“NIGHT AND FOG” IT AIN’T
When I was sent a link to this video today I was initially sure it was a bad-taste put-on. It’s not. “I Will Survive: Dancing Auschwitz” is apparently exactly what it purports to be: a Holocaust survivor and his family dancing at several concentration camps to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Australian Jewish artist Jane Korman filmed her three children and her father, 89-year-old Holocaust survivor Adolk, in the video clip “I Will Survive: Dancing Auschwitz.”
The clip depicted the Korman family dancing in front of Holocaust land marks in Poland, including infamous entrance sign to Auschwitz death camp reading “Arbeit Macht Frei,” a Polish synagogue, Dachau, Theresienstadt, and a memorial in Lodz….
Many Jewish survivors have reacted gravely to the video, accusing her of disrespect. Yet Korman told Australian daily The Jewish News that “it might be disrespectful, but he [her father] is saying ‘we’re dancing, we should be dancing, we’re celebrating our survival and the generations after me,’ – the generation he’s created. We are affirming our existence.”
The video is discussed at The Atlantic, where Alyssa Rosenberg recalls another instance of concentration camp choreography — when Groucho Marx danced on Hitler’s grave. From an article at the Sarah Lawrence College Magazine:
The late comedian Groucho Marx, famous for his quick wit, performed some of his best work in 1958 on a pile of East Berlin rubble for an audience of five.
Among the five was Judith Dwan Hallet ’64, then 16 and the daughter of Robert Dwan, the long-time director of Groucho’s radio and TV shows. She and her father, along with Marx’s wife and 11-year-old daughter, had accompanied him on the tour of Europe. In Dornum, the German town where Marx’s mother had been born, the travelers discovered that the Nazis had obliterated all Jewish graves, and removed from the local church the old register of inhabitants from his parents’ generation. Marx hired a car with a chauffeur, and told the driver to take the group to Adolph Hitler’s grave in Berlin.
It was surprisingly easy to get there. The car slipped through a checkpoint into a devastated gray and brown city of people in solemn clothing. Marx told the chauffer to drive to the bunker where Hitler was said to have committed suicide, where he was supposedly still buried.
The rubble at the site was about 20 feet high. Wearing his characteristic beret but without the trademark cigar, Marx alone climbed the side of the debris. When he reached the top, he stood still for a moment. Then he launched himself, unsmiling, into a frenetic Charleston. The dance on Hitler’s grave lasted a minute or two.
“Nobody applauded,” Hallet says. “Nobody laughed.”
For Hallet, now a Washington, D.C., documentary film maker who is working on a movie about Marx, the performance near the boundary between victors and vanquished, the living and the dead, helped define the edge between funny and tragic. The apparently effortless dance at the borderline, she says, is what comedians are good at, “the funniest ones, like Groucho.”