Marionettes and Puppetmasters Tell of Nazi Atrocities in Poland

Czech-American Company Uses Klezmer To Tell History

Puppet Master: Vit Hořejš, Czech-born founder and artistic director of the internationally acclaimed Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, is producing “King Executioner,” based on a novel by Tadeusz Nowak.
Adele Bossard
Puppet Master: Vit Hořejš, Czech-born founder and artistic director of the internationally acclaimed Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, is producing “King Executioner,” based on a novel by Tadeusz Nowak.

By Simi Horwitz

Published March 25, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Having worked at Jewish festivals in Poland, I know there are deep wounds that are felt. And despite the popular Jewish narrative, not everyone was out to get the Jews, and the Nazi occupation was a trauma for the Poles, as well, that each family — and their descendants — has had to deal with.”

Hořejš himself has been keenly in tune with Jewish sensibilities for a long time. Launching his career as an actor-director and translator, the first lap of his journey out of Communist Prague was Italy, where he served as Primo Levi’s translator on “The Periodic Table.”

In 1979 he made his way to New York’s community of Czechoslovakian émigrés on the Upper East Side, and five years later he discovered 69 marionettes in the attic of the Jan Hus Church, the house of worship for many Czech expatriates. Creating a marionette theater almost felt inevitable, not least because puppetry had been so much a part of his early life.

As in many totalitarian countries where censorship in theater was routine, the censors overlooked Czechoslovakian puppet shows because these productions were viewed as children’s fare, and therefore theater artists were free to use puppetry as vehicles for political commentary and satire.

Audiences are still not quite sure how to interpret puppets, Hořejš commented. Some people continue to think they’re designed exclusively for children. Others are actually afraid of puppets. “It’s a recognized phobia: puppaphobia,” he said.

Hořejš admitted he’s wondered how theatergoers would interpret the piece, suggesting that the affirmative ending will put to rest, or at least mitigate, any notion that the production is taking an anti-Resistance position.

“People swear they see the puppets’ expressions changing,” Hořejš said.

“Look at the faces,” London said, gesturing at the hanging marionettes. “Are they smirking? Are they angry? It’s never clear, and that’s part of the ambiguity.”

Simi Horwitz writes frequently about theater for the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.