A German-Jewish Romance

Today, Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, Tel Aviv’s Tzavta Theater premieres the play “Under the Skin,” based on an amazing true love story between Ilse Coleman, a female SS officer who wore a yellow badge and voluntarily entered the Bergen-Belsen inferno so she wouldn’t  have to separate from her Jewish sweetheart, Charlotte Broad.

The play deals with the lesbian romance between a Nazi officer and the Jewish prisoner, and was written by Jonathan Calderon and based on a true story. Calderon  researched the story for six years, even reading the transcript of the Nazi officer’s trial.

The tale of these two is stranger than fiction: when her prisoners were transferred to Bergen-Belsen, the Nazi officer wore a prison uniform, dressed as a Jewish prisoner, and voluntarily entered the concentration camp as well, to be with her love.

The play takes place in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War. A young German reporter knocks on the door of an elderly Holocaust survivor and starts questioning  her about the secret affair that took place between her and her SS officer.  Throughout the play, the Tel Aviv scene is cut into flashbacks to the concentration camp in which actress Yael Primer, who plays the reporter from Germany, also plays the prisoner Charlotte while Ilana Kiviti, who plays the elderly Holocaust survivor, plays the Nazi officer.

“Since the play deals with role playing,” says director Rakefet Benjamin, ” a Nazi officer masquerading as a Jew, and a  Jew who becomes the executioner, we chose each actor to play two roles – Jew and German – to illuminate the same parties and the potential positive and negative lurking in all of us .”