A discussion on the controversial play 'Perdition' with author Jim Allen, director Ken Loach and historian Dr Helga Robinson-Hammerstein.

The subject of the play is a libel case surrounding alleged collaboration between the Zionist movement in Hungary and the Nazis during World War II. The first production of the play, directed by Ken Loach at London's Royal Court Theatre, was cancelled the day before it was due to premiere. The controversy then moved to Ireland with plans for the production to go ahead at an as yet unconfirmed theatre.

The row over the play centres over the allegations that it's anti-semetic and that it falsifies history by claiming that Zionist leaders in Hungary collaborated with the Nazis in 1944 and that they allowed hundreds of thousands of Jews to die in the belief that this would receive international support for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Author Jim Allen provides a background for the play and how what he discovered in his research differed from the point of view of the Zionist leaders. 

I thought it important that I wipe the slate clean so that we get a real historical importance interpretation of what really happened.

Director Ken Loach outlines the reasons for bringing the play to Dublin after it was censored in London by a powerful lobby. Loach also talks about the importance of freedom of expression. 

It was suggested that Dublin might stage the play that the Brits were too afraid to.

On the subject of historical accuracy, Dr Helga Robinson-Hammerstein from the School of History at Trinity College Dublin says

I have absolutely no problem with poetic licence. It might be used by a dramatist who wants to make a point.

The problem for Dr Hammerstein, however, is that the sources have been over simplified. She believes that historians are not concerned with passing a verdict but rather being fair to the truth.


This episode of 'Evening Extra' was broadcast on 4 February 1987. The presenter is Richard Crowley.