The Calamity of Irma Grese - Maxine Phoenix

I.1 Wooden stable barracks, sunrise. Enter AMOS and BENJAMIN.


1         Time has gone, too swiftly to be noticed.

No clocks exist, no watches and no tow’rs

To dutifully remind of hours past.

And bells once tolling through my prayers,

Which rang throughout the central village square, Exist now but inside my dimming mind,

Invented yet inducing deep within

A sense of time I otherwise have lost;

For time has reason, time is thus unyielding,

10       Persistent yet routine from day to day.

We know when bells toll twice, the hour is two, And ne’er is that to change for all man’s life.

But reason lives not here inside this place,

Where madmen somehow thrive and kill and rule; With flicking whips and smiles they kiss our skin

A fond goodnight in sake to show us all

Our so deservéd place beneath their feet.



Be still and quiet, Amos.







Deny’st this?


Nothing, nothing, no word of what’s been said. AMOS:

20       Then pray, discuss with me, and do not chide

And mute my speech as if thee one of them.


No more—


Of what? The bitter, straitened truth?

We’ve lived but bleak half-lives under the guise of “camp.” What sort of camp, what sort of life

Can be thus called? A name evoking joy Or childish recollect? Misnamed, deceit; And by my life, I dare to speak the truth.


This place is but their ever-fearéd Hell

Which they unduly cast onto us all;

30       And we are “burnt,” and “purged,” their locum sinners.

Enough! enough I’ve had of endless grief.

Let them be stripped of clothes and hair until

Remains of life exist but in their eyes

And hollow bones beneath this blue striped cloth. Let them, our monster guardians, feel our death. My God; I’ll spit upon the next I see.


Amos, thy speech would— AMOS:

Whom do I offend?

Have walls now ears and eyes to overhear?

So let them hear and argue ‘gainst what’s true.

40       What left have I to lose, for them to steal? BENJAMIN:

Thy life.

Silence thyself; some noise I hear outside. As morning dawns on us, so does our pain, And if the sounds of speech mingle with tread Of heavy boots, some hundred-thousand men, Or so it seems, who dare not fear or bow

To any thing in this world or the next. Beware; a thousand men I’d rather face

Than whom the boots truly bring. And, alas,

50       If this be so, if this we certain hear,

Consider this farewell, my newfound friend.


Summary of Act 1 and 2, (or what has happened between the scenes):

1. Summer, 1944. The boots the prisoners speak of belong to Irma Grese, second highest ranked woman at Auschwitz. Amos and Benjamin part forever, as Irma notices Amos, offers him life in exchange for sex, and he refuses. He’s condemned to the gas chambers, and Irma’s disturbed, refused for the first time. She wonders if she’s already starting to lose her looks at 22. Changing her mind about Amos’ fate, she sends him instead to the camp doctor, Josef Mendele, to destroy Amos’ good looks and experiment with him at will. Irma’s boss and current lover, Josef Kramer, confesses his love and desire to marry her, but she coyly keeps him at an arms length to main- tain the upper hand in their relationship. Kramer hears word that the Soviets had found one of the Nazi camps in Poland and that the Nazis had tried to set it on fire to destroy the evidence, and shares the information with Mendele as well as others. The men do not tell Irma in fear that her nature as a woman would be to panic and act irrationally.


2. Autumn, 1944. Three more camps have been found and liberated by the Soviets, and Kram- er and the other supervisors have begun to fire anyone seeming untrustworthy or overzealous who may draw attention to the camp. The numbers of prisoners sent to be gassed are cut, then suspended, under superior orders. Irma’s relationship with Kramer fails, her lack of emotion frustrating him. He tells her even the camp prostitutes show affection towards him, and she reacts by setting her rabid dogs on any woman prisoner still considered beautiful in her sec- tion of camp, and igniting an affair with Mendele. She also finds out she’s pregnant, and not wanting her youth and beauty destroyed, seeks out an abortionist within the prisoners.



II.2 Grese’s Office/Bureau. Late at night. Enter Grese and Mendele.


1         Come, we must list tomorrow’s lot. MENDELE:

Surely that can wait? Sit a while, I prithee. Unlace those ugly boots thou dearly love. GRESE:

How often, Josef, wilst thou mock me? Does it bring thee joy? MENDELE:

As wearing those beasts upon thy feet brings thee. And wherefore? GRESE:

My boots give me dominance over other softer soles. As for thee, this jousting is some form of affection I’ve come to expect. But now there is work to be done, so sit.


I would thou couldst sit on me instead. GRESE:

Upon thy lap? Ah, my Josef, restraint is a virtue often coupled with patience. Tame thy-

self. Later; first, the list is to be drafted. MENDELE:

10        Kramer has allotted thirty spots for thee to fill. GRESE:

My God, he mocks me with such stinginess.

You know not why he did so, I presume.


And dost thou care so much? Indeed, he thought

Perhaps some caution was in order.


Sure caution is well-ordered, yet not here; Restriction and adhering to such terms Cannot be found within my truest nature. I work alone, on terms myself devised. Kramer, he knew of this, I have no doubt.



20       And what does thou suggest? Some three tens more

Of bodies, thrown to flame? GRESE:

Or more, or less; Indeed, a choice should lie with me alone.


I dare to come between you here, so please

Take care to hear this little I shall say. GRESE:

My God; make haste, waste not our time, thy breath. MENDELE:

Of late, thy rash behavior has been seen, That is to say, observed by higher rank. Not only in Kramer does unease arise. Methinks thy pride has gone too far as to

30       Forget, ignore, that some still outrank thee. GRESE:

Yes, even so—


The rules, my dear, as thou-- GRESE:

You dare to interrupt!


I do, Irma!

You break the rules without a batted lash. Great rules and regulations you ignore, Destroying what we’ve crafted all these years. Take care we must, not boast and kill and crow. Changing are the times we used to know.

And all of Auschwitz calls to mind the tales

Of bloody, crushing boots; of unfed dogs;

40       Of plaited whips which tickle men goodnight. GRESE:

Ignoring thee may serve me well, I feel, Just as I do the rules, it surely seems.

To break the rules, ha! ha! Thy goal is clear And little do the rules play any part. Methinks a group of two men does exist.

A league, perhaps, of Josefs bent on all

But killing poor, poor Irma Grese; instead


You torture her with rules, forbid her whip, Remind her of her place below yourselves,

50       And mock her without cease; do you forget

To whom you swore such oaths of love? On whom

You pressed your lips and spoke in arduous tongue? MENDELE:

I loved you not, just held respect in sort. GRESE:

Oh, no, fear not, the corridors beyond These walls are bare of any man who may Condemn you for your weak and hollow “love. I gave you none. Nor any paltry man.

Demand of me to sit upon thy lap, Then I may see thy pleasure in my sex.

60       Yet once our power ’s ladder is unveiled,

And I have climbed to rungs beyond your reach,

Ascending to great heights of Heaven

While you are stuck and out of Jacob’s favor. Upon my womanhood, I’ll climb and watch As you, a man, may fall back down to earth.


I do not slander, only name thy breed.

Now come, my Irma sweet, and let’s forget

These foolish barbs of fury from our lips.

To fight with sharpened tongues is but our jest,

70       Too frequent to be consequential.

Come, now, and spar thy tongue ‘gainst mine. GRESE:

Get out. I’ll have you killed, lay you a hand on me; No, no, I’ll do the rightful deed myself.


And now, at last, unveiled is Irma Grese. You’ve earned your title: the Beautiful Beast. For beastly you’ve become, an untamed brute Devoid of all humanity, save grace.

[Exit Mendele]


Oh, yes, and all the more it gives me might. Do not await my “beauty” e’er again,

80       Expect it not to call or give the time of day.

Perhaps it serves me best to laugh at these


Two fools, both blinded by their hate and love Unmatched towards me. And fools indeed, wherefore Do they hate me and not themselves? The beast

Is not the girl, but men she so defeats

And whom she tames from wild origins;

Killed quick, she’ll be, unless she quicker strikes. This duty’s to be done, and stronger thus

Ignited by the flame of retribution.

90       I know my place. I shall not yield.

All men but one are worms, and I am but The sparrow of the morn. Heil, mien Führer! [Exit.]