Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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search by inspecting for signs of circumcision, and Von Berg, secure
in the categorization of society—each of these systems of identifica-
tion contain the inherent logic necessary to support it. For most of
the play, only the tormented German major seems aware of their
collective helplessness before the supremacy of the current logic.
A man already destroyed by the discovery of his helplessness, he
ironically forces Le Due to admit that the sole and horrible
happiness any of them can achieve is to elude being the victim.
None of them, he shouts, would sacrifice himself for the benefit of
the others. Instead each would rejoice in having been saved. “I
have you at the end of this revolver
—indicates the Professor
—he
has me and somebody has him—and somebody has somebody else.”
Equally lucid in his assessment of their weakness is Le Due, one
of the Jewish captives, who refrains from anger or contempt for
anyone, even those about to destroy him. His realization is only
of man’s inveterate weakness—his refusal to recognize the fact that
he is never only the victim: “I am only angry that I should have
been born before the day when man has accepted his own nature;
that he is not reasonable, that he is full of murder. That his ideals
are only the little tax he pays for the right to hate and kill with a
clear conscience.” Le Due levels his major indictment against those
who protest their innocence, their selfless love for fellow-Jew, for
fellow-man. In assuming a true sense of identity, he shouts, we
must also assume with full knowledge the burden of knowing we
each seek a victim to hate and destroy, “and Jew is only the name
we give to that stranger, that agony we cannot feel. That death
we look at like a cold abstraction. Each man has his Jew; it is the
other. And Jews have their Jews.” Only with this knowledge can
man assume the burden of his own humanity. Having acquired
broader vision, Von Berg thrusts his own pass into Le Due’s
hands. Le Due realizes that despite what has passed between them,
he will allow Von Berg to sacrifice himself in order to gain free-
dom. In the moment before he races out, Le Due’s face is filled
with horror, agonized with an awareness of his own guilt.
In commenting on the Eichmann trial in the February 1964
issue of
Life
Miller stated: “The significant truth about Eichmann
was not that he was a monster but that in order to exercise his
monstrousness . . . he had to have the moral permission of others
. . . even to Jews and to well-meaning Gentiles who . . . were less
than total in their actual opposition to barbarity.”
While Miller’s most recent play,
The Price,
contains a Jewish
character, it seems vastly distant from the dimension of issues
dealt with in its two predecessors. The play concerns two brothers
who have come to divide the dusty belongings of their parents.
The aged Jew appears as the buyer, coupling his survival to the
accumulation of goods. While the brothers confront each other