He Survived: Dancing Video at Auschwitz Sparks Web Debate

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Screenshot via YouTube.com/AP Video

Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 hit “I Will Survive” gained fame for making the playlists at disco clubs like Paradise Garage and Studio 54.

While the 1979 movie Saturday Night Fever helped spread the gospel of disco bellbottoms and excess throughout the world, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi Concentration Camp located an hour outside Krakow, was, suffice it to say, not one of the satellites of hedonism.

Until now.

A band of five would-be rollerblading drug-induced dancers have taken the diddy to the least likely of places – that heart of darkness where the National Socialists exterminated roughly one million people. And they made a video of it.

But lift your finger from the keyboard before typing up a stinging letter to your temple newsletter or local newspaper, you would-be acolytes of the Anti-Defamation League, in which you understandably cry foul.

For the Robert Gibbs of these Bee Gees is none other than a Holocaust survivor himself, 89-year old Adolek Kohn. Set amid the confines of the death camp, Kohn leads three generations of his family in perhaps, in an odd way, the truest rendition of the Gaynor hit ever performed.

After being posted in January to YouTube, the video eventually went viral and received more than half a million hits. It gained enough attention that the Academy of Production and Recording Arts had it taken down on July 16 on a copyright claim.

But that move has done little to halt the criticism and open debate simmering on twitter and facebook, and among the German people themselves. Do the aggrieved play by different rules when it comes to commemorating the past? Can no one go “there”?

The critics miss the point, says Jane Korman, Kohn’s daughter who helped him make the video, in an interview with the Associated Press.

“The word Holocaust, everything related to it, has become numb, numbing and desensitized,” she said. “So I wanted to make some ad work that would awaken people and make them think about this past.”