SAWAN'S SONG BLOG
BLOG POST 03
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29th April 2016
THE METRONOME/ BLOG POST 03
Dachau Konzentrationslager, a name synonymous with the holocaust and WWII, was the first concentraion camp set by Heinrich Himmler soon after Hitler came to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory about 16km to the northwest of Munich, Dachau KZ is also the longest running concentration camp of the Nazi regime. During its twelve operational years, 2,06,206 priosoners were "processed" at the camp and the Dachau KZ concentration camp adminstration records a death toll of 31,951 - a number which varies depending on the source in question. The camp prisoners consisted of Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, French, Yugoslavs, Czechs, German political prisoners, Austrians, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists and Gypsies.
After many months of extensively studying the holocaust, I visited Dachau KZ with C.B. in September 2015, about seven months ago. I was so deeply disturbed by my visit there that for many months I was unable to talk or post anything much about it. Apart from my prior knowledge and documented footage of the atrocities that took place in the camp, what hit me hard was seeing the actual relics, postcards, handwritten notes, drawings and musical scores created by various inmates - these brought me into some sort of inexplicable spiritual contact with the actual people behind the names and stories. The odd, almost incongruous, sound of a ringing bell from the Church of Reconciliation located next to the Crematorium complex inside the camp formed a subliminal background score to my visit, which haunted me for a very long time - and the sound of a ringing bell became inextricably linked to the camp and its sights, for me.
These are the experiences I've tried to capture in my "Song for Dachau." The melodic line I'm humming after verse 02 are the opening lines from "Dachaulied" written in 1938 by Jura Soyfer and composed by Herbert Zimmer, inmates of Dachau. Adopted as the official song of Dachau, it makes a cynical reference to the "Arbeit Macht Frei" ( Work will set you free ) slogan of the camp. Some of the inmates of the campt got together to form a secret orchestra that organized secret sunday afternoon concerts in an unused latrine.
There's a church bell that rings across fields of white gravel
I can't erase its ringing from my head
There's a church bell that rings across the emptiness that hides
The stories and bones of the dead
There's a red roofed cottage with chimneys by the church
Across a bridge over water that runs clear
And the ringing of the bell in the church tries to cover
The silence that shrouds what happened here
And just like you, and just like me
They captured moments from their lives for us to see
And just like me, and just like you
They wrote their songs for secret concerts in the loo...
( humming a phrase from Dachaulied, the Dachau song composed by inmates Herbert Zipper and Jura Soyfer )
I hear them whisper in my head in strangled voices with no sound
A thousand stories that I can never tell
And the skeletons in stripes follow me with hollow eyes
I feel them when i hear a ringing bell