Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism : Birkbeck University of London
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The Oberammergau Passion Play: Actors, Audiences and Antisemitism c. 1860-1910

Public Lecture

Speaker: Dr Robert Priest, Royal Holloway, University of London
Date: Mon, Nov. 4, 2019
Time:  6:30pm - 8:00pm
Venue: Birkbeck, University of London, Torrington Square main entrance, WC1E 7HX
Free event open to all:

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The Passion Play at Oberammergau is one of the world’s longest running dramatic performances. Staged regularly by hundreds of villagers since at least 1634, this amateur play became a renowned spectacle by the end of the nineteenth century, charming everybody from Thomas Cook tourists to European royals and American industrialists. In the late twentieth century, however, Oberammergau became just as well-known for its markedly anti-Jewish rendering of the passion, which pitted a vengeful conspiracy of rabbis and traders against a handsome and beatific Jesus.

Returning to the decades when Oberammergau first rose to global fame, this lecture will ask to what extent the play’s negative portrayal of the Jews was an innovation and a product of its modernisation, rather than tradition. Exploring the play through the eyes of its first Jewish visitors – from Britain, France, Germany and the United States – the lecture will show how and why audiences first accused the play of antisemitism, as well as why these criticisms failed to dent Oberammergau’s ascent as  a cultural phenomenon.

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