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Timeless Night: Viktor Frankl Meets Edith Stein

By Elizabeth Clark-Stern

 

CHARACTERS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Edith Stein, a woman of middle age (played by an actor age 40 on up)
Viktor Frankl, a man of middle age (played by an actor age 30 on up)

SETTING
A storeroom in Auschwitz

TIME
A spring night late in the Second World War

Timeless Night is a work of creative imagination based on historical figures Viktor Frankl and Edith Stein, and real events in their lives

 

TIMELESS NIGHT [OPENING SCENE]

Lights fade up. A harsh white light illuminating the figure of Edith kneeling before a packing box, her head bowed in prayer. She wears a prison garment, her hair cropped, blood drying on her temple. There is one other packing box in the otherwise empty room.

Off stage, the SOUND of a door opening.  Slamming.

Edith breathes deeply. She does not open her eyes.

Viktor enters. He too wears prison garments.

Edith makes the sign of the cross; turns her body to face him.

Edith: You’ve come to murder me.

Viktor: No. I’m a prisoner too.

Edith: The Jews who do the dirty work for the SS, the so-called capos, they are prisoners.

Viktor: I am not a capo. I am a man.

Edith: So you are.

They look upon one another.

Edith: (continuing) The light, from the guard tower. So harsh.

Viktor: You prefer darkness?

Edith: It doesn’t matter.

Viktor: I prefer the light.

Silence.

Viktor: (continuing) There is blood on your face.

Edith: The SS man was forceful. Odd, since I offered no resistance.

Viktor: I would tend your wound, but I have nothing on me that does not reek of the filth of Auschwitz.

Edith: You want to prevent infection?

Viktor: I am a doctor.

Edith: I won’t be here long enough for it to heal.

Viktor: How do you know? They are unsettled. Can’t you feel it.?

Edith: You believe the stories. The Americans are coming.

Viktor: All through the camp, whispers, shy ones, but with the mightiest hope.

Edith: Liberation…

Viktor: They are beginning to lose.

Edith: Say that again.

Viktor: The Germans, they are losing. We may survive this night.

Edith: You are an optimist.

Viktor: You see the world as it is.

Edith: A realist. I was, once.

Viktor: No longer?

Edith: Who knows what I am now? I was a philosopher, an atheist, searching for a truth that could be logically proven to all mankind.

Viktor: Weren’t you praying when I came in?

Edith: I was. I am. Even as I speak to you, another river in my mind whispers to God. It is quite rude. Forgive me.

Viktor: Be my guest. I am fascinated that your can forage so many rivers at the same time. I was--I am--a psychiatrist.

Edith: A doctor of the mind.

Viktor: Here I am only useful to them as a doctor of the body, in the typhus ward.  I will keep my distance.

Edith: You suffer from the disease?

Viktor: Not yet. I surely carry it.

Edith: You are not a leper, doctor, and I will die at dawn.

Viktor: They told you this?

Edith: No, but they don’t like troublemakers. My presence was so offensive to some in the women’s barracks, they spit on me, clawed at me, screaming, “Traitor!” A Nazi soldier seized me from the arms of my sister, my Rosa. For some reason, she offended no one…They let me keep my eyeglasses, toy with me, cat and mouse. I thought they would shoot me on the spot. The SS man who roughly held me in his arms muttered, “It will not be me pulls the trigger.” I suspect he was once a good Catholic boy. I blessed him. He smacked me with his rifle butt and threw me in here.

Viktor: You are Doctor Stein.

Edith: I was. I am now Sister Benedicta of the Cross.  My Order sent Rosa and me to a convent in Holland for protection. Shortly afterwards, the monks there issued a public letter, condemning The Nazi persecution of the Jews. The Gestapo retaliated by rounding up all Catholics of Jewish descent.

Viktor: I am so sorry.

Edith: (amazed, moved) You are sorry…Many believe I became a nun to escape from the fate of my people. I would have the world know differently. It doesn’t matter now.

Viktor: I think it does.

Edith: Why? Of what use is this body? Does my soul live here?

Viktor: You talk like you’re already dead.

Edith: Of what possible value, these few remaining minutes?

Viktor: They are our minutes.  I’ll take whatever I can get.

Edith turns away from him and returns to prayer.

Silence.

Viktor examines the other box, sits on it, studying her.

Viktor: (continuing) What does God say about all this?

Edith: Are you really interested?

Viktor: Yes, Dr. Stein.

Edith: He tells me that the cross is being laid upon the Jewish people, and that most of them—

Viktor: “Them?”

Edith: Us. Most of us do not understand this, but those who do must take up this cross on behalf of all. I offered myself to God for this purpose. Do I offend you?

Viktor: You have three identities: atheist philosopher, Catholic nun, and Jew.

Edith: Which one is being executed?

Viktor: If that is indeed your fate.

Edith: Alright. “If”.

Viktor: Then, only you know the answer.

LINK TO YOUTUBE SCENE

ORIGINAL CAST
Edith Stein……………………………….Elizabeth Clark Stern
Viktor Frankl………………….………….Robert Bergman

Timeless Night premiered Feb. 1, 2014 at the Good Shepherd Chapel Theater in Seattle, Washington, a Shrink Wrap Theater Company production sponsored by the Northwest Alliance for Psychoanalytic Study, the Seattle Jung Society, and the Jungian Psychotherapist Association

Some sources of research used by the playwright:

Man’s Search for Meaning, Recollections: An Autobiography, and The Will to Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Finite and Eternal Being, Life in a Jewish Family, and The Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities by Edith Stein, and Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite by Teresia Renaa Posselt