Deutschland Erwache, Jude Verrecke (Germany Awake, Death to Jews)

by Cathy Lesser Mansfield

Yesterday we rehearsed the opening scene of The Sparks Fly Upward. In this scene, the full company menacingly intones one of the Nazi Party’s favored political slogans: “Germany Awake, Death to Jews.” In the scene immediately following, which takes place on October 28, 1938, Willie and Frederick Stein, Polish Jews living in Berlin, are arrested and taken away, which sets the tone of the events to follow.

This scene is based on actual events that took place in Germany on October 28, 1938. This was before systematic deportation of Jews had begun. On October 6, 1938, Poland had issued a decree that all Polish passports had to contain a “certification of validity” issued by Polish representatives, or the passport holders would not be admitted back into Poland. This decree applied to all persons who had been living outside of Poland for more than five years, and became effective on October 29, 1938. After this date, Germany could no longer legally force the deportation of Poles back to Poland. While there were an estimated 150,000 Polish citizens living in Germany at the time, Germany decided to deport only those Polish Citizens who were also Jewish because they were deemed “undesirable” by the German authorities.

Because this event took place in 1938, not later, it was covered extensively by the foreign press, including U.S. and British newspapers. The New York Times reported that “all day women and children stood around the police stations anxiously questioning everybody leaving them as to the whereabouts of their men-folk. Nobody knew any answer.“1 According to the New York Times, “The Polish Consulate was likewise besieged all day by frantic people trying to get either aid or the coveted validity certification.”2

Many families of the men about to be deported decided to try to go with them and, according to the London Times, these families “made a distressed and destitute picture as they crowded into the Schlesischer [train] station seeking trains to Poland.”3

1Otto Tolischus, “Reich Begins Deportations,” New York Times, October 29, 1938 at 3.

2Otto Tolischus, “Reich Begins Deportations,” New York Times, October 29, 1938 at 3.

3“Polish Jews Expelled,” London Times, October 29, 1938 at 11.