And We Were Left Darkling

a play and screenplay by Lynn H. Elliott

Handsome, well-educated and heir to a Swedish banking fortune, Raoul Wallenberg strode into the squalor of the Jewish ghettos of WW2 Budapest where his beliefs in human decency and dignity confronts the new god of Adolf Eichmann and the Reich: the god of strength and efficiency. The struggle between these two belief systems is presented against the backdrop of everyday, personal dramas of Jews questioning their god’s presence and questioning how to act morally in such an immoral world.


It all seemed so easy for Herr Obersturmbannfuehrer Adolf Eichmann.  Upon his orders freight trains rush to Budapest to carry Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz and certain death. "Operation Margritte" will quickly and efficiently decimate the last stronghold of European Jewry, Hungary.


The allied advance mean little in the beautifully ordered, efficient world of this “banality of evil.” In his characteristically charming, yet deadly and incisive manner, Eichmann will complete his task in minimum time with maximum efficiency--as demanded by his Fuehrer.


And yet . . .


Into the squalor of the Jewish ghettos of WW2 Budapest strides daringly--some say foolishly--Raoul Wallenberg. Is he the image of the hero we crave? So repeatedly create and recreate on movie screens? Hardly. Here, apparently, is no “hero for our time” in this tall, thin, balding, well-educated heir to a Swedish banking fortune. Yet in Budapest, between July 1944 and January 1945, Wallenberg dares to stand eyeball-to-eyeball with Eichmann and his Reich.


We, the audience, are drawn into this confrontation by Eichmann himself. He seduces us, barely revealing the horror that lies beneath the charming exterior. In his disarming manner he confronts the audience of the 1990s with those challenging questions: why is Wallenberg, a "hero of the holocaust", forgotten, left to die in a Russian prison after World War II? Why is he, Eichmann, a creature of fascination and horror, pursued, captured, tried, and executed while a bewitched world looked on? Discounted hero or mesmeric villain--who, eventually, is the victor of this confrontation?


All is presented against a realistic backdrop of everyday, personal dramas: Anna Sarbo, an old Jew desperately seeking her next meal, trusts her God will provide; Arpad Zador, the middle-aged chair of the Jewish Council, tries to comprehend in an incomprehensible situation, to act morally in an immoral world; and, Kati Levai, a young Jew, sees the new God--power, “macht”--usurping the Jaweh of her ancestors. And for her former schoolmate, Istvan Istoczy, the Hungarian fascist party, the Arrow Cross, offers the control, the domination never before accorded him.

And so, we are left with the Obersturmbannfuehrer, presiding, confronting. The Wallenbergs of this life represent something beautiful, decent, unselfish, but, for most,  unattainable. Best ease our conscience and forget the Wallenbergs of this life:

“Out went the candle,/ And we were left darkling.”  

King Lear: I. iv. 213.



Spare me your moralizing. At the end, I stood alone, defiant. And what did your God offer you? An historical footnote? No, not even that. (BEAT.) Your God believes in human sacrifice, as does mine. But your God spawns millions and then encourages you to love one another. So incompetent, so wasteful, so inefficient. And what is the promised end? Adoring minions sacrificing their lives in order to spend a tiresome eternity of monotonous harps and droning angels all praising Him. We needed a new God. One of strength, power and efficiency curbing the world’s teeming hordes through war, destruction and obliteration. My God, my Reich, also demands sacrifices . . . of the weak and ineffective.



First performed California State University, Chico, as part of the Holocaust Memorial in March, 1995.  Directed by James Gilbert.
Winner of Mill Mountain Theatre Playwrights Festival Award, 1991-2.  Performed in Roanoke, Virginia.

You can read more about me and my other works at my website -


In his capriciousness, their God gave His chosen people some vague rules,

ten “Thou shalt nots” and a gnawing conscience.  

Then He abandoned them to a world molded by a new God: the God of Power, Macht.

And We Were Left Darkling

2023 Lynn H. Elliott. All rights reserved.  Lynn H. Elliott