Reviving a Nazi-era play to make a point (nudge, nudge) about today's politics

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Fear and Misery of the Third Reich: Docudrama. By Bertolt Brecht. Directed by Susan E. Evans and Charles E. Polly. (Through Sunday, Eastenders Repertory Company at Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida St., San Francisco. Thursday through 20 at Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. Two hours, 40 minutes. Tickets $20. Call (510) 568-4118).
An eye-opening view of how the German people allowed themselves to be taken over and stampeded into war and horrendous atrocities by Hitler and his minions emerges from Bertolt Brecht's rarely seen "Fear and Misery of the Third Reich." In a loose collection of short scenes, mostly written between 1933 and '38, Brecht chronicled the erosion of rights, mutual trust and all forms of professional integrity in the homeland he'd had to flee.

SS men intimidate through casual insinuations. Apartment dwellers are stunned to see what a careless word has done to a neighbor. A teacher trembles in fear of being turned in for an unguarded comment by one of his students, perhaps his own son. Physicists huddle furtively, afraid to speak the name "Einstein" aloud. A doctor quickly accepts the Gestapo's diagnosis of the trauma on a corpse. A judge agonizes over a case in which he must decide whether the Jewish victim or the communist "provoked" an SS attack, having been warned that paid-off Nazi officials could be offended whichever way he decides.

The short scenes add up to a very different picture of Nazi Germany than usual -- one that focuses less on what happened to Jews and other minorities (though Brecht doesn't ignore "the Jewish question") than on the domination of the mass of Germans and elimination of dissent through the wily and heavy-handed use of the politics of fear. That alone is reason to be grateful to Berkeley's intrepid little Eastenders Repertory Company for a rare look at "Fear." But there's more.

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Randll Reese Besch - 5/19/2007

The politicts of fear are alive & active in the crumbling democratic-republic of the USA in these times of approching darkness. By some estimeates are the USA is about 1934 in relation to what happened to Germany.Actually a group of corporations calling themselvesthe"Fraternity" intended to overthrow the Roosvelt administration but was foiled by their choice of Gen.Butler over Macarther. Otherwise the Fascist USA would have joined the Axis to rule the world.We are not too far from a similar loss of freedom now.