Celebrated screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce’s (Welcome to Sarajevo) script is based on the often-told — but unconfirmed — story that a group of Auschwitz survivors, their faith tested to the breaking point, convened a rabbinical court to weigh the evidence against the Almighty.
The drama begins with the terrible ritual of prisoner arrival and “selection” for death or hard labor. Unsure of their appointed fates, a group of inmates waits in the barracks — hopeful, despairing, defiant, resigned. They fall to discussing God and impulsively decide to put him on trial for abandoning his chosen people.
Amid the sound of prisoners outside being marched to the gas chamber, the trial unfolds, addressing the age-old problem of theodicy: how can there be evil in a universe ruled by an all-powerful, benevolent God? More to the point, has God gone back on his promise to ensure the survival of the Jewish people?
Jews have a long tradition of arguing with God over such questions, and it is noted that the name Israel means “he that wrestles with God.” But the Holocaust provides grounds for no mere argument; it is seemingly conclusive evidence against the accused.
Nonetheless, Jews speak out in God’s defense. The Flood and the destruction of the Temple are cited as previous instances of purification, when the Almighty sacrificed many of the best Jews to bring about a greater good.
And so they wrestle, back and forth, as the hour approaches when the guards will assemble those among them, still uncertain, who must die. Even under such pressure, they reach a verdict … and a surprising conclusion to this shocking but respectful proceeding.
See previews and find out more at pbs.org.
Watch it Sunday, November 9th 8:00 pm on KUAT6-HD