Monday, 23 January 2017

Haunting and Poignant

I enjoy reading Mark Steyn's website (linked to at the bottom of my page), not only because I tend to share some of his conservative viewpoints, but also because he often comments on various areas of pop culture, past and present. It is a wonderful source of information and trivia of music and entertainment for the last hundred years or so.

Leonard Cohen died a couple of months ago and through Steyn's website I learned of Cohen's song, "Dance Me To The End of Love." I found the video rather touching, showing elderly couples dancing with photographs of their younger selves as backdrops.

Little did I know the rest of the story. As explained by one of the comments on the You Tube video:

Leonard Cohen was inspired by the true story of the "Violinist of Auschwitz", Greek-Jew Jack Stroumsa! In this song, Stroumsa's wife (victim of the Nazis) speaks to him, through Cohen's voice, asking her husband to play her some music when she is being dragged toward the gas chambers. You see, the duty of Stroumsa in this camp was  to play classical music for the funeral procession of the naked victims who were told by the SS officers that they are going away just to get a bath. Stroumsa was forced to play this music as his melancholy farewell for unsuspecting victims; friends, neighbours, coreligionists and his very own family, all dragged in the same path of death with music in their ears... - Christos Tsanakas.

There is a personal connection with this. My wife's father was a Jew who survived the Holocaust in Poland. He lost all his family, and apparently narrowly escaped himself by finding a way to jump off the train on the way to Auschwitz. Sam himself was a musician and survived the rest of the war with help from the Polish underground and playing in bands to entertain Nazi officers.

He married Irene, my mother-in-law just after the war and escaped Poland for Austria just before the iron curtain fell. Eva was born in a refugee camp at Linz, and celebrated her first birthday on a boat on the way to Canada in 1949. God brought us together to be married in 1968.

Maybe that's why I find it so touching.

Take Care


Warren said...

Thank you for this post. I've had this Cohen song in my collection for many years but was unaware of the events that may have inspired him to write it.

Here's more info on Jacques Stroumsa:

John K said...

Thanks Warren. Fascinating link. Interesting how accounts can differ. In our family archives is more poignancy. Some of my father-in-law's cousins had emigrated to the US before the war. We have copies of letters that those who remained in Poland wrote them, telling them how things were getting more difficult for Jews there but expressing hope that things would improve. Sad to look back and see the reality of history.