July 16, 2010, - 2:39 pm

Dancing @ Auschwitz: The “I Will Survive” Controversy

By Debbie Schlussel

Many people have asked me what I think of the YouTube video of Holocaust survivor Adolek Kohn, dancing to “I Will Survive,” with his daughter and grandchildren, in front of Auschwitz Nazi death camp and other scenes of Holocaust tragedy.  The video, made by his daughter, Australian artist Jane Korman, is posted below.

adolekkohn

You might be surprised by my take, as the video has stirred much controversy and anger because many people say it is making light of the Holocaust.

Usually, I oppose what I think has become the “Holocash” business/industry.  We must never forget the attempted (and somewhat successful) genocide of the Jewish people with the Nazis’ mass murder of six million of them, several of whom were my family members.  But so many on the left–primarily in the Jewish community “leadership”–focus only on the dead Jews from 70 years ago and look the other way on the lives of Jews under attack from Muslims in Israel, Europe, and everywhere else.  They refuse to connect the dots, so their recognition of the Holocaust dot is kinda pointless (and worthless).

Elie Wiesel, in my opinion, is among the worst offenders, as he went on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show and said nothing about Israel,  and nothing about guests on the show reading silly essays about their own “personal holocausts” of weight loss, abuse, and depression.  Instead, he’s used his status as a Holocaust survivor to, for example, push Bill Clinton to send U.S. troops to help Muslims defeat Christians in Bosnia.  That’s a perversion of the Holocaust.

And I’ve been critical of movies I believe do, in fact, make light of the Holocaust, including “Jakob the Liar” and “Life is Beautiful.”  In general, I agree that remembrances of and memorials to the Holocaust should be solemn.  But this is different.

As far as this video goes, I really have no problem with it, even if I think the dancing is somewhat silly and it is not something I would do nor would my relatives who survived the camps.  No, I’m not a Holocaust survivor, though my maternal grandparents were, and my mother was born in Bergen Belsen concentration camp, after the war when it became a displaced persons camp.  But what I see in the video is not making light of the Holocaust and what happened there.  What I see is an 89-year-old man who–by enduring Auschwitz, as Kohn did–earned the right to dance around these places.  What I see is a man who is celebrating that he survived, that not only did he survive, but that he had a daughter and grand-children, and that–despite the Nazi plan to eliminate him and the rest of the Jewish people, they failed.  I see the dancing in the video as a guy who is dancing on the graves of the Nazis who wanted to wipe him out, as well as his family and his people.  And I salute him for making the video, however cheesy it is and however lacking and corny the dancing of an 89-year-old Jewish dude may be.

My friend, David at The JIDF, disagrees.  He says:

Personally, I’m disgusted by it, and I couldn’t watch more than a minute.  I feel it’s disrespectful to the people who didn’t survive.  It is like dancing at a gravesite and saying, “I’m alive, and you’re dead.”  People don’t do that in cemeteries, and these are mass graves for people who never had the opportunity to have a funeral the way Adolek Kohn will when he passes away.

David, you make great points.  And I see your point of view.  I’m just glad that Adolek Kohn survived and that the Nazis were not successful in wiping out all of the Jewish people.  To me, that’s the point of the video–that he not only lived but had children and grandchildren who outlive the Nazis that tried to erase their existence.  But I can see how it appears the other way.  We will never know for sure what the spirits and souls of those who were murdered at these places think, how they feel about this video, and whether or not they are turning over in their mass grave or happy that someone lived to tell and to continue the Jewish people with new generations.

What do you think?  Disrespectful to those who were murdered by the Nazis?  Or a celebration of those who survived despite their diabolical Final Solution plans?

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51 Responses

LA CHAIM. It made me smile and cry at the same time. Take that you Nazi and Islamo-Bastards! We will always survive until a power greater than all decides otherwise.
?????

Moi on July 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    You echoed my thoughts exactly. To survive the Nazi trash and be able at 89 to literally spit in hitler’s (proper noun not capitalized as a sign of disrespect) eye, what a man!

    Mark F. on July 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Those question marks are what appeared instead of the Hebrew letters for La Chaim btw!! :-)

Moi on July 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I think its a Jewish celebration of life. The Jewish people are still alive and I think the dead would want to world to know evil has not vanquished the Jewish spirit. It never will. Auschwitz represents death in its starkest expression from the buildings to the train tracks, to the cattle cars down to the killing machinery and the pits into which the dead where thrown and then cremated. Its wonderful to see an elderly Holocaust survivor and his children affirm that the Jewish people are still here! We can never know what those who died think. Wherever they are, I am sure they approve. Life triumphs over death and good triumphs over evil. If that is not the Jewish answer to the Holocaust, then I don’t know what an appropriate answer would be.

Yasher Koach and L’Chaim!

NormanF on July 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I think this display at the site of extreme horror for many Jews is mistaken and a desecration. It is wonderful that Mr. Kohn survived, but there are many others that seek to destroy the Jews and it is a mockery of those who succumbed.

    If he danced on the graves of the Nazis, that would be worthwhile but this is foolish and making light of a very serious issue.

    Facts Life on July 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Facts, surviving is not? The Nazis inflicted death all over Europe but most of all in Auschwitz. I don’t see why Jews should not take satisfaction in celebrating the fact that one of the most notorious killing places on earth was not the end of the Jewish people. Some day, when the Jewish dead there are resurrected, they too will dance with joy. This is not making light of a serious issue. I think the Jewish philosophy has outlasted the so-called “superior race” Aryan one and we all know why. Adolek Kohn is living proof of it.

NormanF on July 16, 2010 at 3:16 pm

The Jewish people have been targets of mass murder as long as they have been around. Many Jews have perished over many, many, many years, not just the holocaust victims. Jews celebrate life. It’s our strength. Yes, a Holocaust survivor absolutely deserves the right to dance. He is not mocking the victims, he is mocking the Nazis.

Zsuzsi on July 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I am with you on this Debbie. I see it as a celebration of life. He has earned the right to dance at the site of his and our(As Jews) greatest suffering.

Brian Cuban on July 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Don’t know for sure but I like to think if those who perished had a chance to voice their opinion they would express joy that there were those who did survive Hitler’s evil plan and lived to give life to new Generations of Jews who have vowed not to forget what happened there. I think there cries would be not to stop the dancing but to make sure Never Again will this happen.

Lloyd on July 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I agree with your initial take – Mr. Kohn earned the right to do anything he damn well pleased at Auschwitz.

BernardL on July 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Dance on! No one is dancing on the graves of the dead (G-d forbid). They are celebrating life. L’chaim!

One of our neighbors who survived Auschwitz was out on her bicycle this morning in front of my house – quite a feat for a lady in her 90s. Next door is a man who literally ran out of Germany, who has LOTS of Jewish grandchildren. There are many more. We are definitely still here.

Good Shabbos!

Jennifer on July 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm

When I just had heard about this video (CNN has stated that it’s been taken down, removed by YouTube), I had my doubts. But, then, I watched the video — (that last part with Leonard Cohen) — and, it’s celebratory; a celebration of life, and good for Adolek Kohn!

J.S. on July 16, 2010 at 4:13 pm

[Debbie – Usually, I oppose what I think has become the “Holocash” business/industry]

I agree with you here, but please be careful. The self hater Norman Finkelstein has written a book on this, and the last thing you want is to be associated with him. Yes, I know you are arguing different points from a different view on life (he is an anti semitic moron) but others may not see it that way.

I_AM_ME on July 16, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I don’t have any comment except how cute the old guy is… :)

I was OFFENDED by the Seinfeld episode of making out during Schinders List. And, I was UPSET by “It’s a Beautiful Life.”

I say: leave this alone. Find something else to occupy your brain.

As goes Israel - so goes the World on July 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Wow. Thank you, Adolek Kohn; what a testament to life you are. L’Chaim! And, thank you, Debbie for posting this beautiful video of the survivalist spirit that we, as Jews, have had since the beginning of time. Sh’ma Israel…Shabbat Shalom!!

Kimberlynn Shaffer-Silva on July 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Poor taste is poor taste is poor taste — even if you survived attempted genocide. I won’t condemn the participants — especially not Adolek Kohn — because they were not intentionally disrespectful to the dead and did not have bad motives. But I’d be just as disturbed by the same sort of video being made at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Fort Hood, and other sites of successful/attempted Islamist terror attacks and would ask the same questions, even if the participants were survivors of such attacks.

In short, the participants did nothing that merits being called “evil” — but it is still “wrong” on some level.

Rhymes With Right on July 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

When Moshiach comes, maybe we can all go to Mecca and dance on the Kaaba.

Personally, I’ve built three holocaust memorials thusfar– they’re my kids. Believe me. Having kids is tough. Probably one of the things that motivates me to continue doing so is that by having and raising Jewish children, I get the opportunity to tell Hitler, Chmelnitzky, Mohommad and the others to go F themselves.

Ari on July 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm

God Bless Mr. Kohn. Because he SURVIVED he was dance at such place where atrocities took place. If he could not have danced there, he would have perished there.

Guess I am disgusted that people would be disgusted with this video. I believe not one person in his family thought there would be such outrage. People ruin everything.

Nice touch of finishing up the video with the yiddish song “Dance Me To The End Of The World”. I used to listen to a great Sunday show on college radio called “Chagigah”. The first hour used to play the BEST yiddish music. The rest is Israeli…I don’t like the Israeli music so much, but the yiddish…my favourite hour of music on the radio!

http://www.wers.org/music/Chagigah.cfm

Skunky on July 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    @Skunky
    I’m very open to music and will listen to just about anything at least once…anything.
    I love ethnic folk music and it seems the best of it was at the very least inspired by Yiddish music. Not always just happy or sad, meloncholy might be the closest description. The kind of music that not only touches your heart but reaches the soul.

    theShadow on July 17, 2010 at 3:08 am

I did better than that…

On a trip to Europe I visited Berlin for a day, and I had the pleasure of standing on top of Hitler’s grave – that is to say I visited the site of the bunker.

Salek Orzechowski on July 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I felt that the elderly man first and foremost must have had the same qualms about disgracing the dead,It must not have been easy, But disrespect,,No, I believe those souls that met death at such hands of cruelty would shout and dance as well,I saw it as a dance of defiance, a “in your face ” to those that would have killed him. He went on,fathered children and has grandchildren,his enemy defeated.Personally I thought it great. Sixty years on and its not the Nazi;s dancing over their solution.God bless all the survivors.

sue on July 16, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I understand what message they were trying to convey, but the dancing at the concentration camps comes off as poor taste. The images of the brave survivor and his family is very powerful, especially set against the song ‘I Will Survive’. But I can’t think of a greater victory than dancing on Hitler’s grave (although its a shame he has one).

Sange on July 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Not my idea of taste but I’m not offended as much as just uncomfortable about it.

BoKnows on July 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I loved it. I watched it the other day and also was laughing and crying at the same time. As I’ve said elsewhere, can you imagine surviving such a place and then returning to dance there with the people who would not exist if you HADN’T survived? Amazing.

I showed it to hubby and he, the big, strong manly carpenter got all choked up. I see this as a testament to the human spirit, and the hope that good will always triumph.

Let them dance!

Amy on July 16, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I like it, he endured that hell and he deserves to celebrate his survival.

Now had it been a borat stunt or some other moron then it would have been in bad taste and disrespectful.

ender on July 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

The core of Judaism is preservation of life. This man’s life is preserved and he should celebrate it. All the dead Jews died so that he and other survivors could live. The dead would be pleased to know that their suffering and sacrifices did not go to waste. That instead of the Nazis having the last laugh, one of our own is having the last laugh.

@Debbie:I think Ellie Wiesel was manipulated into supporting the Balkans misadventure. Just like countless others who now privately regret supporting the wrong side in the conflict. I personally know of a Jewish Jansenovac survivor who cried in sadness when we both learned about EW’s public support for Clinton’s and Mad-eline Not-bright’s misadventure.
R

Rex on July 16, 2010 at 11:30 pm

There are three Hillel-like questions to ask here. One of them has an obvious answer.

1. Was he dancing on the graves of thousands of people?

2. Was he dancing on a death-machine laid idle by the forces of freedom?

3. What was his intent?

There! Have at it folks! Argue to your hearts’ content.

Shabbat Shalom,

TINSC (aka There is NO Santa Claus)

There is NO Santa Claus on July 17, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Thank you for your compliment Mr. Shadow!

    I will defer the answer to my question #1 to Rabbis. I feel unqualified to answer it. I know that years ago somebody wanted to build a discotheque at Auschwitz and it created quite a frakus because nobody wanted people to dance on the graves of the dead (Jewish or otherwise). As a Jew, I’m a bit sensitive to these things so I need to consider question #1 more seriously. It’s a sensitive matter which I do not take lightly.

    I certainly agree with your answer to question #2. I also think his intent was to emphasize #2 so I think we agree on question #3.

    The answer to question #3 seems rather obvious to me.

    Thank you for your comments.

    Sincerely,

    There is NO Santa Claus (aka TINSC)

    There is NO Santa Claus on July 18, 2010 at 8:49 pm

@TINSC, you have a knack for stating the obvious, which is too often overlooked. I’m surprised Debbie didn’t ask the same questions. I’ll bite, so, my answers:
#1: NO, he’s not a Nazi, he’s a Jew. They (the dead) were dancing with him.
#2: YES! Look at his picture. That’s not a peace sign, that’s V for Victory!
#3: To give the Nazi’s the finger, stick his ass in their face, piss on their graves, etc.

So, I see no argument here, and least we forget, dancing is a celebration of Life!

theShadow on July 17, 2010 at 2:24 am

Bad choice of music. I would’ve gone for Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”

Daniel H on July 17, 2010 at 3:37 am

    Bad choice of music. I would’ve gone for Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”

    Daniel H on July 17, 2010 at 3:37 am

    I agree.

    This is off topic, but I wish all the religious Jews on this website, who are fasting tomorrow, an easy one.

    Miranda Rose Smith on July 19, 2010 at 1:53 am

I agree with Debbie on this video. My father is a Holocaust survivor and is now 82 years old with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, he never wanted to go back to Poland with his children so that will never happen, but the fact is that he did survive and had children and grandchildren and a wonderful and successful life despite what the Nazis tried to do. My son recently went on the March of the Living and as part of that, they actually march from Auschwitz to Birkenau. The participants wrap themselves in Israeli flags and there are other ceremonies as well. I feel that that was as life affirming as this dance and it does show that despite what the Nazis tried to do, we survived as a Jewish people. This 89 year old man survived and affirmed his life. Kol hakovod to him and his grandchildren!

Betty on July 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

This dance was a big F-you to the nazis! I hope the next generation does not forget what happened back then and also realizes that mein kampf is being replaced by the koran as the hate book of choice.

IM4Israel on July 17, 2010 at 2:26 pm

The theme of Life is Beautiful was: Jews are lovely people but they must be destroyed so that other people have have a good life. Pitiful.

SZ: I agree. That’s part of why I hated it. DS

Shel Zahav on July 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm

After he survived he did the one thing Hitler could not extinguish, or burn in the ovens, Mr Kohn laid down with a wife and had a daughter who, in her turn, had her own. That gift is Godgiven which no man dares to tear asunder without incurring horrific judgment.

To produce, that is the calling of all mankind, but especially the Jewish People. That is why Queen Esther found so many to join the dance when wicked Haman was hanged.

The survival of the Jewish People is history’s greatest testimony of God’s particular affection. The Jew (Israel) is the singularity of God’s universal love. To see it is to witness God’s own endurance, in His everlastingness.

And to think that what it takes to see, to believe, is to witness something as common and particular as a man taking a wife (to bed)  especially one who survived a Death Camp. The issue that comes from such a bedding down is the fulfillment of a promise. When the Patriarch Abraham look up into the starry heavens, Mr. Kohn, survivor, was in that twinkling mass giving and receiving joy with his wife and sending it along its way to his grandchildren.

To see the Jew as husband, wife, children and grandchildren is to nod a prayer of thanksgiving. So it is with Israel. To see her as steadfast and true between the Jordan River and the sea is to give thanks to God – and to grant God His own liberty to love something a particular as this.

Not to give thanks, the want to snatch from God his particular affections – to deny God the singularity of his attention upon the Jew, upon Israel – is to crawl into the red-hot oven of hate, and to close the door behind oneself.

Mr. Kohn understood this when he danced before the gates of Auschwitz – as he, the survivor did, when he took a wife. Patriarch Abraham, outside his tent, saw that particular twinkling in the night sky and rejoiced.

Herr Hitler, you lost!

Stephen Golay on July 17, 2010 at 8:40 pm

To each their own, I guess. I thought it disrespectful and banal to the memories of those perished in the Holocaust.

In that vein, Debbie, I don’t think ‘Life is Beautiful’ makes light of the Holocaust at all. Maybe the antics of its’ writer/star Roberto Benigni at the Academy Awards makes it seem that way. The film is full or ironic imagery contrasting the darkness of Nazi brutality versus the light and happiness of normal famliy existence. The murder of a light-hearted, humerous man such as Guido can’t help but be more stirring than that of the sullen victim usually seen in Holocaust films.

jj33898 on July 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm

It is good. Your enemy always wants you to remain solemn and in despair. If they cannot kill or harm you, they will try to make your life one of grief and regret. The best antidote for that is mockery and putting on a brave and laughing demeanor. One could say that Hogan’s Heroes, despite its flaws, was useful in that way. A more contemporary example of this is Islam’s reaction to any form of humor put forward at tis expense. One can tell by the sometimes murderous rage associated with its reaction, that it is feeling pain. Islam demands fear and submission, and cannot abide ridicule and contempt. Such a reaaction drains it of strength and emasculates its authority. Dance and laugh at those who oppress you. It is the only weapon one has sometimes.

Worry01 on July 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Holocaust Survivors are permitted to dance anytime and anywhere they please. They suffered more than we will ever know. Those days of suffering should be replaced with days of Happiness for them until 120.

How can you tell that they are permitted to celebrate their survival? The permit number is tattooed on their arm!

HLW-LA on July 18, 2010 at 1:40 am

The mother of asn old friend of mine died a few months ago, may she rest in peace. She was an Auschwitz survivor. I remember how uplifting it was to see her surrounded by her daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I can see this video as a survivor’s triumphant cry; I can see the point of the people who feel it’s in bad taste.

Miranda Rose Smith on July 18, 2010 at 5:57 am

The mother of an old friend of mine died a few months ago, may she rest in peace

Miranda Rose Smith on July 18, 2010 at 5:58 am

12 million people were slaughtered by the Nazi’s Holocaust – Jews, political dissidents, homosexuals, the handicapped, gypsies, etc. etc. etc. Why is it that nearly every single mention of the holocaust refers to the 6 million Jews and nobody else? Why are there 6 million numbers on the Boston Holocaust memorial? Why do holocaust museums throughout the world only talk about Jews?

It’s as if the 6 million non-Jews who also perished never existed. You want to talk about not respecting the dead?

Bobbi Jones on July 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Bobbi Jones:

    The reason that the Holocaust refers to the murder of 6 million Jews is because the Jews were the only “race” (as defined by the Nazis) targeted for total annihilation.

    6 million other dissidents were certainly murdered by the Nazi police-state terror machine. I don’t dispute that. The Jews were the only ones targeted for complete annihilation. (The Gypsys are perhaps an exception as they too were subject to the same decree.)

    Nobody denies that the Nazis war crimes extended well beyond those perpetrated on the Jews. However, the Holocaust is applicable to the Jews exclusively because the Jews were treated in an exclusive manner.

    Regards,

    There is NO Santa Claus (aka TINSC)

    There is NO Santa Claus on July 18, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Debbie, I recently met a Jew from Detroit, so of course I asked if he knew you. He said he had some dealings with you, so I immediately questioned him at length about how you look and if you have a bf (he didn’t know about the bf). Then he started bad mouthing you. I basically told him that your pro-Israel advocacy is important, that you only denounce fellow Detroit Jews in so much as they need to be for being dupes, and that I enjoy your blog.

A1 on July 18, 2010 at 11:30 pm

I have to admit, when I first saw the news story on this the first thing that popped into my head was to check DS and see what she had to say. Other than that, I was offended–then I said to myself-F*&K YOU [meaning myself] he has earned the right to do this, he survived and I am in no position to pass judgment on his celebration of a life meant to be exterminated. Good for him and God bless him and all other survivors–may we gain strength from their lives for the next war against extermination that is coming.

The only cynical note I could manage was the dancing…horrid.

Sean R on July 19, 2010 at 7:26 am

Laughed and cried. I thought it was beautiful. Generations dancing unabashed like children over that forsaken area for all the residents of Heaven to watch & clap along. Fear, death, and evil will not have the last word–anywhere.

Aurora on July 19, 2010 at 4:49 pm

I am not much bothered. But NOTHING is as simply AMAZING as the annual pilgrimages of thousands of Hasids to the tombs and home towns of their traditional Rebbes in the Ukraine. After Hitler, after Stalin after the the einsatzgruppen and camps… still wearing their 19th century garb and dancing and singing. Not my kind of Jews maybe but it is deliciously ironic.

poetcomic1 on July 20, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I am proud that my father’s family have survived Shoah – they lived in Algeria at the time, and miraculously, they were ignored.

This man is proud to have survived. Period.

He could’ve chosen some better tunes, though. And here’s my top 10 (in no particular order):

1) Lamb of God – “Set to Fail”
2) The Who – “My Generation”
3) The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
4) Toots and the Maytals – “Pressure Drop”
5) Bob Marley and the Wailers – “Exodus”
6) Anything by Rush (Geddy Lee’s grandmother survived Shoah)
7) Creed – “Higher”
8) Pearl Jam – “Alive”
9) Black Sabbath – “Neon Knights”
10) Dio – “Last in Line”

That’s only a short list, and there are probably better tunes than the ones I wrote out.

The "Reverend" Jacques on July 21, 2010 at 10:35 am

Debbie,
I can not fault this poor guy since as a survivor of that hell he has earned the right to do whatever he pleases anywhere he pleases but I do not agree that his grandkids have that right.
I am glad that he survived personally but sadly close to one million jews sent there on cattle trains were not as lucky after arriving there and were systematically murdered by gassings, starvation and disease.
That place should be sacred hollow grounds for eternity and not be a place for celebrations of any kind.

RG on July 22, 2010 at 1:52 am

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