The First To Go

Author: Nabil Shaban

ISBN 978-0-9548294-1-4

Price: £7.99

Paperback

Publisher: Sirius Book Works publishing

Everyone knows about the millions of Jews who died in the Nazi extermination camps. Countless books, plays and films have been produced to ensure that we never forget and so remain vigilant against any likely recurrence. Yet until Nabil Shaban decided to do something about it, there has never been a play or film which seeks to tell the story of Hitler’s Euthanasia program for disabled people. In fact, THE FIRST TO GO, the First Victims, in Hitler’s systematic drive to purify the Aryan race were people with physical, sensory, mental and psychiatric disabilities. Gas chambers were originally created to speed up the culling of such unwanted “Useless Eaters”, the term used by Hitler to describe disabled people.

Nabil Shaban's play doesn't just tell the story of Disabled Victims, it also tells of Disabled Heroes and Disabled Villains.

The Disabled Victims, Siegfried, Heide and Helmut....it is their destiny to be given lethal injections.

The Disabled Villain, Dr. Josef Goebbels, a man who so hated being crippled with a clubbed foot, he chose to hate all disabled people, he masterminded the propaganda campaign advocating Euthanasia.

The Disabled Heroes, Claus von Stauffenberg, the one armed, one eyed "terrorist" who attempted to blow up Hitler And Brunhilde, the German Army nurse who becomes disabled and consequently joins the ranks of the persecuted but in doing so, helps thwart Hitler's plan to rid the world of so-called "imperfect" people.

Valiant, courageous and romantic heroes of the 'Disabled Holocaust'
REVIEW by Robyn Hunt

'The First To Go', a new play by Nabil Shaban, could it seems, at a mere first glance, be easily categorised for the sake of reviewing purposes: It is a historical play. It charts the rise of Nazism. It foreshadows Hitler's genocide of the Jews. Ahh, the Holocaust, yes of course - now we know what territory we are in, the diabolical treatment of the Jews, surely? These are events we are all familiar with. Therefore, it must be safe to assume, that we have another defiant, yet heart-rending cry from those dark chapters in history on our hands then? Well, yes, but wait, before we go on . . . who said I was referring to the Jews and their Holocaust?

The Holocaust then, or the massacre, or the slaughter, or the extermination, conducted by the Nazis, which Shaban is referring to here, is that of disabled people. He is at pains to show his audience that this history belongs to them. This is their story as told from the their perspective. As a result, Shaban asks the audience to bear witness to their shameful killings. In doing this he encourages the audience to come to regard the facts surrounding these happenings as the missing pieces from their own history too. The Nazis' butchery of disabled people which has never been widely-acknowledged, never been ceremoniously remembered.

At last, together we can acknowledge the truth, we can acknowledge the brutality - we owe that much to the people who senselessly lost their lives, don't we? At least, we as the audience can give some ceremony to these events.

Shaban himself introduces his piece and is conscious that his new play exists in order to re-address the balance. It makes up for previous absence, it breaks the silence. Shaban wishes to ensure that the facts are laid bare so that we, in our collective mainstream consciousness, cannot deny the horror happened, ever again. One might say that this new play certainly carries a fair old amount of responsibility on its shoulders. Shaban is straightforward and non-apologetic about his objectives for the play. I think it is fair to say that this play will undoubtedly help him to succeed in
communicating his wider political beliefs and concerns about disabled people.

Ultimately, though it is the play itself that speaks to me. Let us not forget that Shaban has given us more than mouth-pieces for despair and rage in the fully-rounded characters of Brunhilde, Siegfried, Helmut and Heide. By telling stories they weave towards their own dreadful and inevitable fate. It is at these times when the play is at its most engaging and poignant, as their story swings from being a hopeful thriller to being painfully heartfelt. It depends whose turn it is to tell the tale. They are Shaban's valiant, courageous and romantic heroes of the 'Disabled Holocaust'. They became my heroes too. I will let them tell you their story - for they know how to tell it best.

Robyn Hunt

.....................Robyn Hunt who has Cerebral Palsy, is a professional actor, writer and drama workshop leader.

The First To Go


"But where will it end . . .? Who will be the next target?"
REVIEW by Jessica Markoff Chaney

These questions from 'The First to Go' are very important questions all members of the audience - disabled & non-disabled alike - need to ask themselves. For the non-disabled audience members this can be especially challenging because this play flies very justly in the face of all the stereotypes holding every one of us hostage to this day. I have never written a book review before, but I thought that it might be important for me to speak up as a non-disabled member of the audience.

Before the curtain rises on this story, one might be mislead by the ingrained stereotype that all the victims are disabled & all the heroes & villains are non-disabled. That disabled must equal weak & helpless, & non-disabled must equal courageous & strong. But from the very beginning of the story it's easy realize that, just as in real life, there are no simple stereotypical lines drawn. The victims are disabled, but Helmut, Heidi &, especially, Siegfried are just as heroic as Brunhilde & Claus von Stauffenberg, both of whom joined the ranks of the disabled during the war. To me, Siegfried is the bravest, strongest & most heroic of them all - never giving up in the face of a life full of odds that would leave most of us cowering in a corner waiting to die. Yet he fights with everything he has to the bitter end & asks for no pity in return - only the love & respect he so richly deserves.

There are non-disabled heroes in the book, as well. The author does not forget those who joined the fight against the Nazi's once they finally realized what was truly happening. They could have turned their backs & pretended it was someone else's problem, but instead chose put their own lives on the line & take a stand. The villains are also a mix of disabled & non-disabled. Joseph Goebbles who took the hatred & shame he was taught to feel about his own disability & turned it on others. So caught up in his own desire to be accepted as non-disabled that he seems unaware that, should the Euthanasia program flourish, he is sealing his own fate as well. The doctors & nurses who turned their backs on their duty to their patients & their communities & became killing machines. And, of course, the high ranking officials of the Nazi party who kept the killing machines running. As a non-disabled reader it might be very easy to try & emotionally distance oneself from the details of the past atrocities. To think it could never happen to you. But keep in mind the questions above. Keep in mind the other very important facts that the author brings to the forefront of this story. The Euthanasia program did not start with the Nazi party & it did not end there. A program like this, whether it's called a Euthanasia program or Human Genome Research or Eugenics, can only end with the total annihilation of humankind. These programs, designed to 'cure' the human race of disabilities, will not stop once there is no one left who meets the current criteria. The Body Fascists criteria insists that there must always be someone at the bottom of the pecking order to hate, loath, make fun of &, eventually, rid the world of. Whose next? And whose next after that? When will it be YOUR turn to go? Are you going to wait until the authorities tell you that you must hand over your child to be institutionalized or killed because he or she might be a pollutant to the gene pool? In a world where fetus testing for disabilities is becoming mandatory, Wrongful Life lawsuits are becoming more & more commonplace & plastic surgeries are glorified throughout television, are you so sure it won't happen? How to stop this continuing discrimination & destruction is a choice left up to each & every one of us. Is taking a life for a life the only solution left open to us? Would killing those heading up the current programs end the problem or make it worse? Is there another way?

After spending my life surrounded by non-disabled people who deal with life's adversities through hate & violence- mainly aimed at me - , I must tell you that the author, Nabil Shaban, has become one of my heroes along with his friend, the late David Rappaport.

In the face of seemingly overwhelming odds he has remained indomitable, incorrigible, strong, courageous, yet also kind, loving & generous. And he puts up with me, which should earn him instant sainthood right there. It takes a lot of courage & strength to put so much of his heart & soul into this play & everything he does. He had to overcome the odds of a life time of body fascist brainwashing to even write this play himself. That brainwashing is something I also deal with everyday, so I understand the daily struggle all too well. I will always be grateful to him for allowing me to volunteer my time, energy & money to bring this play & all of his work to the attention of the American public. This is not something I chose to do out of pity or charity, but rather because I wanted to be apart of the solution - his solution.

.....................Jessica Markoff Chaney runs The Wizard fan club

Webmistress - The Wizard 1986 TV Fansite & Definitive Cyberhome

Jessica Markoff Chaney is US/NA Sales Rep. - Sirius Book Works Publications

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The First To Go - The Ethical Spectacle
REVIEW by Jez Strickley - 19 September 2007

"You can’t have perfection in a world that is living.""
(Brunhilde; Act II, Scene VIII)

Steeped in the potent themes of eugenics and social discrimination, ‘The First To Go’ is a haunting piece of theatre which spotlights the Disabled Holocaust: one aspect of a much wider and more diverse killing field that, according to the author’s introduction, is largely overshadowed by its Jewish counterpart. Told through the eyes of disabled and non-disabled characters, Nabil Shaban weaves a tale which moves from contemporary Berlin to the Aryan ideals of Nazi Germany and an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. Throughout the course of this shrewdly built narrative, Shaban compels the reader to face the uncomfortable reality of a human society in which designer babies could well be the thin end of a wedge which might yet see history repeating itself.

The first scene sets the tone in dramatic fashion by portraying a chilling present day case of hypnotic regression. In this state of mental playback George, a man confined to a wheelchair and who is seemingly reliving the ambitions of Adolf Hitler, pronounces the looming spectre of a biocractic state, and its accompanying onslaught against the disabled community. The ironic nature of George’s regressed identity is very much of a piece with Shaban’s writing style, which demands the reader’s complete and undivided attention, and a fair degree of critical thinking to boot. In short, there is no mental exit for the lazy reader.

Following this highly evocative opening the play builds upon its already considerable momentum by moving directly on to its centrepiece. Here, a group of institutionalised disabled German citizens, and their medical attendants, gradually confront the machinery of Nazi Germany’s looming euthanasia programme. In switching from present to past, Shaban makes important associations between Nazi Germany’s Disabled Holocaust and today’s climate of physical perfection – a state of affairs which Shaban terms ‘Body Fascism’. As events continue apace there is presented another, equally well-drawn backdrop, in the form of the July 20 Plot of 1944. This real-life episode is delivered in a finely judged manner, focusing as it does on the motives and justifications of the plotters themselves. In choosing to portray the events surrounding this attempted coup, Shaban examines the moral reasoning of those individuals who resort to violence as their final answer. Just such a terrible conclusion is evidenced, albeit in a strikingly open-ended fashion, in the last actions of George, a man who has more than just the shadow of the past on his mind.

Within these meticulously assembled scenes there are portrayed, as Shaban himself calls them, disabled heroes: the nurse Brunhilde, the philosopher Siegfried and Hitler’s would-be assassin Claus von Stauffenberg. In contrast, Shaban keeps his scales finely balanced by inserting a particularly notorious disabled villain: Josef Goebbels, Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. In selecting one of Nazi Germany’s most infamous figures, Shaban raises a further irony, in that it was Goebbels who applied his not inconsiderable skills in media manipulation to mount a deliberate campaign against Nazi Germany’s disabled population – a population of which he was himself a member.

Shaban is careful, however, not to paint a caricature of Goebbels. Instead, there is drawn a character who reasons and analyses his way through circumstances around him, thus portraying an even more shocking individual in the process. Authenticity is a common trait of the other characters that appear in the course of the story. Heide, one of Siegfried’s disabled friends, is a case in point. Her final line: “I’m human, too” (Act II, Scene XII), announced as the hypodermic killing machine pitilessly rolls into action, strikes the reader with such a profound sense of understatement that it drives home Shaban’s moral probing with irresistible force. Heide is not the only example. Helmut, a man with Downs Syndrome, makes what is perhaps the most damning point of all, when he observes that: “We don’t wear badges. We don’t need to. Our bodies are our badges.” (Act I, Scene IV) Helmut’s remark upon the social discrimination branded on to his body, and the bodies of his friends, is a high point amongst many other well written lines, demonstrating Shaban’s shrewd use of dialogue to do his moral talking for him.

The love which develops between Siegfried and Brunhilde is another point of characterisation worth noting. Their growing bond becomes arguably the greatest weapon against the ideology which strives to wipe out any traces of disability – or should that be difference? – from the face of the Third Reich. And, moreover, it is Brunhilde who digs up what residual humanity there is in the characters of Eva, another of the medical attendants, and who joins the story telling circle formed by Siegfried and his friends, thereby recognising their humanity in the process.

A further dimension found in Shaban’s writing is his shrewd choice of moral and social issues, which help to fine tune his narrative and trigger the reader’s interrogation of the text. One clear example is found in the story telling circle of Siegfried, Heide and Helmut which enables these three – and later Brunhilde – to forge their own community: a community which acts as a buttress against the relentless social corrosives applied to them each day by some of their attendants. Medical practitioners such as Dr. Spottegeburt and Dr. Brandt echo the hollow rhetoric of the eugenics lobby, cosmetically hiding their appalling notions behind a gleaming façade of clinical precision and sterile words. In these brilliantly formed characters there is revealed the type of human being who can degrade and socially butcher his or her fellows in much the same way as one might conduct a discourse on the importance of good footwear. The calculating inhumanity of this pair is no figment of Shaban’s imagination, but it is to the author’s credit that they do not become exaggerated grotesques, but rather, like Goebbels, remain authentic and, as a result, stamp an even colder and more frightening shape upon the reader’s consciousness.

Assembling this multilayered tale, which seamlessly moves between the past and the present is no little challenge. Shaban’s effort is an outstanding example which deftly traces the terrible contours of the Disabled Holocaust through events both contemporary to it as well as those somewhat closer to the here and now, and which undoubtedly rest within its considerable shadow.

Incredibly, ‘The First To Go’ is no gargantuan epic and its two acts may be digested at a single sitting. However, its weighty subject matter and rich dialogue deserve a far more protracted – and considered – consumption. In addressing the Disabled Holocaust and its victims – labelled by the Nazis as ‘Useless Eaters’ – Shaban helps to publicise a tragedy which is in serious need of contemporary scrutiny. And, bearing in mind the understandable anxieties of the disabled citizen who lives in a world in which genetic screening and the legally – as well as socially – acceptable abortion of disabled foetuses is a growing trend, it is little wonder that the fear that the dark matter of 1930s and 1940s Europe should rise to the surface once more is more than a little justified.

‘The First To Go’ (ISBN: 978-0-9548294-1-4) is published by Sirius Book Works Publishing and includes a detailed introduction from the author. It also contains an appendix which presents the paper ‘Disability and the Performing Arts – There is No Fair Play’, written by Nabil Shaban in May 2000 and submitted to the UK Government’s Department for Education and Employment.

.....................Jez Strickley is a teacher of Nazi Germany studies at a college in Italy, and a journalist

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"The First To Go" can be ordered from W. H. Smiths or Waterstones or any bookshop.
Just quote the ISBN number - 978-0-9548294-1-4

Or you can place an order by visiting Sirius Book Works publishing

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GREAT NEWS

At last, you can see the world premiere of Nabil Shaban's play "The First To Go", produced by Benchtours Productions

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© 2007 jinghiz53@yahoo.com

Why I returned War-Crazy Blair his 50k "blood money" and postponed production of "The First to Go"

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