Ed Asner brings play about Holocaust controversy to Philly

Actor Ed Asner takes the stage at Congregation Rodelph Shalom for a run-through of

Actor Ed Asner takes the stage at Congregation Rodelph Shalom for a run-through of "The Soap Myth." (Peter Crimmins/WHYY)

An old adage claims history is written by its victors. A new play now on tour suggests history is claimed by historians.

Actor Ed Asner was in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to perform “The Soap Myth,” a play about a claim that the Nazis during World War II made soap from the fat of Jewish Holocaust victims.

The horrific allegation was brought up during the Nuremberg trials, but no hard evidence was ever found to support it. There was only the testimony of witnesses — including the character Milton Salzman, based on a real death camp survivor. He passionately advocates that his first-hand experience inform the accepted story of the Nazis.

But in “The Soap Myth,” historians will not accept the soap story; without firm evidence, it turns into ammunition for Holocaust deniers.

Asner, famous for playing Lou Grant on television’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” admits he is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. He believes the U.S. government was involved in the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. That informs the way he plays the underdog Salzman waging his fight against established belief.

“This is a tale about a man who lived through it, and cannot stand that it is not accepted, not tolerated, and not exposed,” said Asner.

“The Soap Myth” was performed at Congregation Rodeph Shalom — a synagogue on Philadelphia’s North Broad Street — as a staged reading with a handful of actors. Asner is now touring the play throughout the Northeast.

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