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About the book:

In 1633, the residents of the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau made a vow that, if they were spared from a plague that was sweeping the countryside, they would perform a Passion play in perpetuity. Legend has it that no more villagers died; and the town has famously kept its vow. Every decade for centuries, the people of Oberammergau have presented their play. As described by theatrical historian James Shapiro, Oberammergau is a fascinating cultural, commercial and religious saga. The book is sharpest in its analysis of the villagers' ambivalent efforts to rid their play of anti-Semitism. (Hitler, who attended the play twice, praised its convincing portrayal of "the menace of Jewry".) Recent revisions in the play's text, as well as casting and costume changes, have restored an historically accurate, Hebrew quality to Jesus and the other major characters in the drama. Shapiro, who spent a great deal of time in the village gathering material for this book, observes in detail the anxieties and scandals that attended these changes--as well as the empathy and understanding that they occasioned. --Michael Joseph Gross

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