BSAG revisited: Holocaust

· life ·

[First published 27/01/2005]

It seems appropriate — on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz — to talk about a film I watched the other night. [Holocaust

As you might expect, it was unbearably moving at times. I'm ashamed to admit that I couldn't watch it all in one go. I had to look away, which is terrible. It isn't much to ask of us that we should be witnesses, 60 years on, but I still couldn't do it.

I don't believe in ghosts (or life after death for that matter), but it was difficult when Cantor Steven Leas was singing a Hebrew lament for the dead (El Male Rachamim) in the women's barracks not to imagine that he was singing directly to the spirits of the women who had once lived in that bleak and dank room. Similarly, when Iva Bittova played the violin and sang a Gypsy Lament in the ruins of one of the many huts where Roma people where housed and then massacred, it felt as if she was sending a message of condolence and hope back in time. The programme ended in a very symbolic way, with Maxim Vengerov playing Bach's Chaconne on the violin while walking out of the camp. Liberation.