A lovely little film by Australian artist, Jane Korman, features her Polish grandfather, Adolek Kohn having the last laugh on one of history's darkest periods.
To see the worst men can do and still laugh... that is victory. L'Chaim!
I remember listening to an interview with Mel Brooks after The Producers won the Tony. He was explaining why he had written it. After all, how could a Jew and a former infantry soldier who served in Europe during WWII think that Hitler and Nazis were comedic material?
To Mel Brooks, it was simply a matter of vengeance. After the war, he explained, his mission in life was to get back at Hitler in the most devastating way possible, by turning Hitler into a punch line!
In his own way, Adolek Kohn, a Polish survivor of Aushwitz, dances on the graves of the Nazi myth and celebrates the triumph of surviving with his grandchildren. There are three parts to this I Will Survive: Dancing at Auschwitz. I include all of them for your pleasure, along with a transcript of a portion of the third segment where his grandchildren interview him.
Here is Part 1, dancing at Auschwitz! The truth is, they are dancing at many more places than just Auschwitz, but the point is clear. The last man standing gets to call the tune.
The second piece is a lyrical interlude. Something about the imagery moves me in a profound way. It is so sweet and simple. For some reason it reminds me of a book that we had in our house when I was a boy, Edward Steichen's The Family of Man. Watching the images moving across the screen, I could not help but think that the the Polish members of my family who didn't survive Treblinka would be smiling if they could see the antics of Adolek and his grandchildren.
Here is the final piece, where Adolek speaks about his experience. The final piece begins with Adolek and his family in the famous cattle cars. Adolek relives some of the experience, role playing for his grandchildren as if he was back in the cattle car. "Where are we?" In a later moment he explains what it was like... and we see why words cannot capture the experience.
It was very, very, very difficult
Talk about understatement ....
About 1:40 into the final act, with Adolek peering out from the cattle car "window", he explains what is going on.
If someone would tell me here, then, that I will come sixty some three years later with my grandchildren, so, I'd say, "What are you talking about? What are you talking about? So here you are. This is really an historical moment. Because who can come? How many people would come here with their grandchildren? How many from this percent? One percent? Not even one percent. Half a percent? I don't even think half a percent came here, back again, with their grandchildren. I don't think half a percent. All were killed.
Jules Feiffer, eat your heart out!