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“Adieu Monsieur Haffmann”: Art, Sex, and Anti-Jewish Laws in Occupied Paris

Opening on January 18, GenerationTheatre presents the U.S. premiere of Adieu Monsieur Haffmann, a play by French playwright Jean-Philippe Daguerre, acclaimed at the 2017 Avignon Theater Festival.

Adieu Monsieur Haffmann takes place when Paris is occupied by Hitler’s army. In 1942, a series of anti-Jewish laws compelled Jewish owners to identify their stores as “Jewish businesses” (“entreprise juive”). As a result, many Jews transferred ownership to Gentiles in the hope of avoiding the confiscation of Jewish businesses by the occupation government. Joseph Haffmann is one such business owner. He has managed to save his wife and children by sending them to Switzerland, but he stays in Paris to save his only possession: his jewelry store. He asks Pierre, his long-time employee, to accept temporary ownership of the store, and to move into the attached apartment with his wife, Isabelle. He also asks Pierre and Isabelle to hide him from the Germans — him and a single painting by Matisse. Pierre and Isabelle, who desperately want children but cannot procreate, accept on the condition that Joseph sleep with Isabelle until she becomes pregnant.

Carefully built around true events, Adieu Monsieur Haffmann takes us back to the world of mistrust, fear, lies and courage of the four years in French history known as “the Occupation.” Without falling into the trappings of melodrama, Jean-Philippe Daguerre cleverly weaves comedy and drama to tell an unusual and endearing story.

The play is performed in its original version, in French with English supertitles.