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We Will Never Die

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Seventy years ago, on 9 March 1943, Madison Square Garden swelled with 40,000 people for two performances of the pageant entitled We Will Never Die. A project led by both Hollywood and Broadway elite, We Will Never Die was written by Ben Hecht, produced by Billy Rose, directed by Moss Hart, scored by Kurt Weil and starred Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni and Sylvia Sydney. The production was subtitled “A Mass Memorial to the Two Million Jewish Dead of Europe” and was intended to rouse Americans to act against the tragic suffering of European Jewry. The pageant featured a cast of hundreds against a backdrop of  two forty-foot tall tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Fifty rabbis who had escaped Europe ended the production in reciting the Kaddish, the Jewish memorial prayer for the dead.

After several performances over two days in New York, the pageant traveled to different venues around the country. Eleanor Roosevelt saw the show in Washington in April and wrote about the performance in her column, My Day: “No one who heard each group come forward and give the story of what had happened to it at the hands of a ruthless German military, will ever forget those haunting words: ‘Remember us.'”

Although the War Refugee Board, which would save nearly 200,000 European Jews lives wasn’t established until January 1944, it is thought that We Will Never Die helped to spread the word about Nazi atrocities and speed the response by Allied nations.

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

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