Holocaust Teacher Resource Center

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No Way Out Reader’s Theater Collection of Letters

Sitting on my mother’s bed one night, reading a few letters she found in a dusty old box in the basement, I immediately sensed history was unfolding before my eyes. In the beginning I simply wanted to preserve the story, told in letters, of my family’s attempts at escaping Nazi Germany. But when we found over 500 letters and documents, it became clear that this was a story everyone needed to hear.

At once ordinary and extraordinary, No Way Out not only documents one family’s struggle to survive but gives us insight into the stories of thousands of Jews who attempted to flee Germany during the Nazi regime. It is the unique yet universal story of one family’s love for each other during the Holocaust. Told in their own words, it is the story of how ordinary people try to understand their circumstances amid deception and confusion; how they maintain a semblance of normality during the worst of times and make painful decisions based on little information. This is the seldom told account of the insidious nature of the German “legal” processes that killed millions and the indifference of nations who failed to open their doors to those caught in a web of tyranny.

The play No Way Out relies primarily on segments of over 50 letters to tell a complex story in a manageable yet dramatic form. Using large projected images of Nazi laws and events of the times that provide historical context, along with family photographs, the play becomes a moving, yet educational, experience. With my grandfather as the narrator reliving the past, it becomes clear that this is his story. Here is a man, an ordinary man, trying desperately to save his daughter. He mirrors us all.

No Way Out provides first hand accounts of what individuals knew or suspected and how they tried to communicate with and help one another via a censored mail system. What makes this collection especially unique is that family members outside of Germany made carbon copies of the letters they wrote, providing us with dialogue in both directions.

The final chapter of No Way Out has not yet been written. Perhaps one day we will know the whole story. In the meantime, the letters serve as a legacy for those who, tragically, found No Way Out.

Susan Shear