Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Entertaining the Troops! (Or in this case, the POWs!)
This picture was taken at the German POW camp in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, during World War II. The men pictured are POWs who participated in the theater troupe Varista - a contraction of the words Variete im Stacheldraht, or Variety in Barbed Wire. Some of the members had been performing artists back in pre-war Germany, such as Willi Schwind, who had been a trapeze artist, comedian, and professional clown. The hall where Varista performed (shown above) was relatively small, necessitating that the troupe give eighteen performances of the same show in order that all the POWs could attend.
These productions were also shown to the American personnel and even to civilians. One of the most notable productions the troupe performed was the opera Fledermaus. Pictures survive of the variety shows at Fort Robinson, including one with jugglers and costumed POWs. Varista also had a regular segment in the camp newspaper.