Stage Door News

Toronto: Istituto Italiana hosts the North American premiere of “From Treblinka to Auschwitz” January 29

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto presents the North American premiere of From Treblinka to Auschwitz: a dialogue between witnesses on January 29 at 6:30 PM in honour of Holocaust Remembrance Day. This theatrical reading of excerpts from Auschwitz Testimonies by Primo Levi and Leonardo De Benedetti and The Hell of Treblinka by Russian writer and journalist Vasily Grossman, takes place at the Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road, and admission is free.

Actors Michael Miranda and Martin Julien interpret text by Levi and Grossman respectively, while klezmer music performed by Robbie Grunwald, piano, and Drew Jurecka, violin and clarinet, underscores the readings. From Treblinka to Auschwitz expands upon the Istituto’s 2016 Holocaust Remembrance Day event devoted to readings of Primo Levi’s works by Miranda, with music performed by Grunwald and Jurecka.

“Why remember? It is the writer’s duty to tell the terrible truth, and it is a reader’s civic duty to learn this truth. Those who would turn their backs or close their eyes or pass over this truth offend the memory of the fallen.” —Vasily Grossman, 1944.

The texts for From Treblinka to Auschwitz were written by two Jewish authors born 14 years apart who lived under politically oppressive regimes: Vasily Grossman in Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Primo Levy in Fascist Italy under Mussolini. Though they never met or read each other’s work, they share the distinction of having written pivotal eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust. The works of Levi and Grossman describe, in granular detail, the very texture of life and death in the concentration camps and are considered essential and seminal writings on this topic.

"Everything written below has been compiled from the accounts of living witnesses … I have seen these people myself and have heard their stories, and their written testimonies lie on my desk before me. They are consistent in every detail—from the habits of Barry, the commandant’s dog, to the technology used for the conveyor-belt executioner’s block." — Vasily Grossman

The Hell of Treblinka was written in the autumn of 1944 by Vasily Grossman, a war correspondent with the Red Army. The very first article published about a death camp, it was subsequently submitted at the Nuremberg Trials as evidence for the prosecution. The Hell of Treblinka “remains on the finest [accounts], providing firsthand forensic documentation—Grossman meticulously lays out the physical dimensions of the camp, down to the square footage—and then icily explaining the engineering of genocide.” (The New Yorker)

Primo Levi was a 23-year old chemist who was arrested and transferred to Auschwitz in February 1944, where he remained until the camp was liberated on 27 January 1945. He wrote to ensure that the world would never forget the "insane dream of building a thousand-year empire upon millions of corpses and slaves." Levi, whose centenary is being celebrated worldwide in 2019, is recognized as one of the most important literary figures of the 20th-century. 

Texts to be presented on January 29 include excerpts from The Auschwitz Report by Levi and surgeon Leonardo De Benedetti. Written in 1945 upon request from the Red Army, it was the first scientific account to analyze the structure of a concentration camp. With rigorous and unflinching detail, The Auschwitz Report uncovers the pseudo-scientific deception that was integral to the extermination procedures.  

From Treblinka to Auschwitz is a joint project by the Turin-based International Primo Levi Studies Center and Study Center Vasilij Grossman, with texts selected by authors and literary critics Domenico Scarpa and Marco Sisto. The event premiered in January 2017 at Teatro Carignano and is presented for the first time in North America in collaboration with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto.

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura presents
From Treblinka to Auschwitz
Vasily Grossman and Primo Levi: a dialogue between witnesses

A theatrical reading with live music for Holocaust Remembrance Day
with Michael Miranda and Martin Julien, actors | Robbie Grunwald, piano |
Drew Jurecka, violin, clarinet

January 29, 2019, 6:30 PM at Alliance Française, 24 Spadina Road

Information: | 416.921.3802.