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My rejected play about Gans


A man named Gans
Philip Roth Writer
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In probably around 1958, there was an... an article in Commentary about a man named Gans – G A N S – who was appointed by the Nazis to oversee the Jewish ghetto, I think in Vilna – I may be getting my facts somewhat wrong, but essentially what I'm saying is correct. And his job was to oversee the ghetto and be its... its administrator, its… the mayor of the ghetto and also to give them… yield up to the Nazis X number of people a month to be... to put on the trains to go to Auschwitz to be killed. Let's say he had to give them 500 people a month. Quite a job.

I was very struck by this article about Gans and decided to write a play about it, because there he was doing what he was doing. If he didn't do it, then his notion was the German's would do it themselves in a very horrible and ugly way and they'd lose more people than he had to lose each month. But nonetheless he had to be responsible for the selection. Well the... the situation begged for dramatization I thought – and so I wrote a play.

The fame of the American writer Philip Roth (1933-2018) rested on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrayed in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he wrote, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth received a great many prestigious literary awards which include a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1997, and the 4th Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Commentary Magazine, Auschwitz, Vilna, Gans

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013