I went to see this the other night at the Lowry Studio. Although I’m on their list and several other lists, I only found out about this two days before from Salford Online, via Twitter. I’m glad I did. And the theatre was packed, anyway.
Defying Hitler is adapted for stage by Rupert Wickham from SebastianHaffner’s book. In the original German memoir it was called Gechsichte eines Deutschen (the story / history of a German). Haffner, then named Raimund Preztel, came to England in 1938 where he married his Jewish girlfriend. His son Oliver Pretzel found the text and published it after Haffner’s death.
Haffner honed his writing skills by working on the Observer for many years. This memoir is now on my reading list.
The play is presented as a monologue superbly executed by Russell Bright. This is a touring production offered by Theatre Unlimited.
Haffner’s main act of defiance was leaving the country. He felt uncomfortable under the Nazi regime but did not openly rebel against it. He remembers the hyperinflation and how the family would have to spend all of his father’s monthly salary within 24 hours before it became worthless on non-perishable food.
I learnt for the first time that Hitler started to mess around with people’s pensions. I was reminded of several other facts: the Nazi party got in with 40% of the votes, Hitler was the hero who brought life back to normal after a devastating recession, the young tycoons’ bubble burst, the “Volk” was respected and loved but you had to belong, there was no place for the old and the infirm, the man on the street was deprived of books and an underclass was created.
I went to the production alone. It didn’t feel exactly easy to send an email round to colleagues asking them whether they wanted to join me in an evening of Defying Hitler. My husband declined to come. But I quite like going to the theatre alone. It’s just as valid as sharing the experience with others and as this is such an important contribution to my research it seemed right.