An old-fashioned doctor's office, displaying none of the modern shiny nickel, or glass furnishings. In this dimly lit room this physician has received and treated his patients for 40 years (1).
In the center of the room is a large desk. Library cupboards against the surrounding walls. To the left, a door exits into a waiting room. Through a draped portal, towards the back, another room can be seen.
A window to the right. In a corner, on a portal covered with a red drape, stands a bust of Professor Nothnagels; this professor was a founding father of (medical college) and integral to the fame garnered by this Vienna medical faculty. He served as our physician's mentor. In the corner of one of the book cupboards is an open gramophone, a frivolous object in a serious (non-frivolous) environment; but our doctor loves music, even in this modality (2).
This tragedy is set mid-March, 1938; it is dusk and the night is approaching, ultimately, becoming pitch black. The physician from Vienna is in his 70's, with a ruddy face and a lively demeanor. He is escorting his last patient to the door. He impatiently begins to open his white lab coat.
Physician: (calling out the door) My honorarium? You wouldn't be able to afford my bill if I added everything together. So, don't worry about it…everything turned out great, nothing went wrong, and it could have ended badly…even six weeks ago…that in itself is an honorarium for a doctor… (3).
Woman's voice: whispering, intense and urgently.
Physician: Your husband joined the party….? Oh therefore…but Mrs. Eberseder, who would even be concerned (care) about me…I'm almost 70 and I've been practicing for 45 years…in this room (office)…I have no interest in politics, I don't read newspapers, and I haven't assisted any more people into the hereafter than any other doctor….No, no Mrs. Eberseder, I've already lived through too many “great” times, I'll pass up this one, for a change…very nice of you, Bye, Adieu, say hello to your husband at home, the party-member, convalescing… tell him to drop by some time so that I can take a peek at him…he nods, and closes the door. A grandfather clock strikes 5:30.
Physician: pulls his pocket watch: finally. 5:30….once more, again, 5:30. How many more times? He yawns and stretches. Ambles to the window where the last of the sunbeams of early spring are collecting; He gazes quietly out of the window. As he turns around, the anticipation of a relaxing evening is reflected in his body language. He exchanges his lab coat for a silken evening robe. Next he pours himself coffee from a thermos and lights up a Virginia-cigar; his face reflects pleasure.
Wait again…suddenly he is startled…maybe Eberseder sent his wife because he himself is afraid….Ah no…this is paranoia…
He walks over to the library, sorts through his books, pulls out one, then another, then puts them back, until he finds the one he wants to enjoy for his solitary “downtime”.
Stroking the book's cover, he gently sighs and smiles in anticipation, because one of his favorite authors will help him escape into tried and true worlds, where he feels more at home than in the strange world of today. Still standing, he begins eagerly to leaf through the book, sampling the familiar and exquisite enjoyment inherent to this activity. He moves an armchair next to the window, takes a seat, dons his reading glasses, sips his coffee, puffs a couple of times on his cigar, and becomes more and more engrossed in his book. In the rosiness of the setting sun, his face almost appears youthful.
Suddenly the shrill and demanding sound of the telephone
The Physician angrily slams shut the book. Now, there you go. Another evening ruined.
He gets up and somewhat heavily treads to the desk, and picks up the receiver.
Yes…it's you, dear friend?…not in a long time…what did you say?…someone is eavesdropping on my calls?…ok, a high ranking personality like you, even today…only in my best interest?…He sinks into the office chair behind his desk
The voice of the caller creaks out of the phone for a while…
The physician interrupts: Stop! Slow down, please…I can't even comprehend everything that you are saying!…Did I understand you correctly?…My house is going to be searched? Tomorrow, at 4 am?…And then they want to take me away with them (arrest)?…and why?…You're right…Only kids ask “why” in this day and age…It says in the newspaper that I'm a poisonous pest of the human race? Because I treated a government official? (4) I have treated thousands of people, kings, millionaires, poor persons, Christians, Jews, Maharajas, and even Nazis. Before God and the physician, all human beings are equal…. Oh it's different now…Judaism, sharpened through life long success now it reads concentration camp (5)…Oh please! I won't beleaguer my beloved Vienna any longer through my medical successes…today still, I'll remove my office sign, it's been an old dream of mine (6). Unfortunately you all prevented me from closing my practice before…Excuse me?…It's too late you say…
The voice on the phone creaks emphatically
The Physician has lost his self-possession. He speaks quietly with controlled vehemence: From the horse's mouth (an undeniable source)? Still tonight across the border, absolutely…otherwise…what do you mean “the worst consequences”?…They have that much hateful vengeance against a doctor?…You yourself want to…in your car…that is fabulous of you…but…but this is happening too quickly…before I make such a big decision I have to give it a little bit of thought…I'm old and pedantic and this ultimately affects the rest of my life…no time to consider…absolutely none…Hello…What's going on?…Hello…Are you still there? We briefly lost contact…
The voice on the phone is creaking emphatically now, agitated, commanding
The Physician: Resigned and de moralized: Fine…I will immediately pack the necessities…and I won't rethink this…Yes, I'm alone… I gave my housekeeper the evening off. You are calling me back at 6? Ok.
I'll be ready. Count on it. I'll anticipate your call…and I'm ready…he lays down the receiver and remains motionless. The evening's darkness has progressed.
The Physician reaches for his forehead and mumbles to himself…Well, there isn't anything one can do…anything's better than that…well, let's go then (dialect)…stands up abruptly and disappears in the other room, hurries back. He is carrying an old-fashioned carryall as well as some clothes. Hurriedly and unfocused he begins to pack. Suddenly he stops and hurries to the library, fervently, with shaking hands, he withdraws books and piles them up. What should I take with me? Emotionally choked up he mutters: My books…he rushes back to his desk, pulls open the desk drawer, and pulls out a large roll of paper. At least my Diploma from Medical School, then returns it…it won't hold any value in a foreign country (there is no point in taking it along)…
In that moment the streetlights flicker on; bright beams of light strike the walls of the room and reflect brightly (uncomfortably bright light) the bust of Dr. Nothnagels.
The Physician stares at the bust for a long time, and then formally bows to the icon: And you, Mr. Hofrat (7)…How many times did I consult with you in bygone days, my respected (honored) teacher? Any comments (8) regarding this situation?
Nothnagel's venerable, sonorous, and still a little dry- throat—voice is audible near the statue: “Only a noble (good) person can be a good (effective healer) physician”.
Physician: Those guiding words (9) brought you and our Vienna-school fame, Mr. Hofrat. I however, in the best moments in my practice, almost believed that only a good doctor (a competent doctor with integrity) can be a good person…and now, now…I'm a poisonous pest, simply because I'm a Jew…
Nothnagel's voice: From a medical point of view, antisemitism is a cyclical psychosis from which a manic-depressive people occasionally suffer.
Physician: It's easy for you, Mr. Hofrat, to render diagnoses, because, first of all, you are not a Jew, and to the second point, you are dead.
Nothnagel's voice: The incomparable heights of our profession necessitate for us, Mr. Colleague, to identify world history to be comparable to pathology (sickness-history).
Physician: Mr. Hofrat, you are an icon composed of plaster. You are completely out of danger; I, however, within the hour, will have left this room, this house, this city, my entire life with its few victories, and the many defeats of our incomparable lofty profession…and all that decade after decade, will have been less than nothing…and then comes the border, with its dangers and depravities, which frighten me terribly, disgusting and without honor…and if everything goes well, I'll be in a foreign land, and tomorrow, I'll be waking up someplace, without a name, without any means, without people, without possibility…in my seventies, when other professors are celebrating their honorable retirement…However, if I should dare to check some poor slob's (devil's) throat, my incomparable highly placed colleagues will promptly deliver me to the police…So, Mr. Hofrat, advise me…what would you do in my place?
Nothnagel's voice: Obtain an unobstructed point of view, Mr. Colleague, like you would at the bedside…and then consider all the possibilities.
Physician: But that is the terrible thing…my kind can't (is not allowed to) take a stand, have a point of view, …and the 2 alternatives are equally troubling.
Nothnagel's voice: you only need to turn up the light if you are seeking enlightenment (clarity).
Physician: Mr. Hofrat, believe me, … life is too difficult for me, I can barely lift my legs and I'm unable to drag myself to the to the light switch.
Nothnagel's voice: One is unable to derive conclusions in the darkness (void), Mr. Colleague…
Physician: Are you referring to the third alternative?
A dull roar is audible in the street, and approaching closer and closer….The physician pulls a nickel plated container out of his pocket and shows it to the bust. Look here, Mr. Professor, this here is very practical. Everything a doctor needs in an emergency; a sterile syringe for 50 cc's caffeine, strophantus, camphor, etc. With a painful nod to the window: So it goes day after day; I force myself not to listen, in spite of nausea and rapid pulse….Please, Mr. Hofrat, please look over here…this ampule here, now I know why I always have it with me, it is a serum that quickly achieves drunkenness (loss of consciousness?)…Did you say something?
Nothnagel's voice is silent
The Physician prepares the injection: So you agree with me…
The roar on the street is very close now; goose stepping on the street is audible; The Horst-Wessel song; crowd noises, with intermittent Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!
The physician, stiffly walks toward the window: The hate! Why this hate??? What did we do to you? (that justifies this hate) …it is not possible here anymore for a person to be a good physician…he has pulled back his sleeve, places the needle, after a short pause he turns to the side…The grandfather clock loudly tolls six, audible in spite of the noise outside;
Physician: It's done, Mr. Hofrat…intravenous…nothing to be done anymore.
Nothnagel's voice: doctor like, with compassion, softly reassuring…So, Mr. Colleague now sit down; and breathe deeply.
Physician: pummels his head with his fists…do I have to listen to this until the end?! (10).
Dr. Nothnagel's voice: We still have other music here, right Mr. Colleague?
Physician: Yes, right…these new records…how much I enjoyed them, even yesterday…he slowly feels his way over to the phonograph and starts up the record…A waltz, from Strauss… philharmonica…Vienna's life-blood… (a remembrance) back from our good times, Mr. Hofrat…The waltz crescendos and fills the room (stage) and then decrescendos and ceases as the Hitler music and noises begins to crescendo and drown out the waltz.
The Physician, bent over, with a dreamy smiling expression, slowly advances back to the desk. Now the call will be coming… if I finished packing…If I'm ready…
He slumps into the “patient's” chair, with his back to the audience…Across the border…A loud crescendo with the waltz is audible with the shrill repeatedly ringing of the phone The physician remains immobile, the stage lighting diminishes and ultimately blackens out.