Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dancing away the Holocaust

I take it that this has been making the Internet rounds, and stirring up some controversy along the way, but I just saw it for the first time.

Some group made a (very low budget) video of people dancing at various sights connected with the Holocaust (such as the gates of Auschwitz) to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

Now, I completely understand why this offends many people. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews (and 6 million non-Jews), and almost wiped out our people. It’s arguably the single greatest act of evil in history. Seeing people making light, on the very grounds where so many died, will strike many as deeply, deeply inappropriate.

But, I have to admit, I find something very Jewish about this response. One of the most repeated Jewish one-liners is that every Jewish holiday can be summarized as “They tried to kill us. They failed. Let’s eat.” We tend to react to tragedy and oppression with a kind of ironic humor. We dance on the graves of our oppressors, generations after they are gone. Purim may be the clearest example of this – around the anniversary of the planned murder of all of the Jews in a kingdom, we throw a big party, dress up, get drunk, and make fun of our would-be, long-gone killer. Singing “I Will Survive,” while doing a really pathetic dance, precisely on the spots where the Nazis tried to wipe us out – it just seems to be part of that same spirit.

Of course, in this case, many, many people did die. Even though our people, as a people, has survived, and will survive, there are plenty of people alive today who can remember family members who were murdered in the Holocaust. I will survive. But, they didn’t. Is it too soon to celebrate this way? Does decency require that we wait a few generations, before making a new version of Purim? I don’t think so, but, again, I understand those who disagree.

If you’re not the type who gets offended at these things, watch the video. And celebrate that we’re still here – dancing as badly as ever.

1 comment:

Andy Cohen said...

I first I was kind of taken back by it when I saw this last week. By then I was reading about it and discovered that the older gentleman "dancing" is a Holocaust survivor. The other people with him are his children and grandchildren. That, to me, is what makes it so poignant and not the least bit offensive. Knowing this put it into so much more context for me and truly made me smile.