Theresa

THE LESSON

(THERESA gives her final lecture to her students in Vienna

Conservatory.)

THERESA

Today we were to continue our discussion on Schönberg. We will not be doing that because today is my last day as Professor of Music in this Conservatory. The Nazis have forbidden Jews to teach gentiles. We Jewish teachers must disappear.   As undergraduates you have the right to expect the broadest education. We are all the inheritors of those who question our bourgeois, conservative society. New forms are being expressed. James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, Alban Berg, Stravinsky, Schönberg, Weill, Eisler are a few who challenge the old order. These men are despised by the Nazis. Hitler sees them as ‘degenerate’. But what is ‘degenerate’? To him all Jews are ‘degenerate’. To him Bolsheviks, Communists and Socialists are ‘degenerate’. They are taking these so-called degenerates to Dachau. When I was a young woman I used to stare in fascination at my own hair. Sometimes a strand of black, coarse, frizzy hair would appear. My hair always had to be tamed when I was a child and there were hours spent by mother brushing it in some kind of order. I used to care because it wasn’t smooth and fair like other girls’. It was like a gypsy’s, they would say. Or an African’s.     The Nazi ideal is to make people with hair and features which conform to the Aryan stereotype. In this New World there will be no room for our differences. Our quirky individual differences. Beauty will be made to order.   They are already killing their own old people and they want to kill all Jews, gypsies, Communists and homosexuals -- anyone who doesn’t fi t into the myth of the Super Race. Up to now you’ve been lucky enough to taste the flavour of these new languages. You’ve listened to Schönberg, read Sigmund Freud, seen the works of Erwin Piscator and Georg Grosz. Whether you accept the Nazi art is up to you. But you will have tasted the forbidden.     Whatever happens to me, you must go on. Remember our discussions and whisper them to your friends. Seal them in your brain cells until this ‘order’ is over. [Pause.] I wish you long life.

FRENCH STUDENT

May I speak to you, Frau Doktor Steiner?

THERESA

Yes, of course.

FRENCH STUDENT

My name is Esther Jacobson. I am from Paris. I heard your talk.

THERESA

You are not one of my students, are you?

FRENCH STUDENT

No. I am studying Fine Art. Or rather, I was studying.

THERESA

Are you a Jew?

FRENCH STUDENT

I have a Jewish grandmother.

THERESA

You could go back to France.

FRENCH STUDENT

And if the Nazis invade France there will be plenty of ‘righteous Christians’ who will be delighted to talk about my grandmother.

THERESA

What will you do?

FRENCH STUDENT

I have to go to Palestine. It’s the only place we can be safe.

THERESA

And if the British don’t allow you in?

FRENCH STUDENT

I’ll get in illegally. Come with us?

THERESA

I can’t do that.

FRENCH STUDENT

Why not?

THERESA

I don’t speak Hebrew.

FRENCH STUDENT

You’ll learn.

THERESA

There is more to it than the language. I am a European. I am not a Zionist. Europe is my home. We are Austrians. My husband fought in the last war. My parents came from Poland. I speak Polish, German, French and English. These are my languages. I am a European. Why should I be pushed off this continent because one man says so? I have the right to live here. Why should I be forced to live in the Middle East?

FRENCH STUDENT

How will you survive?

THERESA

I will go to London. I have made arrangements. I will go to London with my son. We will wait until this is over. We will start again.

FRENCH STUDENT

Excuse me but aren’t you being a little naïve?

THERESA

Naïve? [Beat.] Maybe you are right. I have become a ‘Christian’ Jew. I’ve got used to a little bit of antisemitism every day. A remark about a large nose, a dark appearance, love of money. Killer of Jesus.

FRENCH STUDENT

Maybe I’ll see you next year? InJerusalem?

THERESA

Maybe.

Theresa, Vienna, 2003