Auschwitz: “A Performance That Was Not Appropriate”

david-bergerBy David Berger*

Christians have every right to interpret the Holocaust through the prism of their religion and even to incorporate elements of Judaism and Jewish ritual into a quintessentially Christian theological context. Criticism of this symphony because it undermines the uniqueness of the Holocaust is entirely defensible, perhaps even correct, but it does not in my view rise to a level that would justify censure of the composer and the organizers of performances of the composition, nor does this criticism stand in the way of an expression of gratitude and appreciation for the sentiments reflected in the work.
Nonetheless, a performance at the most notorious of Nazi death camps is in a different category. I do not consider it appropriate to perform a work at the gates of Auschwitz that runs counter to the essential convictions of the Jews who died there and interprets their suffering in terms not only alien to those convictions but antithetical to beliefs that stood at the core of their identity.
Because of the intensely Christian nature of this symphony, it seems to me uncomfortably close to a Christian religious ceremony, and I would not personally attend a performance of the work in any setting. This is true a fortiori of a performance in a venue where I believe that it should not have been performed at all.

*Rabbi David Berger is the dean of Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, as well as chair of Yeshiva College’s Jewish Studies department