On April 19, 2016, Historic Heroines joined author Richard Rashke for a sold out production of Dear Esther at the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center. The production was part of the GHMEC’s annual fundraising drive but it also marked the one year anniversary of the passing of Esther Raab, who in 1943 escaped with 300 Jews from Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in Eastern Poland. Before her daring escape, she pledged to her cousin Leon to share with the world the horrors of Sobibor so that the world would never forget. The play Dear Esther, drawn from Esther’s real story of tenacity and survival, is a legacy to the vow she made.
The nonfiction drama does more than simply chronicle the past, it delves into the psyche of a survivor. In the play, the character of Esther confronts her own conscious as she reads and responds to challenging letters children sent the real Esther after she to spoke at schools. The pull and tug between the present Esther and past Esther is powerful as Esther confronts her relationship to the atrocities she witnessed during her time spent at Sobibor and in the months that followed. Though grim, Dear Esther ultimately is about hope, healing, and stresses the tolerance and accepting differences. The program for the GHMEC production of Dear Esther featured a note from Esther Rabb where she shared her most important purpose for sharing her painful story. “I speak out to inform students about the awful consequences of hate. Students are our hope for the future, and that is what Dear Esther is about.”
Dear Esther made its premiere production in 1998 at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, and in intervening 18 years, it has been shared with over 50,000 middle and high school students just through the GHMEC.
After the production, author Richard Rashke signed copies of Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther. Historic Heroines is proud to publish for the first time a curated selection of the moving letters, drawings and poems school children sent to Esther along with the play Dear Esther by Richard Rashke. Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ibooks.