Play shows Nazis couldn’t kill truth

Updated April 22, 2017 - 1:53 pm

The elderly man with the shock of white hair stands at the back of the Durango High School theater stage and remembers what happened more than 70 years ago, not long after he arrived by train at the Auschwitz concentration camp as a 13-year-old boy.

After a Nazi soldier rips his aunt’s baby from her breast, she screams, raking her fingernails over his face. His sliced cheeks bleed. Another Nazi smashes a handgun over his aunt’s head… Slumping to the ground, she moans her last words: “Please, let me have my baby. Give him to me.”

With his face a bloody mess, the Nazi holding the baby throws the child into the air and catches him by his feet. He swings the baby above his head and then smashes the little one’s head against the boxcar…

“Unfortunately, I sometimes relive what happened as we rehearse my play,” the 86-year-old Stephen Nasser said with a sigh.

In his shaking left hand, the Las Vegan holds the script to the play he wrote with Ann Tane Raskin, “Not Yet, Pista.” The burgundy shirt he wears, identifying him as “Stephen Nasser Holocaust Survivor,” carries a message: “NEVER AGAIN.”

The proud Jewish octogenarian’s eyes glisten with tears as he runs his right hand through his thick white mane and talks about the Holocaust, the annihilation of millions of European Jews by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945.

While the theatrical scenes involving Nasser’s family remain powerful — he’s on- and off-stage as a narrative voice, but Durango students carry the production — he’s thankful what happens can’t be as graphic as what appears in his mind’s eye.

“Sometimes I wish my memory wasn’t so good.”

A few days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is Monday, Nasser talked about his play — directed by his longtime friend Tobias Torres and opening Thursday at Durango High — he notes “Pista” is a nickname for Stephen in his native Hungary.

And he points out that the title of the play revolves around a hallucination he had as he lay near death. As he began to regain consciousness at a hospital — liberating Americans discovered him alive in a boxcar under 64 dead bodies — he cried out to his dead brother, Andris, that he wanted to be with him.

“And then I remember my dear brother calling to me, ‘Not yet, Pista. Remember, you made a promise to me.’”

That promise — made as Andris died of starvation in Nasser’s arms while the pair was at the Muhldorf hard labor camp —was to go public with what their family experienced under the Nazis. They thought they might survive after being shipped from Auschwitz to Muhldorf.

Yet Nasser, too, almost died from starvation at Muhldorf, where he secretly wrote diary entries that are the basis of the play. He was 5 foot 10 inches tall and just 72 pounds when Americans found him in the box car.

The play is yet another way Nasser, a retired restaurateur, keeps his promise to his brother. He’s written two books, “My Brother’s Voice” and “Journey to Freedom,” and delivered more than 1,000 lectures to schools and community groups.

Of the 21 members in Nasser’s Hungarian family deported to Germany — his father died prior to Hungary being overtaken by the Nazis, and his mother died of pneumonia while in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp — he’s the only survivor.

Nasser, who says reminding people of the Holocaust helps prevent such savagery from happening again, can’t hold back the tears as he thinks about what happened to his family.

“It is too awful.”

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday and Tuesday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter

Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like