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Dance me to the end of Auschwitz

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 6:06 am
by lightning
In David Boucher's fairly new book, "Dylan and Cohen" he says "Dance me to the End of Love" is " a song with a chilling scenario inspired by Nazi concentration camps. It is optimistic in its assertion of the joy of the will to survive in the struggle against evil." This is news to me. Is this his wild interpretation or did Leonard say somewhere that's what the song is about?

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 6:22 am
by lizzytysh
I've heard this same [serious] postulation before, Lightning; that the song is related to Auschwitz. I'm sorry that I'm unable to give you the source; however, it's definitely not the first time that I've heard it, though the assertion within it may not have been exactly the same.

Someone else may have more detail with regard to it.

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 10:28 am
by jurica
the source was me.

it was Leonard who said that. it was in some interview, but i don't remember which. he said something like this:

i went to Germany, to Auschwitz, and saw all those horrors. then i heard a story how Germans made Jews play their wedding ceremonies to them in camps. they had to pick a bride and a groom, and sing and dance for them. the scene of a young couple dancing right before being burned to ashes was hard to shake, so i wrote the song...'s totaly my interpretation of his words, of course. you can't expect me to remember his exact words.

it might have been in the interview for BBC when I'm your man was supposet to go out, but i'm not so sure... i'm not going to listen to the whole interview to check, that's for sure.

Re: Dance me to the end of Auschwitz

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 11:26 am
by jurica
but i don't see how it 'is optimistic in its assertion of the joy of the will to survive in the struggle against evil.' it's more like icredible human vickedness and sense of hateful irony to me. it's dance me to the END of love, after all.

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 3:06 pm
by Moonlight
From the Koln concert:

"This is a song that arose from a photograph that I saw when I was a child of some people in striped pajamas prison uniforms with violins playing beside a smoke stack and the smoke was made out of gypsys and children and this song arose out of that photograph, DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE."

Posted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 4:46 pm
by Joe Way
I was aware of this connection as well since I have the KOLN concert tape. I've wondered also about the meaning of "END" of love. I think it is consciously ambiguous and intended to suggest also the meaning of "END" as purpose in the sense that this activity takes us not to oblivion but to fulfillment. This and the active form of "Dance Me" which is an interesting use of the verb form adds many textures of rich meaning to what I think is one of his best songs.

It is still very respectful in any sense and mindfull of the great sufferings that were endured while still suggesting a conscious transcendence by these very brave people. It also suggests a state of mind rather Zen-like that is to be emulated.


Posted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 1:17 am
by Paula
I am posting the words because often when songs are discussed at length I have to sing my way thru them every time I read the post. I hope no one minds. It just makes it easier for me to following the post. Pure selfishness :lol:

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Posted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 7:08 am
by Joe Way
Over on the newsgroup, our friend Greg just posted a transciption of the little video vignettes that Leonard did for the Sony site as a promotion for Ten New Songs. This is Leonard's comments about "Love Itself" and I've always felt a connection between the "End of Love" in Dance Me To The End of Love and the "Love is gone" from Love Itself.

My transcription of it follows: (from Greg)



I'll try to say
A little more
Love went on and on
Until it reached
An open door...}

{quoting (flat):}

"I'll try to say a little more,
love went on and on,
until it reached an open door,
then love itself was gone..."

So that love that I'm speaking
there is not the opposite of hate.
And it's not romance.

It's the kind of love that embraces
ordinary love, and spiritual love.

Because in this kind of experience,
--even the need to love is dissolved.

So, uh,

{ birds whistle }

- that's where real relaxation arises,
when all the ambitions of spiritual
aspiration are dissolved,
and you can just relax
in your ordinary humanness.


I'll try to say
A little more}

I'm very grateful to be enjoying
a graceful moment.

But I don't think that anybody's
the master of these matters.

Nobody masters the heart.
It just cooks, like shishkebab,
-sizzling and popping and dripping
in the breast, -and creating
all kinds of problems,

But for the moment, and for today,
it seems to be very agreeable,
and I'm very grateful for this
kind of ..tranquility.

{love itself
love itself
was gone }

I think that "panic" is the opposite of this tranquil state and represents a dichotomy that we move through constantly. It is also interesting that this represents so clearly Leonard's Zen training. One can't always control what happens, but one can always control how our consciousness reacts to what happens to us. (Aside, of course, chemical imbalances, mental illness etc.).

I also note the "wedding" imagery. It reminds me that Shakespeare always ended his comedies in a wedding as opposed to his tragedies where the stage is littered with dead bodies. As Jurica mentions, the brave souls of Auschwitz forced to repeat these sacred joyful ceremonies in a death camp creates a powerful irony. To transcend this, as Leonard suggests, is supreme triumph, but probably why it reads almost like a prayer.


Posted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 9:48 pm
by Arno
for me, the "end of Love" could mean simply being murdered. in a way, killing someone is ending any connection of sympathy or positive feelings to the victim... then he wants someone to comfort him until he eventually will be killed.

and/or, as its often said, life is not liveable without love, and therefore he might refer to a sort of armaggeddon, where all that is good and pure is destroyed... and we germans sadly came very close to achieving that :?

this is a total half-cooked idea I had in the last five minutes, so I apologize in advance ;)

for more crappy interpretations read my take on "dance me..." in a earlier thread.

take care,

Posted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 3:19 am
by Joe Way
Hi Arno,

Yes, I think your interpretation that "dance me to the end of love' might mean simply "comfort me until I am too, murdered."

I certainly don't have a firm grasp on the complexities that the words offer. I am particularly drawn, though, by the rather Eastern European-Gypsy style of the music.

If I could ask, would you mind re-posting your earlier take on the song. I have read this forum from day one, but sometimes my attention isn't too good. I don't want to appear as if I'm just another stranger who wants you to ignore your dreams.

Kind regards,


Posted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 4:35 pm
by Arno
anyone who quotes the stranger song to get my attention will be served with an answer ;)

in case you want to look at the whole thread, its in chapter 2, called "totally inacurate view on dance me..."
so here it is

I know that much has been written about the meaning of dance me... and by people who know much more about the subject than me, however I just wanted to present my view on dance to the end of love...

now, first of all, I have to explain that I'm in a situation where I've totally fallen for someone and I know that it will never work (mostly because she told me she wasnt interested more or less directly ). And although I know this, I still try to be around her as much as I can and hope this will eventually let me just stay a good friend. And this is where the song comes into play. In a way, this song, (although probably not intentional by LC), says exactly what I would say to her... just stay with me until I have gotten over you... - dance me to the end of love... dance me through the panic til I'm gathered safely in...

Dont really know why I post this, but anyways... here it is

so take care,

another song that is suitable and comforting for that kind of trouble is, for example, one of us cannot be wrong:

that line (although not exactly that way) interestingly really happened for me ;)

I suppose that he froze when the wind tore off your clothes and I guess he just never got warm

and someday I'll listen to Heart with no companion with its lovely upbeat nature and everything will be alright ;)


Posted: Sat Jul 17, 2004 12:57 am
by lizzytysh
I love your interpretation, Arno :D ~ and I know from experience that it works 8) !


Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2004 4:41 pm
by Mirek
jurica wrote:the source was me.

it was Leonard who said that. it was in some interview, but i don't remember which. he said something like this:

i went to Germany, to Auschwitz, and saw all those horrors.
I have just recently seen that thread, therefore I am replying right now.

Well, Jurica - I guess Leonards couldn't have said that he visited Auschwitz, because he did not. Auschwitz is NOT in Germany.

Maybe he has visited another concentration camp, but certainly not Auschwitz.


Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2004 6:43 pm
by lizzytysh
Hi Mirek ~

I don't question for a second that Leonard visited Auschwitz, and knew exactly where he was at. If his sentence was constructed the way that Jurica wrote it, the separation of the places has been made, via the commas. Germany is one place worthy of mention, as that's where Hitler and many of the attendant activities of the Nazis occurred, the evacuation of the people, et al. Auschwitz is where many of them were taken, and is the primary symbol for the whole of the holocaust. So, expanding the sentence [that the commas imply], it would read....."First, I went to Germany [and visited the relevant sites, including (perhaps) some of the other concentration camps], and then I went to Auschwitz [the most, well-known of the concentration camps and the holocaust]." The way you're reading it is, "I went to Auschwitz in Germany." However, that's not the way it's written and, I know, isn't the way it was experienced by Leonard. If he said he went to Auschwitz, he went to Auschwitz.

~ Lizzy

Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2004 9:07 pm
by jurica
no, no.... i don't remember the interview THAT well (to be able to tell if there was or wasn't a comma).

it's my mistake. he did say something about concentration camp somewhere (it could but may not be Auschwitz), but i put Auschwitz in his mouth because of the title of the thread (lightning titled the thread:'Dance me to the end of Auschwitz', but Boucher does not specify if it was Auschwitz or some other camp).

thinking about it... it realy makes no difference which camp he refered to, does it?