Hungary / 02-10-2012
Budapest - an article by Reinchardt Wasser published in the newspaper Allgemeine Zietung reveals that Budapest’s New Theater is considering performing for the first time the antisemitic play “First Warning for the Sixth Coffin”. The article name: “The Manager can stay put”.
When György Dörner assumed his position as the manager of the New Theater he claimed that the only thing he was interested in was to work peacefully. And indeed things were quiet for a few months around him and around the theater – but it all ended when he announced his intention to perform this fall István Csurka’s play “the Sixth Coffin”.
The play narrates the story of a young Hungarian who, immediately following World War I, travels with his grandfather, who is killed in the 1956 riots, to find out how it came about that the Trianon Peace Treaty was signed, following which Hungary in the twenties lost two thirds of its territory and half of its population. They find out that the talks about borders were conducted behind the scenes by Jews – and, the play’s hypothesis is that Hungary was weakened because of the Jews, and therefore suffered during the twentieth century many disasters that would not have occurred but for the Jews who brought about all this harm.
This is compatible with Csurka’s activities within the political and media domain following the end of the communist regime. Dörner was expected to bring Csurka to the stage. In his application for the position of the new theater manager, Dörner, who up till then was known for dubbing to Hungarian the voice of Mel Gibson in movies, said that Csurka is “the spiritual father” for him and added also that he would appoint him as chief inspector of the theater.
This was also the reason for many protests heard from abroad, when in the autumn of last year Budapest conservative mayor appointed Dörner.
The opponents of the conservative nationalistic regime headed by Viktor Orbán claimed that the decision to entrust the management of a theater in Budapest – albeit the smallest one – to the hands of the extreme rightist – strengthens the suspicion that again there is a will in Hungary to provide a stage for racism and antisemitism.
At the beginning Mayor Tarlós said that he would not be willing to accept any “outside intervention” and explained his decision arguing that Dörner will show in the theater only traditionally staged classical Hungarian plays, something that was missing in the theater during the time it was managed by the Left. Tarlós stayed firm in his decision despite the opposition of the committee that voted against the appointment, but he explicitly set limits to Dörner: he forbade him to employ Csurka in any capacity whatsoever (Csurka passed away at the age of 77 around the time Dörner assumed his position – February 2012); and emphasized that he would not allow exploiting the theater as a platform for extreme political views. He would be warned upon the first violation – said Tarlós to our reporters at the beginning of the year - and afterwards there would be a response that will convince all of Europe.
Following the announcement that Csurka’s play – “The Sixth Coffin” – was about to be performed – Hungary’s Jewish community turned to Tarlós and demanded that the play not be performed. The mayor reacted immediately. In less than a week Dörner announced that the play would not be performed. The following day, friends of the theater’s manager beat one of the demonstrators, when a group of leftist demonstrators gathered in front of the theater in protest against the play. There was no clarification on the part of Dörner. Not long ago he described the play as “a very important work”, defending “The Sixth Coffin”; and the director that would have been assigned to direct the play, according to the press, said that “in a less hysterical atmosphere” it may be possible to stage the play.
In case Tarlós views the removal of the play from the theater’s repertoire as “a warning” he may soon have the opportunity to demonstrate the “convincing response” which he talked about.
In the meantime, it seems, he is not very willing to deal with the subject. His reaction to other questions of our newspaper was: “The new theater is not a subject of conversation in Budapest. We have more important problems to contend with.”