The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Chicago Fringe Opera present a preview of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s new opera, Two Remain. Based on the lives of Holocaust Survivors Gad Beck and Krystyna Zywulska (born Sonia Landau), this opera explores the haunting scar of what it means to be left behind.
Discussion with performers and members of the production team to follow.
Her Jewish identity hidden, Krystyna Zywulska was a political prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In secret, she composed lyrics to inspire fellow prisoners, even as she carried out her harrowing job in the Effektenkammer: cataloging the confiscated personal effects of thousands of prisoners as they arrived on international transports. Many years after the war, she is asked by a journalist to share her stories and record them on a tape player. Haunted and helped by the ghosts of her past – Zosia, Edka, Mariola and her younger self, Krysia – she struggles to find the words.
Gerhard (Gad) Beck’s first true love was the poet his fellow Zionist youth group member Manfred Lewin, who was 19 when he and his entire family were deported from Berlin to Auschwitz, while Beck remained behind to assist others—gay, straight, Jewish and Gentile—to avoid Nazi capture. In the many years since the war, Gad has tried his best to forget what happened to the Lewin family, but he keeps the book of Manfred’s his lover’s original poems and drawings close at hand. As an old man, he is visited by Manfred’s ghost. As Manfred implores Gad to remember and celebrate their love, the painful truth of their fates emerges.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 men and women were imprisoned for homosexuality during the Holocaust; it is not known how many thousands were murdered. Even after the war, Paragraph 175, the 1861 German law prohibiting homosexuality, remained in effect until 1969.