The British Broadcasting, bbc radio 4 – Afternoon Play



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5.1. Ganz’s family research


Adam Ganz’s name appears on several articles, he is also the author of many papers intended for conferences concerning, for example, screenwriting. Between the work he has done for the television can be counted Murder Without Motive (1998, writer). Another of his work for the TV is Pillow Talk (2005, director), One Armed Bandits (1990 writer, director). He is also dramatist and script consultant. But most importantly he has written three afternoon dramas. [npnd]

Adam Ganz is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London, and also active as professional screenwriter and director for radio film and television. His principal research interests focus on audiovisual narrative, with particular reference to the migration of audiovisual production processes to the digital, and on the TV development process and other forms of collaborative narrative including the collaboration between author and audience. [npnd]

The play which was among the 122 dramas in question is The Gestapo Minutes by Adam Ganz. This war time drama is one episode play which was broadcasted on the 31st of July 2013. Ganz’s drama appeared between the final three best original audio dramas (single play) of the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2014. [np14]

It is a drama, concerning the same topic as others two of his plays, which was inspired by a real family story and it was set in time just after the war in summer 1945 in German city of Mainz. Ganz used in his play information which he learned when he was doing a research in his family history.

“In these extraordinary documents that I discovered in Mainz, I learned what happened to my great-grandfather, including how his art collection, his clothes and gramophone records were stolen by the Gestapo and how he was imprisoned for not wearing the Yellow Star, a badge that the Jews were forced to wear as a means of identification. [np13]

Adam Ganz’s radio drama, The Gestapo minutes, produced and directed by Catherine Bailey, is set just after the Second World War in town called Mainz and is about a Jewish lawyer, Michel Oppenheim, and his wife, Gerda Oppenheim, who were forced to live in their country in terrible conditions because of Michel’s origins. The only reason why they survived is that Gerda is not Jewish and therefore they were not deported to concentration camp. Michel Oppenheim, played by Julian Rhind-Tutt, was made by the Nazis the head of the Jewish community in Mainz and for six years he and his wife Gerda, played by Tamzin Griffin, had to regularly report to Gestapo. The man in function was Gerhard Schwoerer who was played by Ed Stoppard. [npnd1]

Oppenheim's view of the former Gestapo officer has been coloured by his experience of the War, when Schwoerer was in power, and Oppenheimer was made head of the Jewish community in Mainz. Oppenheimer might have been exterminated, were it not for the intervention of his non-Jewish wife Gerda. [np131]

The whole play takes place in Oppenheim’s home where one day, after the War, Oppenheims expect a visitor. Gerda is very agile and unsettled about the visit because it is the former Gestapo officer to whom they had to report during the war. She remembers the dretful six years that they were terrified for their own life. She especially mentions times they were forced to sit in front of Schwoerer’s desk. Gerda believes that even meeting Schowoerer is unacceptable and cannot understand her husband who is willing to receive and listen to Gerhard Schwoerer. The reason for Gerhard visit is simple. Now, the situation had changed and it is Gerhard who is frightened for his life now threatened by the American troops that occupy Germany. To save himself he needs a letter saying that he did not take an advantage of the Jewish situation in fact he wants Michel to write a letter saying that he was always polite and decent while dealing with the Jews and for quite long period of time it seems that Oppenheim intends to give him the desired letter.

Catherine Bailey's production initially seemed like a revenge-drama, with Oppenheim making Schwoerer aware of every single atrocity that had been committed against the Jewish population under twelve years of Nazi rule. The drama seemed to reinforce this impression, with an (unnamed) Speaker (Robin Lustig) periodically reading out details of Nazi edicts as to what the Jews could and could not do in everyday life. Given what had happened, it seemed highly unlikely that Oppenheim would agree to Schwoerer's request: surely the Nazi officer had to stand trial for what he and his followers had done when they were in power? [np131]

Even though there are not many characters there seems to be, in my opinion, a very fortunate choice of actors that were casted by the producers. The number of characters is four Michel Oppenheim, Gerda Oppenheim, Gerhard Schwoerer and a speaker. At least two of these are connected to Jewish religion, just as the writer of the play Adam Ganz is one is connected to the true story discovered by Ganz.

The actor in connection with the story is the protagonist of the speaker, Robin Lusting who joined the BBC in 1989. He was a presenter of The World Tonight and also the presenter of a program Princes of Wales which was dealing with princes’ death. Other of his work are Looking for Democracy (2005) and Generation Next (2006) where he was the presenter as well as the writer of the program. In year 2011 he played in an Afternoon Drama called A Time to Dance. [np141] Lusting’s name appears in an article, Dramatic turning of tables on Gestapo by Anna Sheinman, discussing Ganz’s first radio play Listening to the Generals.

The clipped voice reading the minutes is that of long-time BBC radio broadcaster Robin Lustig, “the perfect person, both as someone with a wonderful voice and a huge amount of experience at bringing information to life on radio, and as someone with a personal connection with the story”.

Lustig’s father Franz was a German-Jewish refugee to the UK who worked with Ganz’s father as a “listener”, recording the conversations of captured German generals. Their work was the subject of Ganz’s first radio play, Listening To The Generals [Ann13]

The actor representing Gerhard Schwoerer, Edmund Stoppard, is the son of the well-known playwright, who was mentioned in chapter two, Tom Stoppard who emigrated with his parents from the Czech Republic. He has worked for television, Pianista (2002), Britain’s Gratest Codebreaker (2011), [np142] and radio as well as for theatre. In radio productions the most important factor is his voice.

As well as his smooth neutral accent, he can do a completely natural "Lock Stock" London accent. Listen to end of commercial reel for sample. Well practiced Spanish, Italian, French, American, Russian, Eastern European & Northern too. Has 2 very different narrative styles so listen right through sample to hear the variation. [npnd2]

Tamzin Griffin is an actress who lent her voice to a character named Gerda. For the past 26 years she has been a musician and an actress. She can be seen in The National Theater in London. She also appeared on television in comedy Calcium kid and in a documentary Chernobyl. [npnd3] Although, to my knowledge, there is no evidence to say whether Griffin is Jewish or not she has appeared on The National Theatre stage in a play, written by Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek, called Our Class. The play is about five Catholic and five Jewish children whose life is followed last three quarters of the twentieth century Poland. [Nie09]

Julian Rhind-Tutt played the part of Michel Oppenheim. Although there is an endless list of works which he has done for the television the list concerning his radio work consist of only few entries. For example The Maltby Collection (2007-2009) a sitcom where he appears as Rod Millet or Alice through the Looking Glass (2012) Where he plays the role of Lewis Caroll. [np143]

The play itself starts with a piece of music accompanied by very soft violin playing and a woman’s voice, which is not accounted for in the character list, explains the setting and what has been happening. The voice is accompanied by sonic back-drop sound which consists of all the noises that can be found on streets. There are cars passing by, a squeaking wheel. In these very first few second listeners learn several important information about the Oppenheims and their situation. Once we are acquainted with the time and place we turn up in Oppenheim’s present place of living.

There is a conversation between Gerda and Michel. It is clear that Michel is getting dressed and Gerda is helping him. But even so Gerda is clearly exasperated and listener cannot but notice that the conversation is little tense for Gerda disagree with seeing Gerhard, the Gestapo officer. It does not take long and another character, the speaker enters the scene.

The speaker has a very special role. Throughout the play his voice appears altogether thirteen times and each time we seem to get a real piece of information regarding war time situation concerning the Jewish people living in German town called Mainz.

Ganz — who teaches screenwriting at Royal Holloway University — stumbled upon the minutes of the wartime meetings while researching his great-grandfather’s art collection in the city’s archives. The play is interspersed with readings of these minutes, which detail the daily, almost mundane cruelty of the Nazi regime, from the long list of names and addresses of those who committed suicide before mass deportations, to a reprimand for a Jewish man for visiting an ice cream parlour. [Ann13]

In my opinion, this reminds the listener that the play is not just a play and keeps him or her concentration at a high level. It also makes listeners tense while listening so as not to miss hear a single word.

Inconsiderable part of the time is devoted to the dialog between Gerhard and Michel, as Gerda leaves the room for several minutes till she is called back by her husband. And even then she is very often a listener rather than participant in Michel and Gerhard’s conversation. At times Gerda is annoyed with her husband for having the visitor in their sitting room and also with the former Gestapo officer for being so impertinent and coming for the reference list. Other times she enjoys the table being turned and watches the little humiliation that Gerhard is going through.

Until the seventeenth minute of the play Michel is willing to give Gerhard what he wants but then he changes his mind. Even though Gerhard tries to bribe Michel with Michael’s own porcelain collection and it is not until just before the end of the play that he finally agrees to sign the letter which should help to save Gerhards life. Michel decides to sing the report letter in exchange for all documents that were written during all those years while interrogating Jewish people.

Last but one entrance of the speaker is for considerable long period of time. This time the speaker is time to time interrupted by Michel and Gerhard’s voices supporting what the speaker announces.

There are not many sound effects during the play. Taking away the beginning and the end of the play where the woman is speaking we are left with only a few sound effects used to support the play. All of the sounds can be classified as visualized sound. To explain this, a look at it from the closer perspective is needed. The sound in question are: typewriting, lighting a cigarette, record playing, paper crimpling. Prior to all these noises there was an indication in conversation to lead our mind to picture it. For example, just before the sound of a typewriter being used, Gerhard, holding a sheet of paper (sound of a paper being wobbled about), asks Michel: “Do you have a typewriter?”, answer is “Yes” and sound of a paper being put in a typewriter machine before the typewriting sound starts. Even before wobbling the paper Gerhard says: “Here, I’ve made a draft.”

The only occurrence of acousmatic sound is almost at the beginning of the play just before Gerhard comes on the scene. He knocks on a door and then the door is opened. As was mentioned in chapter one there are two types of acousmatic sound. This would be the case where the source of the sound is hidden and reviled latter. First there was the sound of nocks and then, after the door was opened either by Mr. or Mrs. Oppenheim, we could picture the source, Gerhard Schwoerer.

As one of the many review says: “A passionate piece, performed with utter conviction by the two protagonists, The Gestapo Minutes proved once again how difficult it is to respond to acts of atrocity.“ [np131] With which I cannot do otherwise but to agree. There is one more thoughts to add in conclusion. Even though the The Gestpo Minutes is very easy to follow and it has a big demand on listener’s concentration as regards to really understanding the information given because every information is key information.

Prior to The Gestapo Minutes Adam Ganz had written another two plays related to the same theme and that is to the Second World War and the Gestapo. Again Ganz used his family history. To be precised it is a part of his father’s live that Ganz had not been aware of until the research he undertaken to acquire a better knowledge of the life of his relatives. The play in question is Listening to the General written in 2009.

Pert Ganz, father of Adam Ganz, was involved in a top-secret operation which used eavesdropping device to listen to conversations between the German generals who were prisoners of war in north London. Information which were taped were subsequently translated by refugees who managed to escape before the terror that was happening against the Jewish people in their own country.

Ganz, whose father died three years ago, says: “From what I read in the transcripts, there was some extraordinary stuff recorded. The generals talked in some detail about war crimes. Some of them said they didn’t understand why the Jews were being killed in the middle of a war when it would be much more sensible to win the war first and deal with the Jews afterwards. Others were repulsed by what was done.” [Sim09]

Unfortunately, all the information acquired during the top-secret operation could not be used as evidence against Nazis in prosecutions held after the war. As Simon Round informs in his article: “The secret nature of the operation meant that the information was not obtained in accordance with the Geneva Convention and could not be used in trials. The generals themselves were released after 1945.”[Sim09]

Another of his radio plays, which was also intended for the Afternoon drama program is Nuclear Reactions. The plot of the play is, once again, concerning the Germans and the Second World War. A several German nuclear scientists were captured and held as prisoners of war in Cambridgeshire. The building where they were kept had many hidden microphone inside because the British were in need of knowing how far the Germans had gone with making nuclear weapons. Then they were eavesdroped as the Atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima by Americans. [np10]


  • Told in mock-confessional form by Rittner (Nick Dunning), the play looked at the consequences of science particularly when it concerns the production of the atomic bomb. The tone was conversational, almost playful: many of the scientists knew they were being bugged, and were treating the entire occasion as something like a Great Game, likened to a Grimm’s fairy tale (Rittner’s favourite author) in which one group of people did the best to disinform another. It was only in 1957, when a group of German physicists signed the Gottingen Declaration, vowing not to use the atomic bomb in any circumstances, that they actually became proud of their activities. The director of this morose play was Eoin O’Callaghan. [np10]


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