German theater asks guests to wear swastikas for Hitler play


BERLIN | A theater in southern Germany is proceeding with plans to open a satirical play Friday about Adolf Hitler’s youth in which some patrons will be wearing swastika armbands, despite objections and legal complaints.

The Konstanz Theater’s production of George Tabori’s “Mein Kampf ” opens Friday night for a monthlong run.

Though named after Hitler’s infamous anti-Semitic manifesto, the play tells a fictional story of how a young Hitler is befriended in Vienna by a Jewish man who takes pity on him for his futile pursuit of a career as an artist and puts him on his political path, as well as helping him with his hairstyle.

Tabori, who was born into a Jewish family in Budapest in 1914, was known for his avant-garde works that confronted anti-Semitism. He died in 2007. Though Tabori was able to flee the Nazis himself, his father and other family members were killed in the Auschwitz death camp.

His dark farce “Mein Kampf” has been performed many times, and was made into a German-language film a decade ago.

But in a twist introduced by the Konstanz Theater, patrons who agree to wear a swastika armband will be given free admittance, while those who purchase tickets will be asked to wear a Jewish Star of David.

Theater manager Christoph Nix says the point is to show how easily corruptible people are, and provoke dialogue about racism.

“The theater is the only place where such a discussion can take place immediately,” he told the dpa news agency.

The opening of the play is also on Hitler’s birthday, which Nix said was a wish of Tabori’s, who was a personal friend.

The display of the swastika is generally prohibited in Germany, though there are exceptions such as when it’s clearly part of an anti-Nazi protest, or where artistic freedom is involved.

Multiple people filed complaints with the Konstanz prosecutors over the theater making use of the armbands in its production, but they decided earlier this week that the concept fell under the expression of artistic freedom.

Still, the local German-Israeli Society and the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation have both called for a boycott of the production.

The theatre says about four dozen people have signed up to wear the swastika, meaning there will only be a handful at any of the play’s 14 performances.

The theater is also planning strict security checks at the entrance, and also as people exit to ensure that the armbands are returned.