Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan comes the link to this lengthy piece by Christopher Buckley, concerning his visit to Auschwitz, here. The entire piece is not easy or pleasurable reading, owing to its subject matter. The devastation of what he describes is augmented by how well he writes. The piece is at once unbearable and indispensable.
It would be recommended reading at any time, but seems particularly pertinent owing to the sorry spectacle of Prada-rocking Pope Benedict XVI, who (and when it comes to brass balls, you have to tip your mitre to the sallow old fucks who hold sway at the Vatican) has recently made it a point to “rehabilitate” Bishop Richard Williamson. Buckley begins his piece by making the understandable inquiry “Why on earth would Pope Benedict XVI want to rehabilitate a Holocaust denier?” This being Buckley, one is forgiven from wondering if that query is a tad over the top. Unfortunately, it’s nothing of the sort. For anyone who has had the displeasure of seeing Williamson soil his fetid soul on national TV, it is available via YouTube:
Pretty enlightening, eh?
I need not add my disdain to the proceedings (others far more eloquent than I have weighed in on this matter, indeed some have made careers out of it), and I’m happy to cede the spotlight to Buckley who acquits himself, for everyone’s sake, as close to perfectly as possible. It is a long piece, and any number of sentences could be lifted to represent the whole. For me, this one conveys the scope of the horror succinctly enough:
On one side of the rail platform was the women’s camp. “When the trains came,” Jarek says, “women would shout to the women arriving, ‘Give the baby to the granny.’ That way you might not be selected for the gas chamber. This was the choice.”
It’s unlikely Williamson would be swayed too much by Buckley’s account. That’s fine. But I’d take the opportunity, if it existed, to recommend some light reading for Wiliamson. It’s a book written by a man named Tadeusz Borowski, and his book (which would almost sound like something Mel Brooks might make up, were it not so sickening), is entitled This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. Borowski was a Polish writer apprehended by the Nazis at the age of 21. Over the course of two years, he spent time at Auschwitz and Dachau. Liberated in 1945, he wrote about his experiences in the book that is now considered a masterpiece. If Buckley’s article is painful reading, Borowski’s is almost intolerable. But it’s essential, for all the obvious reasons. Against all probability, Borowski writes his eye-witness inspired accounts and manages to infuse them with humor and even irony. This effectively humanizes the unimaginable.
Perhaps Williamson, and Ratzinger, would be jarred from their smug ecclesiastical apathy to know that Borowski, unable to cope with what he’d experienced, took his life. At the age of 28. By sticking his head in a gas stove. Perhaps this would move them. Perhaps not.
If, indulging in my scenario, I were able to compel these two men of God to read Buckley and Borowski, I think it would be a fitting touch to have some music in the background. Maybe Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time), a chamber quartet by French composer Olivier Messiaen. This music was not merely inspired by the concentration camps, it was created, and performed there. True story, and worth looking up. Of course, Williamson refers to the various “experts” he has consulted in his pursuit of truth (he actually says this); perhaps he could go directly the source (physically, as Buckley did, or artistically, courtesy of Borowski and Messiaen). Perhaps it would make a difference. Perhaps not.