A Nightmare of the Holocaust

by Jo Davidsmeyer

About the play

Angel: A Nightmare in Two Acts uses the setting of the Holocaust to explore contemporary values, the question of personal responsibility versus universal guilt, and the seductive appeal of evil. Controversial and thought-provoking, Angel offers strong roles for women and strong subject matter for theaters seeking to challenge themselves and their audiences.

Angel is a drama based on the trial and execution of real-life Nazi war criminal Irma Grese. Grese became a concentration camp guard at the age of sixteen, was prosecuted by the British in the Belsen trials, and was executed at the age of 21 for her crimes against humanity. A strikingly beautiful woman, she was dubbed by the international press as “The Blonde Angel of Auschwitz.” During the play, Irma’s prosecutor falls under her fatal charms. He is drawn, along with the audience, down into a private nightmare where the tables are turned and he becomes the accused. Also dragged into the nightmare is Olga Lengyel, a survivor of Auschwitz, who teaches the prosecutor a lesson about dignity and survival.

Read Excerpts from the Play
Act I
  Act II (partial)

NOTE: This is NOT a complete script online! It is only a sample.

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  • grand prize winner, Riverfront Theatre's New Works competition
  • a grand finalist in the first Open Book/Fireside Theatre Playwriting Competition
  • Angel and other award-winning plays were printed in the collection Reader’s Theatre, edited by Marvin Kaye [Note: this version of "Angel" printed in the book is an earlier adaptation - the script has changed since then]. The hardcover was available as a featured selection through Fireside Books in 1995. Published by Wildside Press.
  • one of seven finalists in 1996 for the first Manchester college Playwright in Electronics Residence Site selection

Production History

  • Full equity production by New City Stage Company in Philadelphia September, 2006, 15 performances, plus held-over for an extra week
  • Oregon State University — April 8, 2002, presented for Holocaust Week
  • Salve Regina University, Rhode Island — April 23 through 25, 1999, fully mounted production.
  • First Age Productions — Feb 19 through March 9, 1998, a fully staged production of Angel at Player's Ring in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
  • A staged reading presented by Florida Studio Theatre in August, 1995 as part of their SummerFest '95 program.
  • The Open Book in Manhattan mounted a reader's theater presentation as part of their 1994/1995 season. This was an Equity showcase production that ran nine performances.
  • The Riverfront Theatre in Bradenton, Florida presented an early version of Angel in a fully mounted, non-professional production that ran twelve performances.

Cast of Characters
3 women, 3 men

IRMA GRESE: Aged 19 to 21. Epitome of the classic nordic maiden: strong, fair, blonde, blue-eyed and appealing. Though IRMA has never trod the boards, she is a consummate actress, able to play both saint and seductress with equal sincerity and zeal.

OLGA LENGYEL: Late Twenties. A Hungarian medical student interned at Auschwitz. Imprisoned, but not defeated, she is a survivor in every aspect.

PROSECUTOR: Early forties. A Major in the British army. He vainly searches for reasons in a very unreasonable world. Self-tormented by dilemma of how a civilized society metes out justice for incomparably uncivilized acts.

HELENE GRESE: Aged 19, sister to IRMA. She has a simpler beauty than her sister, and a simpler nature. In the second act she assumes the role of the EXECUTIONER.

JOSEPH MENGELE: He is a prime example of Aryan superiority; and he knows it.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: A Major in the British army, self-righteous and pompous in his bigotry. About to retire.


ACT I: A courtroom in Lüneberg, 1945, the Belsen Trials and Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Spring of 1944.

ACT II: A prison cell. Evening, December 9, 1945.

One unit set serves for all three locales.


Historical Notes

IRMA GRESE started work in the concentration camp service at the age of 16. Many camp survivors believe she was lover to Josef Mengele and camp commandant Kramer, among others. She was known to coerce Polish prisoners to engage in sexual acts. While in the camp, she forced one of the prisoner doctors to perform an abortion on her. Most of the testimony in the play given by Helene Grese about Irma and her family is quoted from the Belsen trial transcripts. Irma was executed at the age of 21. Further research: The Beautiful Beast : The Life & Crimes of SS-Aufseherin Irma Grese by Daniel P. Brown

JOSEF MENGELE was a doctor at Auschwitz concentration camp where he conducted a series of barbaric experiments on prisoners. Mengele escaped to South America after the war, where he lived out his life in relative comfort. During his `exile,' he once returned to Germany for a family funeral, and may have returned home on other occasions. He died in South America of accidental drowning. His death remained secret for seven years. (Coincidentally, seven years is the statute of limitation in Germany for aiding and abetting escaped war criminals.) Recommended reading about Mengele

OLGA LENGYEL and her family were transported from their home in Transylvania to Auschwitz in 1944. Olga worked in the camp infirmary. She aided in the camp rebellion that destroyed one of the crematoria. She was the only member of her family to survive Auschwitz. She chronicled her experiences in her autobiography The Five Chimneys, the first book to give a survivor's view of a concentration camp. Olga lived in New York City until her death in the summer of 2001, where she was a manager of a foundation to educate people about the Holocaust. The foundation has as its name the number tattooed on Olga's forearm by the Auschwitz guards.

HELENE GRESE. All the playwright has been able to learn of Helene Grese is from the transcripts of the Belsen trials. Some have claimed that the woman who took the stand on Irma's behalf was not really her sister, but a woman hired to provide testimony.

THE ATTORNEYS. The prosecution and defense at the Belsen trials were handled by teams of attorneys. The lawyers in the play are not based on any individuals. They are the complete creation of the playwright.

Suggested reading about Auschwitz and the Holocaust

Production Rights

    For information about production rights, please contact:

    Jo Davidsmeyer
    5591 Shady Brook Trail
    Sarasota, Florida 34243
    (941) 355-5852

    Producers and artistic directors of established theaters wishing a perusal copy by email should contact Jo Davidsmeyer. Copies of the script may be ordered.

    All rights whatsoever in this play are strictly reserved. Professional and amateur applications to perform it, etc., must be made in advance, before rehearsals begin. For further information, . (Note: for information about German-language productions of this play, contact Thespis Verlag.)


Copyright © Jo Davidsmeyer. All rights reserved.