BBC Radio 4, 25 February 2010
Edith's Story told the true story of Edith Scholem (Emerald O'Hanrahan),
daughter of Werner Scholem (leader of the Berlin Communist Party), who was abandoned
in 1934 by her mother Emmy (Haydn Gwynne) in Berlin and told to
gather up the family possessions and whatever money she can find, and bring it all to Prague where Edith awaited her.
The play depicted Edith's epic journey across miles of Nazi-controlled territory, until she re-encountered her mother. The
family subsequently moved like nomads from country to country, receiving a cold reception in most places, until they finally
arrived in Britain. Emmy ultimately left the country and pursued a rootless life; Edith, on the other hand, stayed there and
married an English man. Meanwhile Werner Scholem was captured and shot by the Nazis.
In common with other BBC productions (notably the Life of Chekhov, broadcast
last month), director Eoin O'Callaghan encouraged the actors playing the Scholem family to use Irish accents. Perhaps
this was done to emphasize their difference from mainstream (i.e. non-Jewish, non-communist) Germans - all of whom spoke with
English accents. This device worked quite well. However, I was left wondering why the story had been dramatized at all:
even though Nazism came to an end with the end of the Second World War sixty-five years ago, British producers
seem obsessed with reminding listeners of its excesses. Are they trying to warn us about the perils of extremism? Or
are they trying to retell stories of heroism, at a time when the whole concept of heroism - especially heroism in battle
- appears rather archaic, as British troops pursue what seem futile campaigns in Afghanistan or Iraq? I'd love to know.