Munich Theater Cancels ‘Antisemitic’ Play
Following protests by German Jewish student groups, the Metropol-Theater in Munich, Germany has cancelled the production of “Birds of a Kind,” a play which critics allege teems with antisemitic tropes and Holocaust trivialization.
The cancellation comes less than a week after the Jewish Student Union in Germany and the Association of Jewish Students in Bavaria issued an open letter expressing dismay about “the extent of the antisemitism displayed in it” and calling for the theater to be defunded.
Written by Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad, “Birds of a Kind” tells the story of Eitan, a German-Jewish geneticist who falls out with his family after they disapprove of his falling in love with a Moroccan woman. The conflict, according to German culture writer Peter Jungblut, symbolizes a struggle “between Shoah survivors and their descendants, who do not want to let their identity be dictated by the concentration camp experiences of their ancestors.”
In other scenes Eitan’s grandfather says, “are they putting us in the oven now?” while moving through security checkpoints at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Israeli soldiers are described as “the news Nazis.”
“The audience is made to believe that their own antisemitic resentments are not taboo and could be freely expressed, since this is supposedly normalized even within Jewish families,” the letter from the student groups continued. “But it is not just Holocaust relativization and crude comparisons. Jews are portrayed as principally racist and demonized. The grandfather, for example, is said to have stolen an Arab baby in the past.”
Metropol-Theater at first refused to cancel the play, with the play’s director Jochen Schölch arguing that the student groups had misinterpreted its message.
On Thursday, the cultural department of Munich said in a statement that Schölch has agreed to suspend the production.
“He and his team are deeply sorry that people feel hurt and belittled by the text of the play,” a spokesperson said. “Since the allegations relate primarily to the original texts by Wajdi Mouawad, the publisher was immediately involved.”
The Munich government added that the theater will receive funds already approved by Munich’s city council, noting that “the demand for a cessation of funding was made before the necessary discussion took place.”