Elyse Fisher displays her costume in the dressing room shortly before a dress rehearsal for the Dybbuk of Dachau at the UI Theatre Building on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. (James Year/The Daily Iowan)

Dybbuk of Dachau takes a supernatural twist


The Dybbuk of Dachau follows the trail of Yael Bat-Gidon and son Asher as they struggle to survive the horrors of a concentration camp. One day, the two are met by the spirit Dvora, Yael’s dead sister.

By Madison Lotenschtein

Life in a Nazi death camp is described by the title of itself: death. To even conceive the thought of trying to survive a death camp is a difficult task. Novels and plays have been produced from the minds of those who had the courage to describe the topic. Such thoughts will take to the Theatre Building’s stage at 8 p.m. today.

The Dybbuk of Dachau pursues the life of a young Jewish woman called Yael Bat-Gidon and her struggles to teach her son about religion in the death camps.

“Yael has a son named Asher and is constantly attempting to instill on him her religious beliefs and moral values as a frightened, yet brave Jewish woman in this death camp,” said Elyse Fisher, who plays the role of Yael.

Each day is like climbing a mountain, struggling to survive each ongoing step. The set of the production is barren, with only a few chairs, tables, a desk, and a few bunks. Life at a death camp was empty, cold, and dark, very much like the set placed before the audience. Death and despair rule the area, but they cannot be forgotten.

“It’s intense, but important,” said play director Eric Forsythe. “The history must be remembered and applied to the present. I’ve been honored to have the opportunity to work on material that matters so much. The intensity of the story and the authenticity of the vision have made it especially important to get it right. We’ve been meticulous and driven.”

During a harsh day, the two are presented with a supernatural twist. Yael’s deceased sister, Dvora, visits the camp as a dybbuk. After being terrorized by the figure, the duo have no choice but to depart to the darkest depths of hell, try to free Dvora’s soul, and escape from the deadly grasp of Dachau.

A dybbuk is a spirit of an unrighteous woman or man who is forced to meander about the breathing people and who must possess the bodies of fellow Jews. While possessing another person, it has a great desire to be forgiven by the Jewish community. Without forgiveness, the spirit is unable to enter eternal paradise.

Dachau was one of the most notorious German concentration camps; 32,000 prisoners were either executed, starved, or worked to death at the site. Hence, the title of the play, The Dybbuk of Dachau.

“No one but the audience can really say what the significance of a play is,” said playwright Charles Green. “For me, the play is the reliving of a memory all Jews carry within themselves, in their very DNA — whether or not their direct relatives suffered in the camps. It is our birthright; and it must be spoken. For others, the play might be an artifact, a bowl of soup on a winter night, a shibboleth, a bloody boot, a crucible of pity and fear, a one-eyed dog, or whatever they want it to be.”


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