08 May 2020

Music on this Friday, May 8th



When In first heard this music, as part of a documentary on concentration camps in Poland, several years ago, I felt crushed, burdened, stunned, obviously. This history will never leave us and so it should be. I was born into this history and I have no time for forgive and forget.
I know I am not alone with that thought. There must not be an end to remembering. Our shame would be not remembering.

This is the second movement of Henryk Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The lyrics are a prayer inscribed on a cell wall in a gestapo headquarters in Poland by a young woman in 1944. It is the Zdrowas Mario, or Ave Maria: No, Mother, do not weep.



Seventy-five years ago, WWII ended. For a long time I felt relieved that both my parents had been too young to join the army, that my father was a schoolboy and my mother, well we don't really know, but not in uniform. She struggled all her adult life with demons and memories, and we struggled with her not knowing what that shadow was that hung over all of us.

Back in early January of this year when we thought life would just meander on the way we expected, I decided that this year we would go and visit all accessible memorial places and historic monuments on the nazi terror. This had been on my mind for years. I must admit that I had avoided this issue for too long but after we visited Dachau a few years ago, I realised that while it was really hard to do, I need to continue. This is not something I can explain very well and R, bless his Irish historically neutral soul, tags along to hold my hand.  So. We got out a map and circled areas and made lists and I downloaded all the visitors' information from the various sites and that was that.
But eventually.


11 comments:

  1. Thank you for your presence on this day and always. You and R together.

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  2. Olivier Messiaen's music is pretty hard tack modernism and I can't pretend I enjoy one of his best-known pieces which evokes birdsong. But there is one work that goes straight to my heart. Usually I write my own stuff but I chopped this directly out of Wiki because it doesn't require any tinkering

    Messiaen was drafted into the French army. Due to poor eyesight, he was enlisted as a medical auxiliary rather than an active combatant. He was captured at Verdun and taken to Görlitz in May 1940, and was imprisoned at Stalag VIII-A. He met a violinist, a cellist and a clarinettist among his fellow prisoners. He wrote a trio for them, which he gradually incorporated into his Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time). The Quartet was first performed in January 1941 to an audience of prisoners and prison guards, with the composer playing a poorly maintained upright piano in freezing conditions.

    As music it can be pretty hard going, although there are technical justifications for this. Nevertheless the quartet's tragic provenance emerges through its starkness and in the end, for me, it does what music is supposed to do. Takes you somewhere you've never before visited and makes return trips worthwhile.

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  3. I was a fairly clueless teenager from a white christian upper middle class family in the late 60s when I mentioned to my father that I didn't have anything to read and he handed me The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich. My first introduction to how inhuman humans are and can be. My parents had good friends who were jewish that lived in a different city when I was growing up (the wife had been my mother's maid of honor at her wedding) and we had visited them several times and so that sort of added to the shock value, that these people would have been killed. Eventually I married a jew and got first hand accounts of anti-semitism. and I raised my kids jewish, a seemingly brave (or stupid) act (especially since I have since eschewed all religion) knowing that I was putting them at risk of their very lives if things got ugly again. and things are getting ugly again over here at least since our rat bastard of a president thinks white supremacists are 'very good people'. I still remember the horrible pictures in that book...the piles of shoes, the mounds of gold teeth, the medical experiments, the pits for dumping bodies before they built the crematoriums. and there are people who think it's all a hoax, never happened. human beings are horrible. what other species does this to itself.

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  4. It's hard for me to look back at those times without grief and heartbreak. When I see people in my country these days wearing swastikas on their face masks and doing their Nazi Hitler salutes, it makes the 75 years since the end of the war disappear. The hatred continues. I so appreciate your presence, your heart, your wide open eyes to the world. Thank you.

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  5. I honor your desire to visit these places of horror. It must be terribly difficult. I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and it almost broke me.

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  6. I also honor your intentions. Sometimes the only way to transcend evil is to face it head on, and then walk away. As an American of German extraction, I am so grateful for your blog and your inherent goodness.

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  7. "She struggled all her adult life with demons and memories, and we struggled with her not knowing what that shadow was that hung over all of us."

    Since reading your post yesterday, those words have come back to me over and over again in connection with my half-German mother, born in 1916. It is becoming clear to me that, like your mother in some ways, she suffered from trauma and mental illness that was aggravated by the use of alcohol along with the psychological side effects of prescription Dexedrine for her narcolepsy and prescription Percodan for her frequent migraine headaches. When I was notified of her death in 1994 by my youngest sister, I had the vivid experience of seeing a dark cloud lift before my eyes. A shadow perhaps. My mother was fond of birds, too. Your writing about your mother opens my eyes in unexpected ways. Some things are hard to explain. Yes.

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  8. That sounds like a worthwhile goal; we all would benefit from making similar trips. I've visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington and that was heartbreaking -- I'm sure going to the scene(s) of the crime(s) would be even more eye-opening and traumatic. As it should be.

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  9. I'm not sure I could emotionally handle visiting some of those sites. The stories are endless but the significance of even one resonates with me for all. My memories are filled with news reel views of those places, other WWII scenes, and some events. The films were shown at the theater where I occasionally was allowed to attend musical movie matinees when I was elementary age. Later, outdoors at my home, I recall gazing up into the sky on rare occasions when a plane flew over, thinking of the sound of bombs dropping though I knew I didn't need to fear that from the aircraft I saw. I still imagined what I might do in such a situation. As I became older those memories have emerged periodically throughout the years. With my maturity and historical knowledge gained I came to think of all those in every country, allies and foes, caught up in such madness -- so many innocents -- some torn with feelings and knowledge select family members loving traits could be countered by darker qualities and pasts.

    The writing group now dissolved in which I participated included Isabelle Teresa Huber, author of "Isabelle's Attic" -- her book published later. Her husband, a prominent orthopedic surgeon now sadly experiencing Alzheimer's, had painstakingly interviewed and recorded her mother's stories from WWII years when she came to live with them before her death. Isabelle had been what has later proved to be only one of three children to escape their Poland city, then years later came to America.


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  10. I have been feeling as if that era has been revisited on American soil, with the mean, spiritually empty, and cruel president that we have, who encourages the swastikas, the klan hoods, the hate. We even have concentration camps at the southern border, and no one knows what is happening inside them. I welcome your awareness, your desire to keep history in sight, to bear witness. It is a powerful thing.

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