A Grandfather and Grandson Solo

Last summer, when I was thinking about the supporting program for our exhibition “End of Testimony?“, the performance “Lebenslang” (~ lifelong) by and with Daniel Langbein immediately came to mind. I saw his performance a few years ago, not live but as an application for a performance and still it burned itself into my memory. The simplicity and the simultaneous intensity of the performance impressed me. The story of two people, of different generations is here condensed and put into context. On the one hand there is Daniel Langbein, actor, born in Vienna in 1987. On the other hand, there is his grandfather Hermann Langbein, who fought with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and was then deported via French camps, first to Dachau and from 1942 to 1944 to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Hermann Langbein survived and thereafter devoted the rest of his life to coming to terms with what he had experienced and to analyzing Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He was one of the first to speak about his experiences in the Nazi extermination machinery. Educating future generations was of great concern to him, so much so that he spoke to school classes as a contemporary witness at an early stage. Last but not least, he was a founding member of the International Auschwitz Committee, of which he was elected the first Secretary General. He played a leading role in the 1st Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial and was a sharp critic of the German compensation legislation.

A small part of his estate is a series of video interviews commissioned by the Austrian Ministry of Education in 1983. This footage was the starting point for the performance “Lebenslang,” which premiered as part of the “Days of Freedom” at Theater Junge Generation Dresden in 2017. Grandson Daniel Langbein had been concerned with the person and history of his grandfather since his education at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz. “I was looking for a personal approach to my grandfather’s legacy and found with the re-enactment of the statements my grandfather made in these interviews a way to initiate an examination of our history with theatrical means.”

“Lebenslang” is Daniel Langbein’s second work in exploring his family history. It was preceded by the play “Macht Gelegenheit Mörder,” which premiered in 2014 with Daniel Langbein and Lukas Tröger. The play is based on the memoir ” The Stronger. A Report from Auschwitz and Other Concentration Camps” by Hermann Langbein.

On January 25, Daniel Langbein will give a guest performance with his solo as part of the exhibition “End of Contemporary Witnessing?” at the Kulturhaus Abraxas. The 15-minute performance will be followed by a conversation with Daniel Langbein. All info & tickets.

Sara Sepehri Shakib

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