Adolph Eichmann never personally killed anyone, but he was hanged in 1962, having been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The evidence against him was overwhelming, but he remained as detached from the facts as he had been from the millions of deaths he facilitated. In his plea for pardon, he wrote, “There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty”.
A chilling exposé of Eichmann’s activities
Donald Freed's play, The White Crow, takes place in the pre-trial investigation room where Eichmann is confronted by psychologist Dr Baum. Steve Scott, as Eichmann, looks very plain and ordinary: the sort of man nobody notices sitting at a bar, enjoying a beer. Engaging in conversation with him would ring no alarm bells. In former times Eichmann had been a salesman, and Scott employs a confident, assertive style of patter that urges Dr Baum (Heather Alexander) to buy his story, though she remains focused in her determination to reach into the depths of the man’s malevolence, uncover the truth and persuade him to confess. Alexander imbues Baum with interrogative ruthlessness in a controlled, professional manner. Yet, in the same way that he cannot fully sustain his cavalier formality, she cannot fail from falling into emotional recrimination. She has another agenda that conflates with her professional role, whatever that may be, for there is a certain air of mystery over her true identity.
Steve Scott and Heather Alexander develop an intimate chemistry during their intense exchanges while retaining the distance respective to their very different circumstances. This is heightened by the deliberately cramped conditions on stage. Neither attempts any continental accent, and yet each imbues the dialogue with sufficient hints as to make it evident. Both performances are sustained and measured with variations in pace and emotion.
The White Crow is a chilling exposé of Eichmann’s activities and flawed reasoning when confronted with the events he oversaw and managed. The play has wide appeal: as a piece of theatre, a sort of courtroom, a psychological drama and a historic reminder of the evil minds behind the holocaust. It’s message is also a salutary warning to all voters who elect people into public office. As Simon Wiesenthal, who had been intimately involved in tracking down Eichmann, observed, “The world now understands the concept of 'desk murderer'. We know that one doesn't need to be fanatical, sadistic, or mentally ill to murder millions; that it is enough to be a loyal follower eager to do one's duty”.