Dancing at Auschwitz

The notation at YouTube reads:

On a recent trip to Europe, a family of three generations (a Holocaust survivor, his daughter and his grandchildren) dance to Gloria Gaynor’s pop song – ‘I Will Survive’ at concentration camps and memorials throughout Europe.

This clip was first edited with the help of my friend Pisithpong Siraphisit who runs Compeung Art Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand. This dance is a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit and a celebration of life. Despite the systematic brutality and cruelty endured, we have still survived.

At first I thought: no; this is not solemn enough for a place of unimaginable horror and inhumanity.

Then I thought: This man survived it. He sort of owns all of it. He can do what he wants. But is this encouraging people to take things too lightly?

Then I concluded: We are watching the disease of Anti-Semitism, upon which these places were built, again fester in Europe, and the “global community” can barely be bothered to notice. The age is so bathed in irony that almost nothing is taken seriously; the people can’t pull themselves away from their gadgets…so why not? Why not launch a big, dancing middle finger directed toward the agents of apathy and malevolence, who thoughtlessly spout their hate, or who simply can’t be bothered speaking against it.

“I survived, baby! You did your worst, and now I dance on your historical dustbins. And I’ll dance again!”

Go for it, sir!

Related: Sigh

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    No, that’s way too cheesy. It disrespects all those that didn’t survive. Sorry, can’t agree.

  • Fuquay Steve

    I think we should do the same outside every Planned Parenthood clinic. Unfortunately, the killing continues and is now paid for by our tax dollars (see Gateway Pundit for details).

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel
  • Bender

    So who is the lost love that spurned them and broke their hearts, but now they are spurning in return? The Nazis? They were in love with the Nazis, who left them, and they didn’t think they could live without them? But now they’ve gained the strength to say they don’t want them anymore?

    Do they even know what the song is about???

    Forget about the propriety, or lack thereof, of dancing in a deathcamp to disco music — how about just making sense?

    [Sigh. I think the "I Will Survive" is the basic point, Bender. It's not like there is a danceable tune out there with lyrics like: "you tried to gas me, but you didn't get the chance, so now I'm gonna dance, dance, dance." Really...dude...lighten up a little. At least they weren't making the video to Rose's Turn! - admin]

  • John in Dublin CA

    Pathetic, just awesomely pathetic. This is the most horrible vid I’ve ever seen. How many millions died here? and they scream about surviving lost loves? So morally wrong I can’t believe they even made it.

  • valerie

    Well I got real emotional watching it. Made me cry. Don’t over-think it.

  • Bender

    Springtime for Hitler?

  • Joe

    I joked (inappropriately) with the comment “Roman Polanski?” Given Polanski’s release the same day this story broke.

    But in fairness, if you survived the Holocaust, you can celebrate that fact in any way that does not cause harm to anyone else (sorry Roman, you are out of that catagory). Now I recognize some might be offended by this display, but they have the right not to watch.

  • bensmom

    Well, um, bleh. Not morally wrong… maybe the music and choreography is questionable but Valerie’s right: don’t over-think it. I will just rejoice that someone survived to say, “Death and hatred did not have the last word. Here I stand, me and my house. We dance on your tools of evil.”

  • http://cleansingfiredor.com/ Nerina

    Well, apparently I’m in the minority, but I found it moving. I cried, too. I looked at the old man and his relatives and I thought, “how long until we collectively forget the Holocaust? At least these young people know and in a way that most of us don’t (even those offended by this video).” I looked at their faces and I saw…survival. I saw perseverance. Most of all I saw love for a grandfather who endured an unimaginable horror. And he survived. He says at the end, “if you told me I’d be here in 63 years with my family, I would have said ‘what you talking about?’” He survived.

  • http://lowlytuber.blogspot.com tim maguire

    When I first saw the video screen (whatever you call it–I saw the “load video” screen but didn’t watch it) I didn’t know the back story. I thought it was stupid and in horrible taste.

    I still don’t care to watch it, but if he’s a survivor, then he gets to do whatever he wants and we don’t get to say boo! about it.

  • Susan T.W.

    I cried, too. We dance with joy on Resurrection Day, Easter, because of new life out of death. This man was one of the few fortunates who survived, and brought forth life from near death, celebrating with his family even at the horrific camps. This trip through Europe with their aged grandfather will be an unforgettable life experience for their family.

  • diplomaticos

    When I visited Majdanek a group of young Israelis carrying a large Israeli flag arrived at the same time. The meaning was clear.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/deaconsbench/ Deacon Greg Kandra

    This got to me, too. It’s defiant, exuberant, joyous, and very brave. To life! L’Chaim!

  • Sarah Kuvasz

    Haven’t any of you heard the curse, “I will dance on your grave!” Man, I’m disappointed in all of you. The camps and their operators are dead, he is still alive and enjoying life! The best revenge.

    I think its wonderful.

    Regards.

  • Ann Landell

    I found it very moving. The Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews and cut off their progeny.
    In this case they failed. I would love to see
    Auschwitz filled with dancing, singing Jews defying the evil that took place there.
    L’Chaim indeed!

  • Beth

    All I could think of was how much those grandchildren must appreciate their grandpa. What an awe-some, awe-inspiring thing to do–take your decendents to show them where you faced the giant and survived. Good for him–good for them all!

  • Trump

    Or instead of:

    Why not launch a big, dancing middle finger directed toward the agents of apathy and malevolence, who thoughtlessly spout their hate, or who simply can’t be bothered speaking against it.

    “I survived, baby! You did your worst, and now I dance on your historical dustbins. And I’ll dance again!”

    Maybe you get this: You get the great minds of Europe thinking “Look, even the Jews dance at Auschwitz, the holocaust is a joke to them, they don’t care” Dancing in the place of death, what animals they are”

    Far be it from me to tell the survivor what to do. He wants to dance there, where he endured unspeakable horrors, god bless. Boogie down sir. But I seriously question the wisdom of putting it on YouTube to go viral. That’s really a bad move in my mind. The “enlightened” people of Europe (and everywhere else sadly) only need minimal prompting to see us as less than human as it is.

  • http://joyfulpapist.wordpress.com JoyfulPapist

    I cried too. The man has the right to dance if he pleases in the places he survived. And there is a wonderful power in seeing the progeny the Nazis tried to prevent right alongside dancing with him. Go Grandpa!

  • Mimsy

    I read all the comments before I got the nerve to watch it. I found it poignant and brilliantly life affirming. That’s the critical point. I have always told my children that the way to determine between what is good and what is not is to figure out what is life affirming. Life affirming is always good.

  • Elaine S.

    While the appropriateness of the song chosen may be debatable, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the basic idea behind what this family did — they are celebrating life in a place once devoted to death.

    Perhaps someday we might see a similar video shot in front of or at the site of a closed or demolished abortion clinic by a mother and the child or children she decided not to abort?

  • http://sailorette.blogspot.com Foxfier

    <3

    Looking at the history of the Jewish folks, especially then, "I WILL SURVIVE" is an outstanding motto. If they could change the lyrics very slightly, the song works, too…

    At first I was afraid, I was petrified
    Kept thinkin’ I could never live through that genocide;
    And then I spent so many nights
    Thinkin’ how you did me wrong
    Then I grew strong, I learned how to get along

    And so you’re back from outer space
    I just walked in to find you here with that mad look upon your face
    I though we changed that stupid lock
    Where did you ever get the key
    If I’d’ve known for just one second you’d back to bother me …

    Go on now, go walk out the door
    Just turn around now
    you’re not welcome anymore
    Aren’t you the one who tried to kill me the last time
    We will resist you, you will pay for your crimes

    Did I mumble,
    Did you think I’d lay down and die?
    Oh no, not.I.
    I will survive
    Oh as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive;
    I’ve got all my life to live,
    I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive,
    I will survive. Hey hey.

    It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
    Kept trying’ hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart,
    And I spent oh so many nights
    Just feeling sorry for myself.

    I used to cry
    But now I hold my head up high

    And you see me
    Somebody new
    I’m not that chained up little person that was so abused

    (with apologies to the original)

  • Norman Jones

    I was moved to tears. To think of this as what it might move the “euro-public” to think is a travesty. This is a rightfully earned, yes earned, triumph over the most horrific oppression mankind has ever known. May it last forever.

  • jaybear

    to the ones that criticize this, have you ever walked one of those camps? I walked Dachau in the early 90′s and it is an experience that will stay with you forever. This guy is a survivor, and in my opinion….he can dance wherever the heck he wants to, and if that place is in Auschwitz…then there is no better way to shove it back in the faces of the Anti-Semites who are fanning the flames of the final solution again. If they did that in any of the enlightened European metropolis’s they’d probably be arrested for “offending” the modern Nazi’s who seek their extermination.

    God bless this guy and his family, if I had any rhythm I’d join in.

  • Bender

    While the appropriateness of the song chosen may be debatable, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the basic idea behind what this family did — they are celebrating life in a place once devoted to death.

    I absolutely agree. Dance and celebrate and be as irreverent as you want. But can’t they find a song that is not totally nonsensical when applied here? Maybe if Gloria Gaynor’s ex-lover had imprisoned and tortured and tried to kill her (in the song), rather than simply leave her, that song of survival would make sense here, but it wasn’t. If you want that catchy, “I will survive,” at least change up the rest of the lyrics.

    It’s not a bad idea — I’m totally lightened up enough for the idea itself — it is the song choice that is bad.

  • http://theornithophobe.blogspot.com/ Nmissi

    I thought it was wonderful, life affirming and uplifting. He survived the horror, and is standing there dancing atop the ruins of the enemy, in the places of their failed ” Final Solution”, with his beautiful kids and grandkids. Their aim was extermination, extinction- and his family is living proof of their abject failure. Folks, he won… he triumphed. He can, and should, dance for joy, because triumph over evil IS joyous.

  • James

    It would leave Hitler foaming at the mouth! A Jewish survivor and the generations he brought into the world dancing on Hitler’s plans to annihilate them – good on you, sir! Triumphalist, yes, perhaps; but I think it is a great expression of hope, even for those who perished – they believed in God, though they died, we pray they now live forever.

  • Ellen

    Loved it! That man went through hell, survived it and now his descendents are alive and loving life. God bless him and his grandchildren who so obviously love and honor him.

  • Dale B.

    It is written: He has turned my mourning into dancing!

  • Maureen

    David danced before the LORD with all his might… with shouts and the sound of trumpets…

    Michal daughter of Saul looked down from her window. When she saw David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

    …David said to Michal, “I was dancing before the LORD, Who chose me… I will celebrate before the LORD.”

  • Marion

    Parts 2 and 3 of the same series are a must watch. For those that were offended by the music choices in Part 1, there’s nothing to complain about in Parts 2 and 3

  • http://TheAnchoressonline Sandy Amos

    I thought the video was wonderful and it filled me with graditude that this family cared enough for their father and grandfather to celebrate that he did survive. As it has been said before, he earned the right to go back to this place where they tried to destroy him and say “look at me, you didn’t win”.

  • Susan

    I loved it. I cried as I watched his joy of life. The man earned the right to dance, and he is rightfully proud of his grandchildren. They are his legacy, and his victory over hatred. As for the critics and cynics — lighten up.

  • Henry

    Bold and serious. And also melbrooksian fun.

    Deutschland is happy and gay!

  • Mel Taylor

    These people are dancing n the graves of the millions who didn’t survive. The ones who were starved and tortured and gassed, then cremated or buried in mass graves. How macabre!

  • ahem

    He’s the one who personally suffered in a concentration camp and saw his loved one perish; if he wants to dance on Hitler’s grave, he can so–any way he wants to.

  • FJ Harris

    It is life, we live.
    My fear of watching this video vanished as it took my heart filled it with love.

  • http://xtnyoda.blogspot.com/ chuck

    It’s like the 3 Hebrew children to the putrid “King.”

    “Yahweh can deliver us from this fire, but if he doesn’t… we will still not bow down to your idol.”

    A strong statement by the dear gentleman and grandchildren.

  • Wilma

    At first I was a bit shocked, but I feel that I don’t have the right to judge this. I don’t own that experience and this man has earned the right to celebrate his life, his dignity and his family there of all places.

  • Lynne

    Truimph, victory, survival, love.

  • http://www.canonlaw.info Ed Peters

    First, I have no problem “judging” it. I’ve never bought into the idea that only folks who experience XYZ may comment on XYZ. Others with this experience or that may have a perspective that I don’t have, yes, but we humans are not so radically individualized as to be unable to assess others’ experiences or their reactions to same.

    That said, the idea of the video repelled me, but then, by golly, I watched it, and imho, it works. God bless them.

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  • nan

    I thought it was wonderful. I’ve toured that place – to see descendants dancing in defiance is terrific!

  • Ann Landell

    It makes me think of the statue of the Blessed Mother with the snake under her foot.

  • http://www.taliashewrote.blogspot.com Talia

    B”H

    As a Jew, who lost large number of extended family in those places, I want to go and dance with him.

    It doesn’t feel disrespectful to me or my ancestors. It feels joyous. Yeah, okay, Gloria’s song isn’t about a Nazi death camp. Rarely the songs that tug at our hearts are word for word what we want them to be. But the message is clear. I SURVIVED. You tried to kill me and here I am dancing with my FAMILY, that I built after you died.

    Oh to watch that man laugh and giggle surrounded by the love of his incredible family in a place that only knew horror and despair… kol hakavod!

    Perhaps the job of learning the dance and planning this part of the trip took away some of the fear and anxiety of traveling to these places that held horrid memories for him.

    We should all find this much joy in our triumphs.

  • JenniferL33

    Dancin’ on the devil’s grave….HOW SWEET IT IS!!! I’m still crying.

  • Tonestaple

    What Deacon Greg said. I cried too – who could see that old man and not. It was a celebration of life.

    It’s the least expected use of a Gloria Gaynor song, but it was wonderful just because it is ultimately an exuberant song, and these people were absolutely write to exult in their grandfather’s survival. Yes, it’s absolutely possible for some anti-Semites to say, “see, even the Jews don’t think it was a big deal” but if the anti-Semites didn’t say that, they’d be saying something else equally horrible. Why on earth should these lovely people not celebrate their grandfather, with his obvious whole-hearted assent, for the sake of appeasing those who would hate them anyway?

  • http://ghpoetryplace.blogspot.com/ maria horvath

    Interesting how many write here of crying when watching this video. I too cried — especially when the grandfather did that little “hands back and forth on the knees” move.

    Thank you, dear Anchoress, for showing this.

    By the way, what was the beautiful hymn-like song at the end, when the screen goes black?

  • http://jscafenette.com Jeanette

    Anchoress,

    My just turned 13 year old granddaughter is at leadership school in a college nearby.

    Last night she called me and told me about her new friend “Eric”. Eric is a survivor of one of the lesser-known concentration camps in Poland. He showed her his tattoo, which started with a “J” and then had numbers and other letters.

    He asked her what they have taught her in school about the Holocaust. She told him she had seen a documentary but that it was so gruesome she turned her head. He told her what she didn’t see.

    He talked of being strong and that the strong survived. He located two siblings who were at different camps but they died from malnutrition after they were freed.

    She now knows what “Never forget” means and I pray she will cherish her time one on one with her friend Eric.

    He told her many people lost their faith during the Holocaust but his only got stronger because without faith he was nothing.

    I’ve lived nearly 63 years and haven’t had the pleasure of speaking to a Holocaust survivor and they are dying off quickly now.

  • Another Old Catholic

    I cried too, I was so moved by the spirit of that lovely man and his loving family. I’m glad that Talia wrote, because my instinct is that those who did not survive would be happy that someone did, and that his family goes on. God bless this family, and God bless the Jews! Who else could celebrate their survival with such good humor?


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