Notebooks from a trampfest. Travel tips, tales and images, online since 2006.

Visiting Auschwitz to Reflect on Death With Dignity

Zyklon B cannisters, Auschwitz

This week’s Der Speigel tells the story of a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp by a group of 70 Belgian euthanasia practitioners led by Wim Distelmans, a doctor who also chairs the Belgian government’s Euthanasia Commission. The Purpose?

In Auschwitz he intends to reflect with them on the meaning of “death with dignity”. That’s also the title of the tour, which is printed on the program booklet. It has to do with existential questions: self-determination, fear and freedom — and what these things mean to us today. And it concerns how far we go, should go, and should be allowed to go.

The visit provoked ample protests in the run-up but that didn’t deter members of the group, composed of doctors, psychologists and nurses with first hand experience with death.

They are following Distelmans to Auschwitz, they say, to learn more respect for their fellow human beings. In Auschwitz they intend to find out why the right of the individual to decide over his own life is inalienable — and why people must be absolutely free to make their own decisions in this respect. Auschwitz, they say, is the antithesis of everything that they hope to achieve, and they are seeking to reflect there upon what it means to kill out of humility and love.

By way of introduction to the trip, Distelmans addressed the group the evening prior to their visit:

“We are here today to allow ourselves to reflect on dying with dignity,” he says. “There were protests before our trip. But there is no better place than Auschwitz to ponder the meaning of dignity. When we deal with euthanasia, we must also come to terms with its opposite. In Belgium we use euthanasia in the original sense of the word: It means ‘good death.’ That’s the problem. We will have to explain over and over that we intend the opposite of what occurred in Auschwitz.”

Indeed, Auschwitz provides a setting to ponder lots of things. A fascinating read.

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Labyrinth of Lies is a new film examining just how difficult it was for the first trial related to crimes committed at the Auschwitz concentration camp to come to pass. This isn’t about the well-known Nuremberg trials, but rather the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in which Germans prosecuted Germans for wartime-related crimes for the first time. And it wasn’t an easy process; well into the 1950s official West Germany wanted nothing more than to bury the past and move on into postwar economic boom bliss. Looked at nearly six decades later, it’s difficult to imagine that German citizens knew so little about the atrocities and that the majority of officials were in no hurry or under no obligation to tell them.

The film’s North American debut came at the Toronto Film Festival in September and is now in limited release through the fall. I hope to cross paths with it. Here’s Variety’s review.

In this video, Deutsche Welle speaks with director Giulio Ricciarelli and actor Alexander Fehling, who portrays the young public prosecutor who pursues the nazi war criminals in his midst.

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And while on films, via Variety:

Andre Singer’s doc “Night Will Fall,” the story about the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps as WWII wound down, will be broadcast globally on Jan. 27, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Intl. Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The film, produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner, will air on HBO in the U.S., on German-French channel Arte, ARD in Germany, Channel 4 in the U.K., TVP in Poland, VPRO in the Netherlands, Channel 8 HOT in Israel, Denmark’s DR, RTVSLO in Slovenia, YLE in Finland and Norway’s NRK. Pic will also be distributed in Portugal by Midas Filmes.

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Today’s Pic du Jour, the 313th straight, was snapped on 19-Jun-2014 at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Poland. More of my images from Auschwitz are here.

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