Monday 14 September 2009

Death Camp Re-Visited: Auschwitz and Birkenau

Straight lines, logical parallels, sequenced buildings, counted pieces, clearly identified sectors, criss-crossing railway lines, perimetral electrified barbed wire fences, plethorical watch towers, precise human body count.

The Nazi's application of scientifist reason to commit one of history's most inhumane atrocities still leaves many perplexed. For it is not only the decimation and annihilation of populations that most frightens, but the motivation behind it all and the ensuing methodology which was followed, in order to achieve the desired goals.

The obsession with numbers was astronomical but the human element was relegated and encapsulated within a lunatic straight jacket of bizarre ideas pertaining to the hierarchical.
Mathematical formulas overtake personal narrative, projecting the former into a profusion of meticulously calculated scenarios of paradisiacal qualities. A capitalist solution was at hand so a cost-benefit analysis of war is king, whilst human casualty, predicament and collective fear are miscounted as mere obstacles and shortcomings, that which if promptly eliminated and quickly removed would surely legitimize the cause.

This calculation of glory surpassed the unimaginable. Personal goods were confiscated and scrutinized for the use value they could represent for the Third Reich. Like exchange mechanisms with market significance, clothes, spectacles, suitcases were confiscated and even hair was promptly torn down, eviscerating and emasculating the many individuals who resulted as victims of this most banal and monstrous of ideologies.

Law and order was imposed to the minute detail - but both embodied a monochromatic vision of hierarchical justice that favored death over liberty and community. Science was dismembered as a word and concept - letter by letter. Genetic and biological theory would surely perturb the most respectable members of the scientific clique worldwide. Because if some fertilizer could be tampered with in order to transform it (Zyclon-B) into the most efficient way of gassing people to death, then something had to be terribly wrong. And if architecture could cooperate with such an ignoble proposition by delineating and reinforcing the methods of destruction, then a revision of the order of things was more than a necessary priority. No wonder the Post-Modern cry for an urgent if not violent revision and paradigm change for something radically novel, or in some cases, simply different.

Auschwitz is a live museum that reveals how capable we are of self-extinction. The biggest stupidity in history is a lesson which was lived but one that has sadly been significantly ignored. Any visitor to the place could not even fathom the suffering that thousands went through. Trying to feel what was felt is impossible. But observing what was practiced in this most infamous of locations can teach anybody that the "final solution" was something very real and tangible. And as frightening as that could be, it is also reminiscent of a solution that has definitely not vanished from our world.

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