Edited By Wojciech Klimczyk and Agata Świerzowska
The Aural Landscape of Majdanek
We would like to open with an important question: why has music such overwhelming power over humans? It may perhaps be connected with the characteristics of our senses, since closing our eyes and turning off the sense of sight seems easy, whereas in terms of hearing we feel more defenceless. Closing our eyes serves metaphorically and literally as a refusal to participate. Yet, at the same time our ears are open day and night, whether awake or asleep. Often we hear sounds subconsciously and without our consent. Sometimes a sound erupts violently, forcing us to react. The dominant visual preference of our culture stems from Greek tradition; in the Bible, the contrary occurs: the God of Israel does not tell his people to “see” but rather to “listen”. In the Jewish tradition, listening is the most important activity, elevated to the realm of the sacred.
The ear, as the most accurate and sensitive sense organ provides us with a permanent flow of information on what is happening around us, helping us to recognize and remember spaces which are sound-specific. The Majdanek concentration camp is a place with a unique set of sounds as well, as former prisoners inevitably mention in their recollections of their past.
Analysis of accounts made by concentration camp prisoners, with their powerful repetition and resonation of various sounds, appears to prove that the audio landscape of Majdanek did indeed influence prison life in a significant way. Among the vast array...
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