The Warsaw City Transportation Board (ZTM) disallowed posters publicizing the theatrical piece titled “The Last Jew in Europe” from being displayed in buses, arguing that its presentation of the Star of David and the word ‘Jew’ may offend passengers.
Written by Tuvia Tenenbom, “The Last Jew in Europe” is to premier in Teatr Na Woli in Warsaw on March 15. A similar situation occurred four months ago with another play, whose title also caused problems in its promotion. Maciej Kowalewski, director of Teatr Na Woli, presented an official letter to the ZTM marketing sector on Feb. 13, with the reminder that the advertising campaign for the piece was supposed to have commenced in twenty Scania OmniCity buses on Feb. 9.
In reply, ZTM Director Leszek Ruta stated that, though he understands the idea behind propagating the play, he could not agree to displaying an advertisement with such content in Warsaw public transportation services.
Ruta clarified that the title could be read as a catchword and raise controversy or negative emotions among recipients. Furthermore, claims Ruta, the person depicted in the poster spray painting the Star of David may be received as a vandal, with which ZTM wages an ongoing battle.
ZTM spokesman Igor Krajnow explained to Gazeta Wyborcza that, though the advertisement would not offend everyone, it may be interpreted out of context, as advertisements displayed on buses are often read in a selective manner.
Consequently, according to Krajnow, passengers seeing this poster may only notice the word “Jew” or the Star of David, spray painted on a wall and the poster could be received negatively.
On the other hand, Kowalewski maintains that the Teatr Na Woli sign is visible on the poster, making it obvious that it is promoting a play. “The Last Jew in Europe,” set in Lodz, raises the issue of anti-Semitism in contemporary Poland. The author of the play, Tuvia Tenenbom, is the founding artistic director of the Jewish Theater of New York.
Teatr Na Woli is a theater that promotes new ideas, stirring political and social matters and covers difficult, controversial, yet significant topics.
Accordingly, it believes that art should be a place for absolute freedom.
The theater is presenting “The Last Jew in Europe” as a way of taking part in the discussion on anti-Semitism and xenophobia in connection with the 40th anniversary of the events that occurred in March 1968.