| "Shtetl Days" |
POD: c. 1940
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||Early 21st Century|
|Affiliations:||Wawolnice shtetl reenactment troupe|
|When in character, Harlan used the name "Jakub Shlayfer"|
Veit Harlan was an Aryan actor in the Grossdeutsches Reich. In the 21st century, Harlan and his wife, Kristi Söderbaum, became historical re-enactors in the village of Wawolnice, a tourist attraction established by the Commissariat for the Strengthening of the German Populace, near Lublin, in what had once been Poland. Harlan and Söderbaum played Jewish residents of the shtetl. Harlan's character was "Jakub Shlayfer", a grinder in the village. Söderbaum played his wife, "Bertha".
Harlan had done his stints in the Hitler Jugend and the Wehrmacht before turning to acting. He and his wife were cast as part of Wawolnice after discovering how difficult other media, such as television, were to enter, and then just how terrible the final product of those media were. They lived in nearby Lublin, and commuted every day.
All the actors associated with Wawolnice were method actors, and the government insisted on near perfect attention to detail. Thus, Harlan, Kristi, and every other performer became fluent in various languages, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish; they grew very familiar with the Torah and the Talmud and attended shul; they dressed as the historical Jews did; and they became experts in their respective fictional trades, all for the benefit of the tourists who came to stare. Harlan was sufficiently conversant with the Talmud that he was able to engage Reb Eliezer over such issues as whether or not a snake was kosher.
Harlan and Kristi's devotion to their craft continued even after the work day had done. They used Yiddish off and on around the house, publicly stating their need to keep practicing the language or lose it, should anyone be listening in. However, their devotion deepened after a staged pogrom at Wawolnice. Harlan took a severe blow to the ribs when he was hit by a rock thrown by an actor playing a Pole. Even after he fled backstage, he continued to use Yiddish, and signed his medical release forms in the name of "Jakub Shlavfer", until the technicians pointed out his error. He and Kristi went home, and Harlan began using painkillers while his broken ribs healed.
Work began again the next day; Harlan was careful to remain in character, despite his injury, even saying the Birkhas ha-gomel in shul. After he was congratulated by Reb Eliezer for saying it, Harlan returned to work. After some hours, he was interrogated by an SS Hauptsturmführer, who demanded to know why Eliezer had congratulated Harlan. After Harlan confirmed he was indeed Aryan, he explained that both he and Eliezer had simply been in character, and that a truly pious Jew was have said the Birkhas ha-gomel after being injured in a pogrom as Harlan had. After admonishing Harlan to remember he was simply playing a part, the Hauptsturmführer left. Harlan briefly considered speaking to Eliezer, but realized the shul was bugged. He did tell Kristi that evening over dinner in Lublin. She found the situation ridiculous.
Time passed, and the High Holy Days came. Harlan and Kristi observed the required fast of Yom Kippur while pretending to eat for the benefit of any microphones placed in their flat. Harlan also asked his co-workers to forgive him for any offenses. It was another instance in which Harlan realized just how brutal National Socialism was.
Weeks later, several reenactors got together for a picnic. While they dressed in their normal 21st Century clothing, they maintained a kosher feast. After they were done eating, Eliezer, a.k.a Ferdinand Marian, privately approached Harlan. They were in total agreement that their troupe of actors should now carry on as real Jews as much as possible, to act as witnesses to the atrocities committed by the Reich.
Some weeks after this, Harlan decided to get circumcised. The Actor's Guild, which strove for realism, paid actors who underwent the procedured a substantial bonus. Harlan was far more interested in immersing himself in his new Jewish identity.
The night after the operation, Harlan sat on his couch and watched television while under the influence of pain pills. He saw two very old movies, Bringing Up Baby and Frankenstein. While he enjoyed both at the time (due in no small part to the pills), the next morning, a sober Harlan realized that Wawolnice was a Frankenstein monster inadvertently created by the Reich. Harlan was left to wonder how long they could survive, and whether they could spread.