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“Following orders”

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“I will build a great wall -- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me --and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” (Donald Trump, June 2015)

“I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. . . . It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. . . . Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law. . . . I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did. . . . At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate.” (Adolf Eichmann at his trial in Israel 1962)

Written in “a white heat” fury following the November 2016 election, Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” imagines a dystopia impacted by President Trump’s border and immigration policies. It’s the near future and millions of undocumented immigrants have been detained in overflowing prisons. Now, a writer (Gloria, impressively portrayed by Flo Wilson) interrogates the director of a private prison (Rick, a powerful performance by Dave Moskin) as he awaits sentencing for carrying out the federal policy that has escalated into the unimaginable. This riveting and illuminating drama delivers a powerful warning and puts a human face on the inhuman, revealing how, when personal accountability is denied, what seems inconceivable becomes inevitable.

What has Rick, the former prison administrator in a post Trump era (after the president’s fictional impeachment) now possibly awaiting the death sentence in common with Adolf Eichmann and the Nuremberg Trials in 1945/46? First he also claims that he simply had followed orders to “figure things out” which lead to the murder on an industrial scale of tens of thousands of so-called “undocumented” immigrants. Second, in common with all the Nazis at the Nuremberg trial and Eichmann in 1962, Rick displayed no remorse at all for his crimes. His only regret: his wife would no longer speak to him. How does it all end?

In the final and one of the most powerful scenes Rick blurts out that even though Trump never managed to build his physical border wall, more danger existed in his rhetoric that called for one. “Who would want to come here now?” he asks as the lights went out….

This was our second visit this year in the Theater Drachengasse, the last one a mere seven months ago. What an experience and joy to be back! The meet & greet of the actors after the show was expertly (what else!) moderated by our Vice-President Ambassador Dr. Alexander Christiani. Excellent Grüner Veltliner Sparkling Wine and sumptuous Canapés (I know my food and drink!), as always in ample supply, courtesy Café Ministerium, rounded off a most successful evening. If you had not been there last night, bad luck, you missed a very good event!

Wolfgang Geissler