Gloria Gaynor’s anthem “I Will Survive” may be a popular bar and bat mitzvah song, but placing the tune in just about any other Jewish context might seem crass. Which is why several Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors are outraged over Jane Korman’s decision to play it in conjunction with a video filmed at Auschwitz.
Korman, an Australian artist and Master of Fine Arts student, created a YouTube video called “I Will Survive: Dancing Auschwitz” last December during a family heritage trip to Poland. The four-minute clip shows her three children and father, an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor, performing an uncoordinated line dance in front of Auschwitz’s infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign. They also do the dance outside a synagogue, at a memorial in Lodz and at two other concentration camps, Dachau and Theresienstadt.
The project, which is part of a three-piece video series (the second shows old footage of her parents dancing in a forest to soft music, and the third includes interviews with family members about being Jewish), evolved as Korman’s emotional and artistic response to anti-Semitism in Australia.
The first video has been criticized by Jewish groups and survivors, though Korman said, “I understand that some might think it’s disrespectful, but to me it is a celebration of freedom… a celebration of life, of a Jewish family, and it’s symbolic of the Jewish nation that we’re striving to survive and trying to do the best we can.”
Korman created the series to provide a fresh approach to remembering the Holocaust “so the lessons are still remembered and continued and don’t become numb,” she told the Forward. In the third video, her father laughs while standing in a train car at Auschwitz. “Who would have thought I’d be back here 65 years later with my grandchildren?” he asks.
Korman’s mother, who is also a Holocaust survivor and met her husband shortly after the liberation of Auschwitz, did not attend the trip, as it was “too traumatic to go back,” Korman said. But when asked if she was supportive of Korman’s efforts, Korman said that her mother responded, “We came from the ashes, now we dance.”