently Polish authorities granted permission by a local theater group to perform Jesus Christ Superstar at an old Nazi death camp:
POLISH authorities have withdrawn permission for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar to be performed at Majdanek, the former Nazi concentration camp, after protests by Jewish groups.
The Culture Ministry and the camp’s management today said the performance by a local Polish theatre group could not go ahead.
“The play was to break down barriers between people, but it turns out that it only creates them,” the state press agency PAP quoted camp museum director Edward Balawejder as saying.
“With regret I have to refuse to give permission to use Majdanek for presentation of this spectacle.”
The plan to stage the play at the former camp in eastern Poland had gained the approval of a group representing former Majdanek prisoners.
But the Anti-Defamation League, a US-based Jewish group, said earlier this week it was appalled by the plan to stage the musical at Majdanek and appealed to the organisers to move it.
Majdanek was the second largest combined concentration/death camp after Auschwitz and located approximately 2.5 miles outside of the Polish city of Lublin. Raul Hilberg estimated the death toll to have been approximately 300,000, with over 50% dying of disease and intentional overwork, although more recent figures place the death toll at under 100,000. Majdanek was the only other death camp that used Zyklon-B in its gas chambers (Auschwitz being the other). The brutality in this camp directed at those kept alive for slave labor was on par with the worst of other Nazi camps.
Balawejder was also quoted as saying:
“It was not a good idea. It did not take into consideration the relations between Christianity and Judaism,” Balawejder told the Associated Press. “I decided that there will be no performance because we must stick to the message of the museum, which is truth, memory, reconciliation.”
“It was not a good idea”?
Now there’s an understatement!
Jesus Christ Superstar is essentially a modern, jazzed-up Passion Play with a rock soundtrack. It’s not surprising that Jews would be offended by putting on this play in one of the instruments of Hitler’s Final Solution. There are only two differences between putting on a production of Jesus Christ Superstar and showing Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ: (1) Jesus Christ Superstar is a lot less violent and (2) Jesus Christ Superstar, offends not only Jews (who are portrayed for the most part as the villains, particularly Caiphus, as in most Passion Plays) but fundamentalist Christians as well, with its implying a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, its portrayal of Judas as a sympathetic doomed figure, and its failure to show the resurrection of Jesus. (Personally, I’ve always rather liked the play, particularly the soundtrack.)
If you wanted to piss off both Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and conservative Catholics (remember, Poland is an overwhelmingly Catholic nation), it’s hard to imagine a much better way to do it than staging a production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the site of Majdanek, unless the producers had chosen Auschwitz itself.