Photo: Teatr Pokoleniy
67 Stories from 871 Days of the Blokada
Documentary theatre by Elena Gremina
Directed by: Eberhard Köhler
Theater unterm Dach
Friday 08.09.2017, 8.00 pm
Saturday 09.09.2017, 8.00 pm
Sunday 10.09.2017, 8.00 pm
(Historical introduction for those interested before the show)
Invaders who will stop at nothing to win. Outgunned defenders. Heroes become losers. Victims mythologised as heroes. Memories of hunger. Documents of the madness of destruction. A belief in superiority that ends in murderous fantasies. And strategies for survival that require absolutely inhumane decisions. Extreme orders that lead to extreme suffering. Heroic figures who become losers, only to win again in the end. Nazis, Soviets, humans. 67/871 is an extreme piece of theatre.
More than a million people lost their lives between the 8th of September 1941 and the 25th January 1944 in the city of Leningrad when it was blockaded by the Wehrmacht. The memory of one the Wehrmacht’s most heinous war crimes in Russia and in Germany could not be more different. In the once besieged city, there is a kind of prescribed memory of the “blokada”. This time of suffering is told as a heroic tale. The victims’ stories are barely mentioned in the portrayal of the victorious battle against fascism. In Germany, the memory of the blockade threatens to fade away completely. It’s a gap in the nation’s memory. Can this huge catastrophe still somehow be understood by both sides? This is exactly what the Russian-German co-production 67/871 seeks to fathom.
Director Eberhard Köhler has worked with the small, independent St Petersburg theatre Pokoleniy for many years. He knows all about the different narratives of history in Germany and Russia. He sought out and worked with witness accounts from survivors of the blokada and met some of them. “Ever since, I definitely feel a lot of personal responsibility,” he says, “even more so, because my grandfather was a staunch National Socialist and captain in the Wehrmacht.” That one of the main people responsible for the blockade, a high-ranking Wehrmacht general, could later rise high in the ranks of the German Federal Army, is part of the story for him, which, just like the memory of the victims of the blockade, should not be forgotten.
For Danila Korogodsky, stage designer and artistic director of Teatr Pokoleniy in St Petersburg, the blockade is a deeply personal story. “My mother,” he says, “lived through the most horrific blockade winter in the city and was brought out of the city across the Road of Life in April 1942. My grandfather refused to leave the besieged city and died of the consequences of starvation after the blockade was defeated.” As a professor for stage design in the USA, the story of his family in the imprisoned city always accompanied him. “The blockade was always a part of me, wherever I was, it went with me,” he says.
The different perspectives in the way the blockade is remembered, the erasure of a war crime on one side and the mythologising of the liberation on the other, led Yvonne Griesel to ask the question, to what extent an understanding can be reached between the German and Russian descendants of the war generation is even possible now. Dramaturge and initiator of the project, she knows how hard it has been “to cross the trenches between our countries.” In her opinion, as long as there is no awareness for the different perception of crimes like the blockade, “a deep understanding for each other will always be difficult.”
67/871 is the attempt to cross one of these trenches. German and Russian actors have worked on the script together, which the Moscow theatre-maker Elena Gremina has put together from documentary material. In her work for Teatr.doc in Moscow, which is regularly subjected to repression, she frequently works with history in the context of state-manipulated narrative.
On the anniversary of the start of the blockade on the 8th September 2017, the play will premiere at the Theater unterm Dach in Berlin. The Russian premiere will be in the Teatr Pokoleniy in St Petersburg on the anniversary of the liberation of the city on the 27.01.2018.
Performers: Susanne Hoss, Elena Polyakova, Stepan Beketov, Zenya Anisimov, Svetlana Smirnova
Sound: Simon Ho
Stage/costumes: Danila Korogodsky
Dramaturgy: Yvonne Griesel
Research: Andreas Rüttenauer
Translation: Irina Bondas, Yvonne Griesel, Galina Klimowa
Technical manager: Valentin Levitskiy
Production manager: Barbara Anna Bernsmeier
The project is funded by the Stiftung Erinnerung – Verantwortung – Zukunft and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.
Sich der Wahrheit nähern – An article by Andreas Rüttenauer in the taz newspaper (in German).
Kannibalismus in höchster Verzweiflung – Interview with Eberhard Köhler in Neues Deutschland (in German).