Photo of Elizabeth Stahlmann (center), Charlie Thurston (spotlight), and the cast of Here There Are Blueberries by DJ Corey Photography.
0 5 min 11 mths

A mysterious photo album appears on the desk of an archivist in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Upon further inspection, the photos are from Auschwitz; not of the many millions of individuals who were murdered there, but of the seemingly cheery lives of the officers and secretaries who worked there.

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) newest production, Here There Are Blueberries by the Tectonic Theater Project, follows the true story of Dr. Rebecca Erbelding as she uncovers the painful truths behind the photos in the album of a senior SS officer at Auschwitz, Karl Höcker. 

Who are the people in the photographs? How did they come to be there? What did they know about the atrocities occurring steps away from their offices? 

Originality: 9/10 (What’s a 10? Hadestown)

Here There are Blueberries is presented from the vantage point of Dr. Erbelding on an investigative mission. Co-authors Moisés Kaufman and Amanda Gronich transform the audience into detectives and archivists alongside Dr. Erbelding. One of her first mysteries: who did the album belong to? 

Kaufman and Gronich strategically and succinctly lay out each mystery, connecting the dots between the snapshots in time and other historic records. A photo of a newly promoted Lieutenant is cross referenced with all promotions on that same date to uncover the identity of the album owner, Höcker. 

The lighter questions make way for heavier ones. At Dr. Erbelding’s every discovery, we are forced to reckon with how these individuals came to be in that exact moment in time. Karl Höcker was a simple accountant before he joined the SS. Höcker features prominently throughout the album and was the right hand man to the Commandant at Auschwitz. 

Technical execution: 8/10 (What’s a 10? Hamilton)

Photo of Scott Barrow, Nemuna Ceesay, and Kathleen Chalfant in Here There AreBlueberries by DJ Corey Photography.
Photo of Scott Barrow, Nemuna Ceesay, and Kathleen Chalfant in Here There Are
Blueberries by DJ Corey Photography.

David Bengali (Projection Design) and Derek McClane (Scenic Design) had the impressive task of turning a photo album into a three dimensional space. The set is relatively simple: a room of drafting tables provides the constant reminder that we’re historians and archivists. Yet these drafting tables quickly become projection screens for images from the Höcker Album or a bar table as two characters meet. Some of the photos were brought to life with sound, an accordion or tinkling of cutlery in the background of jubilant conversation. 

Engaging (Fun): 8/10 (What’s a 10? Six)

Fun seems like an inappropriate category for a story about the Holocaust, so instead I’ll note that the performance was incredibly engaging both from the investigative structure and the not–so-rhetorical questions asked of the photographic subjects. 

Timeliness 8/10 (What’s a 10? Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Merchant of Venice)

This is the category that my theater companion struggled the most with, and rightly so. Why are we humanizing monsters that committed such atrocities, giving them space with photos of their days off, families, and Christmas celebration?

The Höcker Album serves as an important piece of historic record, providing a brief glimpse into the individuals who carried out genocide. The narrative revealed that there’s nothing unique about these individuals that let them down the path of becoming brutal SS soldiers. What does this imply about our modern society?

The Höcker Album provides the first photographic evidence of women working at Auschwitz. Known as the Helferinnen, women served as telegraph and communications specialists at Auschwitz, documenting the number of arrivals and the number of exterminations. “Here There Are Blueberries” is a caption on one of the photographs of a group of women enjoying a day off, laughing and eating blueberries.

The photos are in stark contrast to what’s notably absent – the millions of Jewish people who are being murdered, only miles from where the holiday photos are being taken. 

Final Grade: A- (Don’t let the grade fool you, this is an incredibly powerful play that cleverly takes the theater goer on an investigative journey.)


Here There Are Blueberries plays at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) through May 25. Contact the STC Box Office at 202-547-1122 or visit for more information. 

Running Time: Slightly over 2 hours without an intermission


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