Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

60th Anniversary of Liberation of Auschwitz 2

Read this beautiful NY Times Op-Ed piece on Auschwitz by the novelist Aharon Appelfeld.

And from Chris Mitchell at splinters these words:

"Despite the retreating Nazis' destruction of the camp in order to try and conceal what had occurred, the remains of Auschwitz are a tangible and horrific memorial to the death of over one and half million people within its grounds. Auschwitz was divided into more than 40 camps - Auschwitz itself was a penal colony and the administrative centre. Today it houses a Holocaust museum and cinema, which shows the truly terrifying film made by the Russians when they first liberated Auschwitz.

"The other camps were used to house those people used for slave labour, with the exception of Auschwitz-Birkenau: this was the extermination camp. The remains of the four gas chambers, each one purpose-built to kill 1500 men, women and children at a time, are still clearly evident, as are the railtracks which delivered Jews from all over Europe to their death.

"Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz, wrote in his book The Drowned And The Saved: 'In no other place and time has one seen a phenomenon so unexpected and so complex: never were so many human lives extinguished in so short a time, and with so lucid a combination of technological ingenuity, fanaticism and cruelty.'

"My friend Paul once said you didn't need to go to Auschwitz to understand the Holocaust; and therefore it should be allowed to disintegrate and disappear. But for me personally, I did need to see Auschwitz, its physical dimensions, to make the numerous books I read connect with something beyond those self same books. I agree with Paul - you don't need to go to Auschwitz to understand the Holocaust. But it cannot harm that understanding to do so. And once we let the camps disappear, we let, if not memory, but focus, go with it. We lose something around which to anchor and concentrate our thoughts. That, to me, is perhaps why going there was so important."

I went to Auschwitz, too, where I stepped into one of the rough bunkhouses, and laid myself down on one of the wooden bunks on which any number of gassed Jews had slept. It's an awe-inspiring place to visit, the awe of Manufactured Mass Death. Something of the hushed aura of a great cathedral. Hiroshima has something of that aura, too, although not as heart-breaking as Auschwitz. I imagine one would experience something similar in the Hut of Zomai at Ouidah in Benin, a major slave port in Africa. "Light was not allowed in. The captors needed to acclimate their captives to the conditions on the ships. So they made sure hundreds of people were packed in that hut together. They relieved themselves in that hut, they slept and ate in that hut. The only time they were allowed to leave was to be branded or taken to the tree of no return."


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