Brats-Laurel and Hardy were so ahead of their time.

brats

I know I have written about Laurel and Hardy before but now with the biopic of their lives in cinemas across the world, I was reminded how brilliant they were.

Unlike their contemporaries like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy’s humor stayed fresh and still appeals to audiences nowadays.

Perhaps this is because they were so ahead of their time. Not only in cinematographic technical aspects but also in modern social settings. Nothing illustrates this more then the movie Brats.

The short movie is about 2 dads playing  checkers and snooker, minding their children, while the wife are out on the town.Just think about that for a minute,today that would not be a big deal, but in 1930 it most definitely was.

Even when you look at the special effects, Laurel and Hardy not only play the dads but also the boys they are minding. Using  over-sized props to give the impression of kids into everything from a bathtub to a wooden chest of drawers. Each room of the house was re-created on a  large scale to achieve the effect of both duos being in the same house.

The movie is only 23 minutes long but it has so many hilarious scenes. I must have seen it 100s of times but it never bores me.

Ending up with my favourite line from the movie” You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led”

 

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Making fun of Hitler-Mocking the Führer

Capturefunny walkOne of the most effective weapons during WWII, and indeed nearly every war, was propaganda.

Where the Nazis mostly used their propaganda to incite fear and hate, the allies and especially the Brits sometimes adopted a different approach. They’d often used humour and satire in order to ridicule the Nazis and their beloved leader Hitler.

in August 1939  Toby O’Brien, an Anglo-Irish journalist  and publicist for the British Council at the time, wrote the song  “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball” Initially it was called  “Göring has only got one ball”, referring to Göring’s groin injury he suffered during the Beer Hall Putsch, the song also implied that Hitler had two small ones. In nearly all later versions, the positions were reversed.

Putsch

The song was sung to the tune of “Colonel Bogey March” unfortunately I could not find any good versions of the song, but below are  the lyrics of 2 different versions of the song followed by the music of Colonel Bogey March, so lets make this an interactive blog where you can sing the song to the music yourselves.

“Göring has only got one ball
Hitler’s are so very small
Himmler’s so very similar
And Goebbels has no balls at all”

“Hitler has only got one ball
Göring has two but very small
Himmler is rather sim’lar
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all”

 

A British Government propaganda parody film  was produced in December 1942 which was aimed to mock  the Nazis

It worked ,Joseph Goebbels was furious after seeing the film ,so much so that he reportedly ran out of the room kicking a chair and screaming profanities.

The video uses scenes from  the 1934 German propaganda film ‘Triumph of the Will’ and is re-edited to make it  appear comically  as if Nazi troops and Hitler are doing the Lambeth Walk dance.

Dance

The “Lambeth Walk” was a popular dance craze in the U.S. and the U.K. in the late 1930s. The song, from the musical Me and My Girl, referred to a street in a Cockney district in London. Dancers strode back and forth, punctuating their “walk” with high kicks and broad gestures.

The video, entitled ‘ Lambeth Walk-Nazi Style’, was produced by Leslie Winik and edited by a British Ministry of Information official Charles A. Ridley and was screened in cinemas all across the UK.It is probably the world’s first parody video.

 

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Humour in WWII

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Despite all the horrors of WWII there was still room for humour, satire and a healthy dose of sarcasm during WWII.

Although sometimes the price to pay for a joke could be quite high. In this blog just examples  some WWII jokes and the consequences for some of them, and ways how people coped with the war in a humorous way.

I am not sure if this one originates from WWII but I believe it does.

“Why do french tanks have rear view mirrors? To see the battlefield”

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21st November 1940: Wally’s barber shop, St Martin Street has defiant signs outside after losing its windows during the London blitz.

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A British shopkeeper hanging up a sign during the Blitz which reads, “Business as usual Mr. Hitler.” London, England – 1940

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Although the Nazis didn’t feel that jokes necessarily undermined their regime there were times people were punished severely by telling jokes, especially when Hitler was the butt of the joke.

“The true Aryan is as blond as Hitler, as slim as Göring and as tall as Goebbels” Many  German jokes centered  on the vanity and human weaknesses of the Nazi leadership , not so much on the fact that they were evil killers.

“An adjutant bursts into Görings office: “The Reichstag is on fire!!”. Göring checks his watch and says: “What, already?” The Germans had their suspicions that the Nazis were behind the Reichstag fire.

“Hitler and Göring are standing atop the Berlin radio tower. Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on Berliners’ faces. So Göring says: “Why don’t you jump?”

A factory worker, known as Marianne K., was executed for telling this joke. Her husband had been killed in Stalingrad.

Jump

Humorous propaganda poster

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April Fool’s Day in WWII

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Although the world was going through one of the darkest era’s in its existence , there was still a sense of humour prevailing. For many it was this sense of humour which was all that remained of their humanity.

Below are some examples of April Fool#s day hoaxes during WWII.

On April 1 1943

The Kingsport Times (of Kingsport, Tennessee) ran a photo on its front page of what it said was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s “escape ship,” spotted going down the local Holston River. It said the ship had entered the Holston River by way of the Gulf of Mexico.1943rommel_lg

“ROMMEL RUNS UP REEDY CREEK — In the absence of the Tennessee State Guard from Kingsport due to training at Camp Forrest, a hurry-up call was placed today for the Piney Flats Regulars and the Bays Mountain Reserves to rush to Kingsport to prevent Field Marshal Rommel’s escape ship, seen here going down the Holston River, from using Reedy Creek as an “escape corridor.” The escape ship from Tunisia was reported to have entered the Holston River by way of the Gulf of Mexico. Now turn the paper upside down for the rest of the story.

(upside-down text:)
We’re sorry, it wasn’t Reedy Creek after all. It was salt river — and we ain’t fooling on that last — even though it is April Fool Day.”

 

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Here is what the Kingsport Times’ photographer, Ronnie Ezell, claims is the prize picture of the year (well, day anyway). He says this plane sliced the steeple at the First Presbyterian Church and despite the condition of the airplane’s wing fluttered off in the direction of Gate City. (Or maybe the photographer said he was the one who had just fluttered in from Gate City.)” [Kingsport Times (Tennessee) – Apr 1, 1942]

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“Fun-loving Americans spend about $8,000,000 a year on tricky gadgets which make good fun on April Fool’s Day. Here are a few you should watch out for this year: Plate Lifter — Your blueplate gets a bouncing wanderlust; Hot Salt — It comes out pepper; Inseparable Saucer — Sticks to cup; Tough Doughnut — A rubber sinker; Dribble Glass — April showers.” [AP Features April 1 1944]

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Radio-Craft magazine, in an article credited to Grego Banshuk, announced what it declared was “the biggest development in television up to now” — the Visie-Talkie. It was a portable television handset. In other words, a handheld videophone.

Banshuk explained that the device had been made possible by the invention of “non-scanning television” technology, which involved “thousands of fine wires… bunched very close together.”

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The humour of Laurel and Hardy

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Today is the 53 rd anniversary of the passing away of Stan Laurel, time to look back at some of the wonderful and funny moments he and his ‘Partner in Crime’ delivered for our entertainment.

The power of the humour of Laurel and Hardy is that it did not date, it is still as fresh today as it was then.

Here are just some of their classic lines, very dry but very funny.

From ‘Another Fine Mess’

Ollie “Call me a Cab” Stan “Huh” Ollie “Call me a Cab” Stan “You’re a Cab”

L&H portrait 1929 Derby Pose

From Sons of the Desert

Ollie: You’d better take my temperature….. get that thermometer.
Stan: The what?
Ollie: Thermometer! You’ll find it on the shelf.
(Stan places the thermometer into Ollie’s mouth and starts to take his pulse)
Ollie: What does it say?
Stan: Wet and windy.

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From Way out West.

Lady “What did he die off” Stan ” I think he died of a Tuesday”

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From Brats

Stan “You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led.”

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Mein Krampf- Laughing away the Holocaust.

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I am staring off by saying I know I will be getting angry comments, saying how disrespectful  I am. How do I know this?

I did post a blog before with the title “Holocaust and Humour” after I published it,a lot of people complained and even called it disgusting, When I asked if they read the blog the all said “no” they had only seen the title and that was enough, But each of them came back and praised the blog after reading it.

For this blog it will probably be the same, some will see the title(not even realizing that it starts with Mein Krampf-My Cramp- rather then Mein Kampf)

I can assure you nothing in this blog will be disrespectful in fact the opposite will be true.

Even in the darkest of times many holocaust victims were able to resort to humour as a coping mechanism to deal with the horrors that surrounded them on a daily basis

In the ghettoes, Hitler’s  self proclaimed “masterpiece” was referred to as Mein Krampf (My Cramp).His theory of the “Master Race” was the subject of many jokes. Following are a few of them.

“There are two kinds of Aryan, Non Aryan and Barb-Aryan”

“Aryan, blond like Hitler, slender like Goering and tall like Goebbels”

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The following jokes were heard in the Ghettoes, however I don’t know by whom, But they were recalled by survivors after the war.

“A young boy was asked in the Warsaw Ghetto. What would you like most of all if you were Hitler’s son?

He answered: “to be orphaned.”

“Hitler visits an astrologer  and asked Am I going to lose the war?”
“Yes,” the astrologer said.Then, am I going to die?” Hitler asked.
“Yes.”
“When am I going to die?”“On a Jewish holiday.”
“But on what holiday?”
“Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday.”

Peter Lorre, the famous actor who played the  murderous villain in the Fritz Lang directed movie M in 1931. He resided in Vienna and  was invited by Goebbels to come to Berlin, Goebbels was not aware Lorre was Jewish. Lorre friendly declined the offer and replied. “There isn’t room in Germany for two murderers like Hitler and me.”

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Anyone who mocked the Nazi regime would face harsh punishment, including the death penalty. A young Catholic priest Josef Müller, made a joke and was executed for it.

Müller was arrested after repeating a satirical joke about a dying German Wehrmacht soldier  on his deathbed, who asked a  nurse  to lay a portrait of Hitler on his one side, a portrait of Göring on the other. Then, he gasped: “Now I can die like Jesus Christ. between two thieves” Müller was interrogated and temporarily taken into custody on 6 September 1943 under charges of comparing Hitler and Göring with the two criminals crucified alongside Jesus Christ.

The indictment against Müller called this joke “one of the most vile and most dangerous attacks directed on our confidence in our Führer. . . . It is a betrayal of the people, the Führer, and the Reich. Although he was interrogated and tortured several times he would not divulge where he got the joke from. He was executed by guillotine n September 11 1944.

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Auschwitz survivor Emil Fackenheim simply said “We kept our morale through humour”

 

In the summer of 1943 a satire was performed in Dachau concentration camp. The play lasted for several weeks.The main character was Count Adolar, a thinly disguised Hitler, The satire was written by Rudolf Kalmar.

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He survived the camp and became a popular actor in East Germany after the war. Another survivor, described the effect of this satire on the camp inmates: “Many of them, who sat behind the rows of the SS each night and laughed with a full heart, didn’t experience the day of freedom. But most among them took from this demonstration strength to endure their situation. . . . They had the certainty, as they lay that night on their wooden bunks: We have done something that gives strength to our comrades. We have made the Nazis look ridiculous.

 

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Corporal Mel Brooks

Mel

“I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering.” — Mel Brooks

By far one of the funniest people on earth,Mel Brooks, born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn in 1926.

I won’t go into his life as Comedian,Director.Actor,Producer and Singer because I’d be here forever. In this blog my focus is on his role in WWII.

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Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926 as Melvin Kaminsky to Jewish parents from Germany and Ukraine. Brooks lost his father when he was two years old, and in retrospect, reflects on that event as the genesis for his farcical comedy style: “I’m sure a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility. Growing up in Williamsburg, I learned to clothe it in comedy to spare myself problems – like a punch in the face.”

Before he could complete his degree in psychology from Brooklyn College, Brooks was drafted into the Army to fight during World War II. He served as a corporal in the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion, 78th Infantry Division as a combat engineer.The 1104th had been activated in March 1943 and landed in Normandy on 11 June 1944. It advanced with the Allied forces through France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and entered German downloadOne of his tasks during the war was to defuse land mines, and he also fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

It has been reported that when the Germans played propaganda recordings over loudspeakers, Brooks responded by setting up his own sound system and played music by Al Jolson, a Jewish musician.

I would have loved to see the reaction of the Nazis as the music of Al Jolson was blaring away. I don’t know what songs Mel Brooks picked to play but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was “The Jazz Singer” a double whammy a Jewish singer singing the music Hitler hated most.

Even at war he had a sense of humour. Mel Brooks a Hero in the truest sense of the word. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Mel Brooks Jeep

 

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The lesser dark days of WWII

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Without a shadow of a doubt World War II was the darkest and most devastating era in history of mankind. But even in those dark days there was still some time for a bit of humour.

The picture above is a letter addressed to Adolf Hitler, it’s basically saying what the author thinks about Hitler. It was written by a US soldier, unfortunately I don’t have a name(thanks to Norman Stone for sending it to me)

The two men in this photograph are Technical Sergeant William E. Thomas and Private First Class Joseph Jackson of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, but at the time of the photograph were part of the 969th Artillery Battalion. Scrawling such messages on artillery shells in World War II was one way in which artillery soldiers could humorously express their dislike of the enemy.

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The short-barreled version of the Thompson was Winston’s personal favorite weapon of all time. He looks like a gangster from an old Hollywood movie. This photo was taken during in during an inspection of invasion defenses near Hartlepool, on July 21, 1940.

Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun during an inspection near Harlepool, 1940

Soldiers of the British, American and Russian armies mimic and mock Adolf Hitler and his ideas on Hitler’s famous balcony at the Chancellery in conquered Berlin.

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April Fools day pranks during WWII

 

Calendar of Fools dayAlthough the world was going through one of the darkest era’s in its existence , there was still a sense of humour prevailing. For many it was this sense of humour which was all that remained of their humanity.

Black Bombers    (April Fool’s Day – 1941)

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The Elkhart Daily Truth detailed a plan to create a protective air fleet for Indiana at low cost by attaching miniature, eight-ounce bombs to 25,000 crows, which would be trained to release the bombs on the enemy. The report included a photograph of one of the “Black Bombers.” The “bomb” in the picture was really a salt shaker, and the crow was stuffed.

Although the crow bombers were an April Fool’s day joke, there really was a plan developed and tested by the U.S. military during World War II to create “bat bombs” by strapping incendiary devices to bats, and then dropping the bats on Japanese cities.

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Rue Maurice Thorez    (April Fool’s Day – 1941)

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The Vichy government in France arrested 13 people on the charge of participating in a “Communist April Fool day plot” to rename streets in Marseille after the exiled Communist leader Maurice Thorez.

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The police made the arrests after finding a large quantity of signs reading “Maurice Thorez Street” (or “Rue Maurice Thorez”) designed to be placed over the regular street signs in the city.

April Fool Fun Rationed    (April Fool’s Day – 1943)

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The Associated Press reported that the Society for the Preservation of Practical Jokers had issued an advisory to its members warning them that “in view of the war’s restrictions on what some fools consider fun” practical jokers should proceed with caution “otherwise, there might be casualties.”

“Don’t put any bricks under old hats on the sidewalk, for passing pedestrians to kick. It’s sabotage— shoes are rationed.

Don’t use that old wallet-on-a-string trick. If the sucker bends over to pick it up, he may bust his suspenders. Rubber elastic is scarce.

Don’t put salt in the sugar bowl. One cup of coffee ruined by a spoonful of salt is considered grounds for justifiable homicide.

Don’t let the air out of your neighbor’s tires—unless you’ve made your will.

Don’t drain his gasoline out on the ground. Not a lawyer in the country would dare touch your case.

Don’t sneak into an Army camp with a bugle and blow reveille an hour early. Tearing you limb from limb would expend valuable military energy.

Above all, don’t jump up and surprise your acquaintances shouting: “heil Hitler!”

They may not know what day it is—and there’s enough absenteeism without taking time out to attend fools’ funerals.

P.S.—April Fool! There’s no such thing as a Society for the Preservation of Practical Jokers.”

Nazis in Times Square    (April Fool’s Day – 1944)

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“When Goebbels, Hess, Hitler and Goering, suitcases in hand, marched through Times Square in New York, pedestrians ignored them. But then, maybe it’s because on closer inspection, they look suspiciously like Alexander Pope, Victor Varconi, Robert Watson and Martin Kosleck, as they appear in the movie, ‘The Hitler Gang,’ and if you’ll look at the calendar you’ll see it’s April First.” [The Ogden Standard-Examiner – Apr 1, 1944]The-Hitler-Gang-Poster

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Max Ehrlich-Told to be funny or be shot.

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Max Ehrlich (1892-1944) was one of the most celebrated actors and directors on the German comedy and cabaret scene of the 1930s. But his brilliant career was brutally interrupted by the rise of Nazism and his resulting deportation in 1942 to Westerbork concentration camp in Holland. Amazingly, there behind the walls and barbed wire, Max Ehrlich formed a theater troupe composed of fellow prisoners – the majority of them also famous Jewish show business personalities – and produced high quality musical and comedy revues. This artistic activity provided the means for everyone concerned, audience and actors alike, to retain a small measure of humanity, free their minds – if only momentarily – from the tragedy of daily life and nourish the illusion of survival. But, in the end, comedy did not prevail: like almost all of his colleagues from this theater of despair, in 1944 Max Ehrlich was transported to Auschwitz and gassed.

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Born on 25 November 1892, Max Ehrlich began his career as a stage actor in the 1920s, quickly building a reputation as a vital force on the Berlin cabaret scene. A popular parodist and poet, he performed with many other Jewish and leftist artists during the Weimar years.  However, like most of his fellow performers, his work was largely apolitical or only subtly critical.  Ehrlich also became a successful movie actor, with more than forty movie credits to his name by the time the Nazi take-over in 1933 abruptly ended his career.

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Max Ehrlich took part in over 40 movies and directed ten of it in his career. He published several records and wrote the book “From Adalbert to Zilzer”, in which he wrote humorous stories and anecdotes about many of his colleagues.

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With most performance venues either shut down or prohibited to him, that year he decided to assess the scene in Austria.  However, in Vienna as in Berlin, Nazis harassed him while he was on stage, ultimately making his act impossible.  Reluctantly he moved through Switzerland on to the Nerherlands, where he was already well-known as a touring comedian and cabaret star.  (German cabaret was popular in continental Europe during the inter-war years).  After two years touring Amsterdam, Zurich and Bern with other émigré artists, however, homesickness and the hope that things would get better drove him back to Berlin.

In 1935, Ehrlich returned to Nazi Germany. Jewish entertainers once again were permitted to perform there but only within the framework of the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Union) and exclusively in front of Jewish audiences.

In 1937 he left Germany and with the help of Ernst Lubitsch he went to the USA.

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Unfortunately he was not able to get work there, so he made the fatal decision to return to Europe

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Ehrlich was named director of the Kulturbund’s light theatre departments. However, following the 1938 pogrom “Kristallnacht,” he decided to leave Germany definitively.

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Both of his farewell performances immediately sold out, so that a third presentation on 2 April 1939 was added. Here, in front of a full house of fans, calling out their affection and encouragement, Ehrlich made his final appearance in Germany.

Subsequently, he returned to the Netherlands once again and joined Willy Rosen’s “Theater der Prominenten” (Theatre of Celebrities),

 

 

 

until in 1943 ,like so many of his colleagues– Ehrlich was imprisoned in the Westerbork concentration camp. While at Westerbork, he created and became director of the “Camp Westerbork Theatre Group,” a cabaret troupe that during its eighteen-month existence staged six major theatre productions, all within the concentration camp’s confines. A majority of the actors were famous Jewish show business personalities; prominent artists from Berlin and Vienna, such as Willy Rosen, Erich Ziegler, Camilla Spira, and Kurt Gerron; or well known Dutch performers, like Esther Philipse, Jetty Cantor, and Johnny & Jones. At its high point, the group counted fifty-one members, including a full team of musicians, dancers, choreographers, artists, tailors, and make-up, lighting, and other technicians, as well as stage hands.

Most of the shows combined elements of revue and cabaret –songs and sketches– but, on one occasion, the program included a revue-operetta, Ludmilla, or Corpses Everywhere—a production whose theme sadly was a premonition of the actors’ and other prisoners’ fate. While some scenes were implicitly critical, of course, the Theatre Group at no time produced openly political cabaret or directly attacked the Nazi regime.

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To do so would have violated the most fundamental condition for the troupe’s and its members’ survival, as life in Westerbork was dominated by the persistent threat of deportation on the next transport to an unknown but deeply feared fate in the East. So, standing helplessly and unaided before the fascists’ executioners and their lackeys, the Theatre Group, of necessity, limited itself to entertaining its audiences and to momentarily distracting them from the surrounding horrors. But in so doing, it also gave their captive audiences renewed hope and the courage to face an otherwise unbearable existence.

Doubtlessly, this artistic activity provided the means for everyone concerned, audiences and actors alike, to retain a small measure of humanity, free their minds –if only momentarily– from the tragedy of daily life and nourish the illusion of survival.

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During the summer of 1944, increasing numbers of transports carried Westerbork’s prisoners to the extermination camps in the East. Of 104,000 camp inmates, fewer than 5,000 survived. In the last transport to leave Westerbork, on 4 September 1944, Ehrlich was number 151 on the list of victims. Eyewitnesses recount that, after reaching Auschwitz, he was recognized by a Hauptsturmführer. As a result, Ehrlich was subjected to additional torture: brought before a group of SS officers holding their loaded guns aimed at him, he was ordered to tell jokes. On 1 October 1944, Ehrlich was murdered in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

 

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