NPR Story & World Interview | Dancing at Auschwitz Holocaust Concentration Camp Shows I Will Be A Survivor In This Video

Gloria Gaynor Sings and Kohn Dances

The Gate

wikipedia: Arbeit Macht Frei gate, KZ Sachsenhausen, Berlin Polski: Brama w Sachsenhausen -- by jpatokal, uploaded on 26 September 2004
wikipedia: Arbeit Macht Frei gate, KZ Sachsenhausen, Berlin Polski: Brama w Sachsenhausen -- by jpatokal, uploaded on 26 September 2004

I Will Survive The Time of Terror

A search for the words "concentration camp" on hubpages to categorize your hub only turns up 'camping' themes. And, a search for "holocaust" gives but one choice of a holiday theme. Has so little been written that people will forget? Not if artist and film-maker, Jane Korman, and her ancestral Czek family has anything to say about it. She brought her three children and her 89 year old father, Adolek Kohn, who was a former prisoner of Auschwitz, to the place where her family's destiny and line could have ended in the concentration camps. Instead, they all danced!

Together they all moved to the dance of victory and joy to be among the living. Certainly, you've heard the phrase, "I'll dance on his grave" or they will "Dance on my Grave." This family gave it new meaning.

The Window To Life | Auschwitz

A Survivor's Dance

This celebration of survival through victimization and loss has stirred up mixed feelings. This family found a way to cope with a tragic period and move to a better place. Just as the flower springs forth from the ashes of the death camps, a song and dance express renewal.

Anyone who has overcome a life threatening experience knows the emotions of fear and relief. How the heart quivers during a dark trauma and then alights to the beat of the music. A number of generations later, the song, "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor expressed their feelings and set their feet into motion. The film shows the family dancing at Dachau and Poland's Lodz ghetto. At one point, you could have heard Adolek say, "I was here," as he peeked out of the cattle car window. Memories must have flooded back. Although the world could share their ecstasy of escaping the nightmare, this story brought unexpected confusion, doubt, mixed opinions about its appropriate deliverance. Maybe because they were not part of this families personal journey, they could not step into their shoes.

Have No Fear

On every occasion Jews shed a tear for any life lost, as they rise up to celebrate the living. Many biblical stories reference this lively activity as a joyous celebration ~ a sort of victory dance! Today, the dance becomes a personal or group ritual. If it had been Holocaust Independence Day, maybe people would have been more comfortable with the connection. This small family took a personal trip back in time and let the world watch the adventure unfold. Definitely, just by returning to the scene of the murders of 6 million, they celebrated their survival and future generations of children and families.

The dance mentioned in the Bible, Mishnah, and Talmud connects the people with celebrations of military victories and spiritual rituals such as the golden calf dance, crossing the red sea, and bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. I bet King David danced after slaying Goliath. Numerous archeological artifacts also illustrate dancers. Dancing expresses so much of the human soul. Some, who see this as humorous or inappropriate only speak outwardly of their own experience, bias, fear or perspective.

  • ...cultural anthropologist Mark Auslander notes that while dance might be considered trivial in Western societies, throughout history it has been used to ease "human responses to traumatic loss _ from initial overpowering grief, towards mourning, towards joy in the regeneration of life." 
  • Reference: Victory Dances

BBC REPORT | NPR did a vignette on the short 4 minute viral video that has received more than half a million YouTube hits. I could only celebrate and dance along with these three generations who danced at Auschwitz and other Holocaust memorial sites in Europe, including the infamous rail tracks and "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign.

Associated Press Writer, Vanessa Gera, wrote an opinion piece while in Warsaw, Poland, asking, "Who has the right to dance at Auschwitz, to make light of the Holocaust, to shoot videos set amid cattle cars and gas chambers?" She says the Kohn/Korman family tested cultural taboos, although I doubt that was their intent. Expect a difference of opinions, when you post an emotionally charged video or blog on the world-wide-web, there will be people on all sides who can use it for good or bad purposes.

Perhaps no one would even have taken any notice of this tiny short film, were it not for the neo-Nazi attention, which turned the video viral.

Where is the Humor?

I have a hard time finding the humor in the film. But, others say it was done in bad taste to be so light-hearted at the scene of the crime. When you feel like crying, sometimes all you can do is laugh to take the edge off. the positive effect of going viral brings attention to this point in history, especially at a time when some say the holocaust never existed. Adolek, as one of the remaining survivors, 60-years later, has sparked a discussion and shone a light on an era that must not be forgotten.

I also learned that removed the original video and replaced it with a message saying it had been removed due to copyright issues. This is so odd that YouTube takes down videos.

Grandpa Speaks

Where the Hell is Matt?

Controversy

Haaretz.com posted an article, "Holocaust survivor dances on the ashes of Aushwitz, but not everyone approves."

  • "We came to Auschwitz with the grandchildren and created a new generation, that's why we danced," he said.
  • The artist said, "My father and my mother both went through Auschwitz and this is a way they want to express their joy of being alive, of surviving, of an affirmation of their lives," she said. "My dad was overwhelmed with happiness that he could be there with his grandchildren and dance to this song of survival."

Others have toured and danced through Europe. Below a retired man visits the same locations. This type of film replicates the famous YouTube Videos of "Where the Hell is Matt?" who dances around the globe. If only more people could join in the celebration of the Kohn family, only they are gone.

A Retired Man Dancing Thru Life Poland, Hungary, & Ukraine

From the "Fog Dance, My Moth Kingdom" album (2007)

This YouTube tells another story about an era that we will say was long, long ago. Electronica composer Joshua Neil Geissler creates another form of expression depicting a haunting neoclassical melody. The instruments mimic the sounds of mandolin, piano and cello. http://www.myspace.com/worrytrain


The Worry Train | A Different Tonal Quality

A Short Film

The film below gives a brief view of what Adolek survived in the years of World War II. He records that 100 family members went to the death camps. We only know he survived from the video.

Yad Vashem Memorabilia

Holocaust Hub Links

  • Irena Sendler, A Heroine of the Holocaust

    Irena Sendler died in Warsaw, Poland on Monday May 12th, 2008. She passed away peacefully at the age of 98. Her death did not go unnoticed here in the United States, or elsewhere, thanks to four students in...

  • Remember The Holocaust

    My grandfather was a man of very few words, and much less when it came to his experiences in World War II. Later in life, this brave and valiant man tragically suffered a stroke, which caused some curious...

More by this Author


From Sadness to Joy 19 comments

juneaukid profile image

juneaukid 6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

Thank you for this fascinating hub on the power of the human spirit.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

What are the choices, Richard? To cry or to laugh. He begins, "it is luck." It could be anyone.


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 6 years ago

The important thing, Debby, as you have rightly pointed out is to not forget the horrors of the Holocaust.

All over the world there are signs of the resurgence of extreme ideologies where people are discriminated against on the basis of religion or caste or creed.

It is also important to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. I don't think this family had any intention of desecrating the memory of those who died in the concentration camps.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Dear Sabu. I agree 100%. Thank you for visiting. We must find ways to get along. What can be done about people who intentionally want to harm or subdue others? Does anyone have answers?


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Maybe we can look to the animal kingdom for some ideas of societal harmony or means of dealing with disrespectful individuals. Nature must have an answer.


Marilyn Freedman 6 years ago

Dear Debby,

Kudos to Jane Korman for coming up with this artistically uplifting performance piece. In 1991 I led a small group of children of Holocaust survivors, together with their parents, and a child survivor, on a trip to Poland. The trip was aptly named "Retrieving our Roots" Nothing can prepare one for the intensity of the atmosphere in any of the concentration camp. After we we left Auschwitz we walked through the death camp of Birkenau beside it. It was there that we looked at each other to reflect back what our emotions were and we felt to scream, and scream we did. "WE ARE HERE!" We screamed to the millions of souls which were buried in the shallow graves underneath us. We screamed to those murderers who did not succeed in wiping out all of us. We screamed that we existed, that we were alive. No one has the right to judge the response to survival that this family portrays in their videos. Every man, woman, and child should visit one of the concentration camps scattered throughout Europe and experience the cold calculation of the planned extermination of an entire race of people with rows of ovens, with underground gas chambers, with toilets where people sat next to each other like sardines, dehumanized, tattooed like cattle, slaves worth nothing to nobody. Yes, imagine that a survivor and their family would dance at such a site. It's therapy of the most high.

Deb, your article is well researched, and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. Yasher Koach to you. ?


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Dear Marilyn. Only those who have experienced know the raw emotion. Thank you for letting others know. Love, Debby


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I don't think I can and could agree to that. I am not Jewish but German and still feel the shame and horror of what happened there even though I was born in the 1940


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

I'm not sure to what remarks or commentary you are agreeing or disagreeing? Those who lived during the era are the ONLY ones who can have those feelings. I was born after the holocaust and can only imagine. Those who went through the experience can tell their stories of the horror, the inhumanity. The survivors have their own story. Those who lost entire families left homeless and abandoned.

The entire communal mentality of the German nation carries the burden of those slain and responsibility of teaching a future generation this period in history and the destruction of their cities. Each holds in their heart and minds a personal story.

Many were devastated. Those that were able to come out from deep depression and start life over, to see the light of day and celebrate being alive is the story told here and by the producer of the film.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Hello-hello - It just hit me that perhaps you meant that dancing at the camps was inappropriate. The German and Jewish people will be forever linked by what happened. It is up to future generations to work through how such acts can happen and how to prevent its reoccurrence. Many other horrors of mass killings still continue today, and we wonder when will we learn? Will these lessons always need constant reminders?


stars439 profile image

stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

All of my life I have had thoughts about the holocaust and of the people that suffered in them. God Bless You Dear Heart.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Dear Stars439 ~ I truly appreciate your sentiment. (HUGS)


bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

debby, a heartfelt admiration for the dignity and empathy that you put into this excellent piece. I especially like how you told of the ancients dancing to celebrate those that survived. It is indeed sad to read of your search and the word concentration camp did not render thosands, not even hundreds of results!


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Dear Bayoulady ~ This was a difficult topic to broach due to its connection to loss, grief, tragedy and the inhumanity of mankind. Thank you for reaching out to me and reading deeply into the story. Love, Debby


dawnM profile image

dawnM 6 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

wow hard for me to read because of the pain that it caused so many jewish people but the information must be kept alive, and so the information, will be passed down in my home from generation to generation. dance is certainly a part of the jewish people and an important way to celebrate many of the wondrful richness of the jewish tradition. hats off to you for a gripping article.


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Have a *Sweet* New Year with apples and honey. The future will be better if we all try. Love, Debby


dawnM profile image

dawnM 6 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

Shana Tova........


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

Debby;

I have always been interested in reading of the holocaust my father was one the liberators in the second world war of a couple of camps , And I am extremely proud of his service , I'm not worried about the 'forgetting' of these horrible years as much as I'm worried about the apathy and complacency of our world today. The new media will allow these stories recalled to go on forever , but the awareness of generations to come is another story. We must never forget to raise and nurture the concience of our young to be aware of the incredible wrongs of the world in allowing the genocides that still happen. Great hub!


Debby Bruck profile image

Debby Bruck 6 years ago Author

Dear ahorseback ~ I am honored that you took the time to read and comment here. The younger generations have a lot to learn. The complacency and apathy they feel is real due to the depressive world situation. Its hard to load this burden of remembering the past history, but if they don't learn these lessons, they may have to experience for themselves what hatred, antisemitism, bigotry and prejudice produce.

I agree that we must get the message out and use social media to its best advantage for education and awareness.

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