The Chilling Truth Pictured in “Here There Are Blueberries”

There's something awful a lost picture. Maybe it's because of a disparity between your original hope and the result: you made the photograph because you intended to keep it, and now that intention—artistic, memorial, historical—is fugitive, on the run toward ends other than your own. The picture, gone forever, possibly revived by strange eyes, will never again mean quite what you thought it would. “Here There Are Blueberries”—a new play at New York Theatre Workshop, conceived and directed by Moisés Kaufman and written by Kaufman and Amanda Gronich—begins with the discovery of a well-curated album of photographs. It's not just one misplaced dispatch from a former world but whole pasted-together pages of them, carefully arranged in order to tell a . The album was found in the nineteen-forties, after the Second World War, by a man who describes himself, more than sixty years later, as an “87 year old retired U.S. Lieutenant Colonel.” It's the early two-thousands, and he's sent a letter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The photographs are from Auschwitz. “Blueberries” moves forward artfully, telling the true tale of the pictures and their march through public consciousness. The photographs show Nazis at ease at the site of the world's most famous death machine. The Nazis lounge at a chalet, flirt with the secretarial pool, offer cheese smiles to the camera. None of the camp's Jewish prisoners are pictured in the photographs, only their murderers, in the moments between murders. The album is a placid, subtly horrifying log of the mundane aspects of those people's daily lives. Rebecca Erbelding (Elizabeth Stahlmann), an archivist on whose desk the lieutenant colonel's letter lands, recognizes the faces of notorious Nazis. There's Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death, and Rudolf Höss, the administrative architect of Auschwitz, “responsible for everything we think of as the camp: the barracks, the electrified fences, the guard towers, the extermination infrastructure . . . the whole organization.” After some detective work, Rebecca discovers that the album was apparently created by an upwardly mobile functionary named Karl Höcker. He probably put it together in a […]

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