“We bring you the circus, pied piper whose magic tunes greet children of all ages, from six to 60, into a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of blaring and daring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars…” -Narrator in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
If we killed ourselves -human and every damn living thing- in a nuclear firestorm, who do you think will pop its head out of crevice and quiver its feelers at a brave new world? A bug: The cockroach.
Bugs like rat fleas wiped out three quarters of Europe and Asia’s population by spreading the plague bacteria. If we could jump like they did, we would clear skyscrapers, however, we can only give vent to our frustration by making Superman, Batman and Spiderman films. Even grasshoppers and locusts can jump prodigiously and a squadron of the latter can wipe out a nation’s bread basket in a mere half an hour.
On the other hand, ants run totalitarian regimes than can make the leaders of the worst regimes of the world only weep with envy. Ah! To greater disappointment of the Arab world mandataries, the ladies would be thrilled to note that the “dear leaders” of the ant society are females! What about mosquitoes? All one can say about them is that they have killed more of us that all our efforts together to remove them through our history, and they are still doing so.
Even The Metamorphosis shows Gregor questioning his own humanity as he grows more accustomed to the life of a bug after one day he wakes up and comes to realize he has been transformed into an insect and his entire world, as he knows it, has been turned up side down.
Scientist and inventors through the ages have been giving us things like the atom bomb, the sarin gas and the pesticides; but they have also given us plenty of good stuff like antibiotics and computers. Despite we have powerful emotions such as empathy and compassion, the main difference between humans and insects is perhaps our destructiveness, because unfortunately “intelligence” can be negated or turned to evil use by harmful human flaws or characteristics.
Auschwitz-Bikernau is a symbol of the lack of humanity. It’s an example of the barbaric destructiveness in humans, as well of social apathy and indifference because when there was still time to save thousands, the Allies rejected to bomb it and also the railroads leading to the camp. Instead of using bombs, they promised to punish Nazi war criminals after the war. Auschwitz-Bikernau it’s a symbol of the Holocaust. The majority of the Jews were murdered in the gas chambers immediately after arrival, same like in Belzec and Treblinka, and same destiny suffered Poles, Gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, Soviet soldiers and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities… It’s a place where 1.5 million people perished.
It’s needed really lot of educational preparation prior to visit Auschwitz, because among other things, there is a risk that your perception of the Holocaust would be trivialized if you regard the visit as just another attraction in Poland or just a spot or “in the bucket-list” mentioned in a tourist guide, or as it is being advertised by the operator of the Auschwitz Stag Do Package with which after the visit they promise you a VIP guided bar crawl with English speaking guides.
The reality is that the atmosphere in the ruins of what was an extermination camp does not deter all visitors from drinking, eating, snapping hilarious group shots, filming the Harlem Shake… Soon people will think that WWII was a cool era as much as Pirates and Vikings are essentially fantasy characters with Tyrone Power kind of mustache embracing a sexy redhead Maureen O’Hara, and the latter with beards horned helmets who love to drink and party all night long with blondes women of big breasts… Just few months back Angela Merkel went to visit Dachau in the morning and later on to a right old political party knees-up in a beer tent in the afternoon; if politicians show this attitude so openly, what do you think citizens of any country will do?
The people running Auschwitz tours are making money from them, it’s not a charity, and if you do tourism in Krakow you’ll be harangued by people asking you if you want to go on a “tour to Auschwitz” as if they were offering you some white water rafting, a bungee jumping or a Zumba single-day-crash-course in a nearby gym. So, if the tourist industry profits from it, are they being too offensive in making money out of such tremendous human tragedy and treating it like a macabre theme park? Why Auschwitz can not be organized professionally like Yad Vashem?
There are people who argue that the complete Auschwitz should be demolish, to plant trees instead and have a museum exhibition or a memorial there, but not to keep maintaining it so that the Holocaust can be trivialized by some idiotic tourists and tour operators showing lack of respect and the sites being treated as some kind of walkabout tourist attraction like a genocide Disneyland. In the other hand, there are people that think that perhaps part of the answer lies in developing a different pedagogical approach to the teaching of history that aims through the use of art and the imagination to recreate as far as possible the experience of the “other”, and enhance the capacity to critique today’s mindless narcissism. Also they suggest that should be a completely overhaul of the camp policies and practices, which includes giving up the idea of it being a mass tourist, money-spinning experience where almost any behavior is tolerated, as for example; demanding certain codes of dress, no eating on the premises, forbidding cameras, phones, etc, and, most important of all, demanding silence. But conversely, are also who think that, what does it matter the clothes people are wearing? Arguing that one of the lessons of the Holocaust is to allow people to live their lives as they wish, as long as its not harmful to others, and as to photography is concerned, the usual reason for banning it at historical sites is to force tourists to buy postcards at the gift shop… The debate can go on and on…
But by the meantime, in the Auschwitz camp and Birkenau -the satellite camp about two miles away-, the barracks have cracked walls and sinking foundations, many are in such sad shape that they are closed for safety reasons and water from leaking roofs has damaged wood bunks where prisoners once slept.
Inevitably, Auschwitz will grow less authentic with the passage of time, being basically a reconstruction on an original site. Even the Arbeit Macht Frei sign was stolen by thieves, who intended to sell it to a collector. Although the sign was recovered, it was cut into three pieces and it needed to be repaired.
But, why Auschwitz-Birkenau should be preserved and be saved? Among several other reasons, because the world needs to know that the Holocaust happened.
Never has the world of adults seemed so utterly stupid, brutal and senseless than through the eyes of two innocent children who have to deal with pain, loss, death and war. René Clément’s celebrated tale of childhood love is actually a strongly religious anti-war movie of incredible delicacy, laced with humor and poignancy.
The soundtrack was played by Narciso Yepes (a Spanish guitarist from Lorca, Region of Murcia, in south-eastern Spain) and it included his arrangement of the tune “Romance“. Here he is playing it beautifully during a concert in Japan. Note his ten-string guitar which he exclusively used while touring and performing in recitals as well as with the world’s leading orchestras: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN6tcdiqELk