Imprisoned at Auschwitz. Forced into hiding to escape the Nazis. Fleeing Europe to break free of Hitler's tyranny.

They're the experiences of eight Holocaust survivors and congregants at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul. Their emotionally wrenching accounts are part of the new play, "We Could Recall/We Could Tell Stories," that will be performed at the historic synagogue this spring.

Auditions for the play, which is based on the eight congregants' remembrances of the Holocaust, are scheduled for Sunday at Mount Zion at 1300 Summit Av. Jan. 27 is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"It's these horrific stories," said Sharon DeMark, a Mount Zion congregant who wrote the play. "Every time I opened it up to work on it, it was just very emotional. The stories are just unbelievable."

DeMark was inspired to compose the play some six years ago, when the synagogue was celebrating its 150th anniversary. The temple had compiled dozens of oral histories of its members -- and eight of them were Holocaust survivors.

In her play, DeMark takes the survivors' stories verbatim and puts "them into a play format. It's not like a regular sort of dialogue type of play. It feels a little more surreal in a way. More stylized."

All ages are welcome and no experience is required to participate in the hourlong play, directed by local theater director Leah Cooper.

Performance dates are: April 24, 27 and 28 at Mount Zion; April 29 at Central High School; May 1 at Sholom West and May 5 at Sholom East.

"Very personal, individual stories I think are the way to tell this," DeMark said.

Seven of the eight Holocaust survivors are still living. "All these people, they survived and they're thriving and it's really amazing to me.

"And of course, they go through very dark periods. But the fact that they've been through this and they're OK, they have families and lives. And that's, to me, something that's pretty remarkable."

Rose French • 612-673-4352