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Music and Genocide

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Edited By Wojciech Klimczyk and Agata Świerzowska

At first glance, no two experiences could be further apart than genocide and music. Yet real, live culture usually goes beyond rational divisions. It is now fairly commonly known that art is not absent from the sites of mass killings. Both victims and prosecutors engage in artistic activities in prisons and camps, as well as at other places where genocides take place. What is the music of genocide? Can the experience of ultimate terror be expressed in music? How does music reflect on genocide? How do we perceive music after genocide? What is music and what is silence in a world marked by mass killings? Is post-genocidal silence really possible or appropriate? The goal of the volume is to reveal and, maybe even to some extent, resolve the most profound dilemma that was expressed by Theodor W. Adorno when he asked «whether it is even permissible for someone who accidentally escaped and by all rights ought to have been murdered, to go on living after Auschwitz.» It is not for the sake of pure curiosity that the relation between music and genocide is examined. In a sense we are all survivors who accidentally escaped genocide. It might have happened to us. It may still happen.
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The Holocaust – the Code of Death without the Alphabet of Life

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Literature concerning the Holocaust, both as a phenomenon perceived globally as well as its particular components, is very extensive. This interdisciplinary topic boasts an incredible level of complexity and an abundance of deliberation concerning not only the description of the historical background but also philosophical and even aesthetic elements. The events connected with the Holocaust were portrayed in detail, with due care and attention. What does the description concern in fact? Primarily the facts: that is the names, places, numbers, and even if they are accompanied by theories, in this case they seem “voiceless”. The circumstances which preceded the Holocaust are quite well recognized; also the whole process of extermination unfolded by the oppressors, the victims and the witnesses and also the persistence of various institutions and individuals in exposing the facts connected with the Holocaust are well-known. As Jan Woleński stated:

The factual knowledge regarding the Holocaust is extensive. Presumably we know more than less about this massacre. We can always expect new evidence to be revealed, such as witness statements by both the victims as well as the oppressors, directives, council decisions, various archival materials, etc. (…) Nevertheless, our knowledge concerning the Holocaust can now be corrected or supplemented only with regards to more or less significant details, which basically will not change the whole picture. The process and logistics of the extermination constitute the object of almost complete knowledge.1

This comprehensive documentary material, despite its extensiveness, was encompassed in appropriate categories,...

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