Wishengrad, a prolific and politically engaged playwright whom noted radio actor Joseph Julian once called the only writer beside Corwin to have created a “body of radio literature that deserves a perennial life,” lets the record speak for itself in his chilling echo of fascist calculating and cataloguing—of a nation’s counting, counting down, and accounting of murder millionfold. In “The Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto,” first heard on NBC on the eve of Yom Kippur in 1943, the personal story of a holocaust victim, related from the grave, is reinforced by the sound of “black trucks” rolling out of the Ghetto to the concentration camps, by the three voices of fate (the three fates?) calling up the facts with a statistical precision that echoes the calculated ruthlessness of the acts planned and committed:
VOICE I. July 22, 1942.
VOICE II. Six thousand two hundred and eighty-nine.
VOICE III. Destination . . . Tremblinka.
VOICE I. July 23rd.
VOICE II. Seven thousand eight hundred and twenty.
VOICE III. Destination . . . Oswiantzem.
VOICE I. July 24th.
VOICE II. Seven thousand four hundred and forty-four.
VOICE III. Destination . . . Belzec.
(Biz: Voices and truck sounds hold under narrator.)
NARRATOR. Done with method, precise, efficient, recorded. To Tremblinka, Oswiantzem, Belzec, Sobibor, Majdany—a lethal gas chamber, an electric furnace, a poison pit, an execution field, a cemetery. And add also ten thousand brave, hopeless, tragic men who seized sticks and stones and knives and bare fists and charged the tanks and tried to halt the trucks. Add their bodies to the list for the ten days of June, 1942. Make your total and then add two precise, methodical, documented months in August and September, 1942. Reckon it. Do it carefully. You cannot do it on your fingers. No! Let me give you the sum. Listen, 275,954 fewer bread cards in the Ghetto! Swift, accurate, final. Quicker than typhus, surer than hunger.
“The medium needs writers who have something to say about the culture,” Wishengrad remarked in his foreword to The Eternal Light, an anthology of scripts from the series. Old-time radio drama also deserves listeners who take in and respond with their ears and minds open.