Fact Fused With Fiction

I’ve found it difficult to write about THE HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY at the risk of spoilers. But when I came across this article, I just had to share.

OKAY–IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE PLAY, THEN STOP READING. NOW.

I’ve had a few people ask whether playwright David Bar Katz based the idea of comic books making it into a concentration camp on historical fact. It was a question that–for all the research we’ve done on this play–I didn’t have an answer for. We know that in the warehouses of personal items collected and organized by the Nazis and the sonderkommando from incoming prisoners, there were surely piles and piles of books, just as there were piles of eyeglasses, and other personal belongings.

This image comes from a comic explaining the Marvel character Magneto’s origin story (born Max Eisenhardt) and his time in a concentration camp. Here he comes face-to-face with the iconic pile of eyeglasses.

So–in those piles and piles of books, doesn’t it seem possible that there was at least a comic book or two? We know that American comics had made it to Europe, so the premise seems altogether plausible.

Or even more than plausible when considering this article, which describes a makeshift comic book that actually came out of a prisoner camp in the holocaust.

From the article:

Recently…the internet has unearthed…forged in the flames of genocide itself – Horst Rosenthal’s “Mickey Mouse in Gurs.”In 1940, Camp Gurs, an internment and refugee camp situated near the Pyrenees in Southwestern France, had been converted into a concentration camp for Jews of any nationality other than French – part of an armistice between Nazi occupiers and the Vichy government. Among those “undesirables” interned there were several artists, writers, and musicians.

Despite the deplorable conditions and nature of the imprisonment, they were afforded, as in other French camps, a certain amount of artistic freedom and cultural activity. Concerts and plays were performed; watercolorists allowed exhibitions. As a result, there remains a large amount of material created in and inspired by the realities of Gurs. Among those remaining works is the twelve-page cartoon booklet by Rosenthal, “Mickey au Camp de Gurs” – “Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp – Published without Walt Disney’s Permission.”

The artist, Horst Rosenthal was executed in Auschwitz in 1942. But his art lives on to tell his story.

One thought on “Fact Fused With Fiction

  1. I came to the play with the baggage of being a Holocaust survivor and the fear that juxtaposing the creation of Superman with the Holocaust might trivialize what is still an unfathomable event in human history. But what struck me about the play was something that has not been commented on by any critics or bloggers, the sudden change in the audience from lighthearted laughter and snickers to absolute silence. It was as if the audience suddenly experienced what it was like to be a bystander to the Holocaust. There have been plays about those who were participants or accomplices in the Holocaust, but The History of Invulnerability, I think, tackles a far more complex subject, the impotence, frustration, pain and yes, the feeling of guilt of the onlooker, the bystander.

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