As the rising fervor swirling around election season and other political theatrics heightens, it’s easy to forget the past. Between news articles on China trade talks and public radio segments on the Russia investigation, the past seems to pale in comparison to the now. But forgetting the lessons and horrors of the Holocaust is something we cannot do and the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, in conjunction with other Baltimore-area institutions are determined to do something about the rising numbers of Americans who know little to nothing about the Holocaust.
According to a survey conducted in 2018, 45 percent of Americans cannot name a concentration camp in the Holocaust and 52 percent believe, incorrectly, that Hitler took power by force. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, shocked by these numbers and inspired by their role “to tell the stories that make a difference,” organized a community-wide program called the “Spring of Remembrance.” The Spring of Remembrance will showcase a number of plays, museum exhibits, photo exhibits and more that focus on educating people about the Holocaust and surrounding issues of injustice and genocide.
The Spring of Remembrance began with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company performing “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
“We’ve been working very hard at…creating partnerships with other cultural institutions so we started reaching out to other organizations,” said Lesley Malin, managing director at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company who plays Anne’s mother in the performance.
As they began reaching out, they discovered that many other organizations, including the Jewish Museum of Maryland, American Visionary Art Museum and Morgan State University were also performing plays or establishing exhibits that highlighted aspects of the Holocaust and other issues of genocide.
Remembering Anne Frank and other Holocaust survivors has become an integral part of understanding and remembering the Holocaust.
“One of the things that spurred this is the knowledge that memories of the Holocaust are fading,” said Jane Coffey, director of development at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.
The importance of the experience of seeing a play surrounded by other people is, Malin believes, an integral part of remembering and witnessing. In seeing the play with other people, Malin said, audience members can feel a collective responsibility and commitment to “make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“It’s a hard play for audiences but everyone is really glad that they had the opportunity to share this,” said Malin. “The Holocaust is such a huge event and it’s so hard to process that it’s better to do it with other people sometimes.”