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Saturday, May 30, 2009

I went for a performance as part of the Singapore Arts Festival, Ruhe ( silence ) at the National Museum. It sounded interesting because it seemed to be presenting the point of history from ex-German officers during WW2.

Honestly, it wasn't really what I was expecting. I was expecting something like a play, or mini play cum dialogue. Turned out to be a bit more art-farty than I thought :p

We were ushered into a room at the National Museum, where chairs were laid in a circular pattern all facing the center of the room. As the last few stragglers came in, lo and behold, several men in the audience stood up and stood on their chairs.

yes, stood on their chairs.

Then they started singing. And I looked around for the CD player, because my god, mon dieu, watashi no kami, I never believed that 10 men could sing in such perfect, sublime harmony. It was like the most perfect angels' choir had come down from heaven.

After a while, a woman's voice crept up on the mens' and the men gradually sat down to reveal a female member of the audience. She started talking about her involvement in a German hospital during WW2, how she saw Hitler, and her admiration for the pride and courage of the amputees that came to her hospital.

The singing then resumed and later on another man stood up to defend his role in the SS during WW2. To him, it was simply something you had to do at the time for man and country. Making life all the more surreal when he came back to the real world only to feel like he was living a fake life. And having all that he was fighting for decried and put down by the Allied forces.

The 2 dialogues were interesting because they present a side of history hardly ever heard by the victorious side: That of the losing party. We have heard in countless history lessons how our grandparents suffered at the hands of the Japanese soldiers, how the Jews died in the Holocaust etc etc but we don't often hear what happens to the side that lost.

And it is a performance like this that makes it interesting. Because when you hear the dialogues ( Adapted from real interviews with ex-SS officers ) you realise that apart from the megalomanical Hitler, most of those that were fighting under the banner of the swastika were simply ordinary folk who felt that they were doing the right thing for their country, and that many of what they felt were similar to what soldiers in England or anywhere else could have been feeling too.

After all, regardless of whoever died, or regardless of how human we all are, it is the victors who become war heroes, and the losers who become war criminals.

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