Sunday, December 20, 2009

Arbeit Macht Frei

Above my picture from 2007 of the entrance to Auschwitz under the Arbeit Macht Frei sign which has been recently stolen. The slogan is usually translated as Work makes you free. The Wikipedia article here gives an account of its widespread use before the Nazi era in Germany (assuming that the information is correct) starting with its use as the title of a novel in German in 1872. It even suggests that at Auschwitz it may not have been intended as a mockery or a cruel joke.

It seems to me that the slogan or variations of it such as A Career Will Set You Free has been widespread all through the twentieth century as an enticement to people, men generally at first and then women to give their best years to their work.

Calling work or the job a career was a master move by employers raising what is and was a means of earning a living, putting bread on the table, to something which pretends to be far more significant or important. How important a person's career actually is is best seen in a recession when unemployment is rampant and careers are cut short without mercy or warning.

And then there is the attack on the public service! But don't get me started on that. Thank God I was able to retire when I did.

I wrote a poem after my visit to Auschwitz which this year was published in The Stony Thursday Book, Limerick.

Anyway I note that the stolen Auschwitz slogan has been replaced by a replica.

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