What the Rhino Saw on the Other Side of the Fence //
What business do a groundhog, mouflon and a family of baboons have at a concentration camp? As absurd as the idea might seem, these and many other animals used to live in a zoo, which the camp commander had installed at the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1938. While the prisoners in the camp lived in the most squalid conditions under constant fear of death, their exotic neighbours on the other side of the fence lived a very comfortable life in their pens – and were quite popular among Weimar’s citizens who were allowed to visit the zoo at the weekends.
The author Jens Raschke didn’t write a play about the daily life inside the Buchenwald concentration camp, but he did use the perspective of the zoo animals to address questions of indescribable violence, social oppression and collective ignorance. The well-organised life of Papa Baboon, Mr. Mouflon and the groundhog girl is turned upside-down one day when a new bear is delivered to the zoo. He keeps asking uncomfortable questions about what’s happening on the other side of the fence and wants to find out what is causing that atrocious smell every time smoke from the chimney drifts in their direction. And then, of course, there is the question of what the rhino saw when he peered over the fence. Finally the bear can stand it no longer and devises a daring plan...
In 1994 workers cleared and uncovered the overgrown terrain of the zoo in Buchenwald and made it accessible to the public again. Now 70 years after the concentration camp was liberated, the young director Swaantje Lena Kleff will stage the world premiere of Raschke’s poetic, but heart-wrenching plea for civil courage and personal responsibility.