A grave in the clouds
In May 1945, Romanian poet Paul Celan (1920-1970) wrote the poem Todesfuge (Death Fugue), about the horrors of the Holocaust and the concentration camps. This poem is now seen as the poetic ‘translation’ of the Holocaust. Todesfuge occupies a central position in an exhibition running from 4 September in the Jewish Historical Museum. In the year 2020 it is exactly 100 years since Celan’s birth and 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
Celan survived several forced labour camps, but his parents did not survive the war. His poetic description of a concentration camp did not meet with great resonance during the early post-war years. But Celan is now considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.
Todesfuge is translated into more than forty languages and is one of the most-published and avidly discussed poems in the German language. One of three original copies of the poem is held in the collection of Dutch professor Paul Sars. This document forms the heart of the exhibition, which focusses on Celan’s life, the cultural references in the poem, its reception and the impact the poem has had on other artists.
Image: portrait of Paul Celan, black and brown ink, digitally re-worked, N.C. Mallory (NCMallory)
The exhibition is in the Jewish Historical Museum (JHM), Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, 1011PL, Amsterdam. The JHM is housed in the centuries-old former synagogue complex of the Ashkenazi Jewish community.
Your ticket provides admission to all exhibitions in all locations in the Jewish Cultural Quarter. You may also attend all events without any additional charge (unless otherwise indicated). Museumkaart holders do not need a ticket.