Dancing Auschwitz video: love or hate – a choice we make each moment.

Via Ben Ralston
on Aug 12, 2010
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Do you believe that it’s possible to have peace on Earth?

I do.

This article was inspired by a video sent to me by a friend. That video is at the end of this piece, and if you haven’t already seen it, great! I ask you to read first, and watch later. Then, come back and leave a comment expressing what you felt about the video.

If you have seen the video, great! If you liked it, you’ll get what I have to say. If you didn’t – I ask you to read first, then watch the video again, and see if you still feel the same way.

I don’t only believe that it’s possible: I believe that it’s our purpose here, as human beings, to create peace. With our capacity for compassion, understanding, and intelligence we certainly have the potential to be the guardians of this beautiful Garden, our Mother, the Earth.

I think that that conviction is probably what caused my reaction to this video of Adolek Kohn, an 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor, dancing with his daughter and grandchildren at the concentration camps where almost all of his family were ‘exterminated’ 65 years ago. The first time I watched it I thought it was hilarious and uplifting. The second time, my wife and I cried like babies.

Many people have, I think rather predictably, attacked the video. I don’t judge those people: on the contrary, I fully understand their reactions: we are conditioned to see things as being black and white; good and bad; yes and no, in this society. Why? Because our society is head-based. I’ve written about that in this article on Ego, so I won’t go into it again here.

I don’t judge those people, because I know very well how hard it is to escape that conditioning, which tells us we must react in a certain way, to certain things. Like, for example: reacting with shock and horror and respect to the Holocaust, and Auschwitz, and death.

But you know what? That conditioning is what enables Holocausts to happen in the first place! It’s too easy to react to this video in the old, conditioned way… to say:

“Oh, Holocaust. We should be very respectful and quiet and somber…because, you know, that was BAD”

What good does that do? What good does a negative reaction EVER do?

Some people might say that being respectful, and somber, and quiet isn’t a bad or negative thing really. I would answer that we’ve been doing that for a long time, and still there are holocausts happening in the world.

I’ve never visited any of the concentration camps, but I’ve heard it said that there is no birdsong there. As if the weight and darkness of what happened silences any beautiful expression. It’s a somber, quiet, respect-filled place, and the energy of the holocaust remains.

Watching that video was a breath of fresh air. People laughing, dancing, singing, having fun, and enjoying life. I couldn’t help thinking: “Hitler must be turning in his grave”!

If he is turning in his grave, I bet the people who died in those camps are dancing for joy in theirs!

To transform the energy of hate, we have to let go of the energy that created it. Collectively.

As Einstein said: “you cannot solve a problem, by using the same consciousness that created it”.

In other words, being heavy, and dark, and somber isn’t going to change anything. It isn’t going to make the world a better place.

I believe that dancing, and celebration, and laughter will.

In any case, to the people who attack this video, I say this:

Adolek Kohn was there 65 years ago. He is still here.

If that dear old man, who went through what he did, wants to dance and laugh with his grandchildren in that place, I salute him. What courage it must have taken, to come full circle and return there without hate.

I consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have seen him doing that, and I thank his family, from the bottom of my heart, for making this video:



About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.


43 Responses to “Dancing Auschwitz video: love or hate – a choice we make each moment.”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    Lee-Anne Graham: love it!
    Michael Edwards: I concur
    Dana Nicole Sweet: Ben is awesome, great post.
    Jennifer Kemp: Quintana Exactly! Thanks Ben!

  2. Ben_Ralston says:

    Breda Špacapan: uau! respect!!
    Andrej Rogelj: Yes, he must be our idol 🙂
    Ben Ralston: Yes, he is a hero, in the truest sense. Beautiful man 🙂
    Marla Slavner: Beautiful and courageous soul! ♥ From the one to the many and the many to the one..let there be love. ♥
    Laura Reman: Ahhh such a beautiful reminder about great souls – when I first read aboutv Viktor Frankl my heart was so moved. ♥

  3. Senshin says:


    Thank you sharing it.

  4. Senshin says:


    Thank you for sharing it 🙂

  5. Ben Ralston says:

    Pleasure Senshin, thank you for sharing your wonder. Twice 🙂

  6. If this Auschwitz survivor can find it in his heart to dance at Auschwitz, more power to him. As Thomas Gray said: "Let the dead past bury its dead."

  7. bree says:

    i watched it and cried. Not because I was sad but because I could not imagine the amount of love and life that man has coursing with in himself. Here I sit with a simple life and I can not bring myself to smile some days- I think this man will be an inspiration to me. Two of my grandparents where placed in camps during WWII (One for hiding Jews and the other for simply being a Hungarian) and both survived. I never knew them that well, but I wonder if they would have done the same thing as this man did.

  8. Betta says:

    I agree with your article. We cannot "fight" darkness with darkness but with light and joy and dancing and laughing…and if this man that saw the hell on earth danced in that place I take a bow in his honor.Thanks for this sharing

  9. Ben_Ralston says:

    We bow together…

  10. Ben Ralston says:

    Hello Bree,

    Thank you for sharing so openly.

    You know, when a generation – you and me – can be inspired by something like this, then it means that actually the holocaust has achieved something positive! As strange as that sounds, i know, but it’s true.

    I’m not sure many people would do what this amazing man did, but if your Grandparents survived the camps… well, they did enough.

    With love,


  11. K Sequoia says:

    Ben, I agree – and if it can shift into something positive, which is that it teaches compassion and even joy (?!)… then all those people will not have died in vain. I'm still crying from watching that. Looking at his grandkids, and how each of them are survivors as well, given the opportunity for life because he is so full of it.

    What an awesome way to start the day – with hope for my human kin. Thank you!

    BLessings deep and wide,
    Kim @redhandferi

  12. Ben Ralston says:

    Hi ‘Front Row Denizen’,

    The reason you are disappointed – I hope you don’t mind me pointing out – is that you are still holding on to the pain of the holocaust. Let it go. If Adolek Kohn can, you can.

    I believe that everything happens for a reason. The holocaust happened for a reason. It happened because mankind needed to see what they are capable of – and change course.

    So if people watch this video of a man who turned from hate to love… and are inspired, then something positive IS happening… has happened, as a result of the holocaust. If a generation of people are able to be inspired to change NOW, then we turn from darkness to light. That’s the only way peace will be achieved. In small steps. Hence the title of my article – ‘a choice we make’. Of course, if it’s just an ‘inspirational jolt’, without any meaningful impact towards real change, then you’re right, it’s pointless. But that’s why I wrote this article: because I want more than that for people.

    I think that if you read this article: http://benralston.blogspot.com/2010/08/may-your-c
    then you will see that I don’t in any way trivialize what happened. I use the pain in a positive way, as much as I possibly can.

    By the way, my family are Jewish. I grew up inundated with images, stories, videos of camps. My wife’s Grandfather was a partisan and fought against the Germans. I hear what you are saying.

    With love, Ben

  13. Eric says:

    I went to Dachau, and I cried…there is something heavy & palpable~just like at Gettysburg or Wounded Knee.
    I've met German-Americans who came here after WWII, warm, loving people–yet they still blame the Jews for Germany's post WWI depression, say that Hitler was a "great man" and that there was no Holocaust (or one even said, 'maybe a million, but not 6 million' — like that was somehow okay?) or they bring up America & Dresden and Hiroshima..

    ::what have we really learned?::

    Perhaps we also need videos of survivors of Stalin's camps, survivors of the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, survivors from Bosnia, and Rwanda…..RIGHT NOW in the Congo, and those in the inner cities of our urban centers surviving systemic poverty and disease…. ::what have we really learned?::

    but for this moment, I bow to Adolek Kohn and all survivors of these atrocities: L'Chaim!!!!
    Thanks Ben!!

  14. MariahCharbonneau says:

    Joy breeds joy. It is as simple as that to me. I celebrate any human being who finds the strength, fortitude, and PEACE to overcome significant horrors done to them…and DANCE! This video warmed my heart. I am not, however, a believer of holding onto pain – pain, in my life, provides the opportunity to transform, but I do not allow it a permanent residence in my soul. I cannot say with utter certainty that I would have the endurance that that man has; I have never been faced with anything so horrific in my life. I do, however, hope I would be just like him.

  15. Ben_Ralston says:

    What have we really learned. Yes, that is the question. The answer would seem to be – not much. Chechnya, Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo… these are all still open wounds. The collective consciousness of mankind is still very, very dark. There is so little awareness in people's awareness.
    On the other hand, here we all are, almost unanimously finding some light in that darkness.
    I'm pretty sure all the people who have replied to this article in comments, both here and elsewhere, are working towards change. That, to me, is the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Thanks Eric for your response.
    With love, Ben

  16. Ben_Ralston says:

    Mariah, I believe you would be. Because you are aware enough to know that it is a choice.
    With love, Ben

  17. Ben Ralston says:

    Beautiful Kim, thank you.

    Love, Ben

  18. Jean says:

    What an amazing way for Adolek Kohn to express what is at the heart of surviving! By dancing at Auschwitz he is not demeaning the seriousness of the Holocaust, but rejoicing in the present-and isn't that what surviving is all about? Living in the now? Adolek is living this moment to its fullest and not living in the shadow of what was…I think that should speak volumes to all of us. What an amazing lesson we could all learn from this. I'm willing to bet his family that died there would be thrilled to see him living life with joy and overcoming the fear and hatred he must have felt at one time. He is an inspiration! Thank you for posting this Ben!

  19. Kris says:

    Chills. Especially at the end.

  20. Melanie says:

    To find joy is never disrespectful. It is honorable. What a wonderful family.

  21. Kasia says:

    I visited Auschwitz with my father and mother a few decades ago. My father was 14 when he became a prisoner of Auschwitz.

    When we visited Auschwitz together I asked him how felt, he said he felt great to know he could walk out of those gates…….he’s a fun loving happy man but he would never consider doing what Adolek Kohn and his family did. Every one expresses themselves in their own way though and fair enough.

    Personally I think it’s a weird thing to do considering the horror and starvation that was endured there, and thinking of the millions of people that were beaten and died on the very soil they were dancing on makes me feel quite uncomfortable.

    But everyone to their own!

    My father, after all he went through never hated the Germans, and I want to point out he is a Polish Catholic, not Jewish.

    It is disturbing that a lot of people still to this day think it was only the Jewish people who suffered at the hands of the Nazi party.

  22. Ben_Ralston says:

    Exactly, he is not holding on to the past, he is living in the present. I'm sure, from watching him speak, that he is a mindful man – even though he may not say so himself. That mindfulness, awareness, presence, has allowed him to let go of the past, even though he had a better excuse than most to hold on.
    I agree, we can all learn from him, which is why I was inspired to post it here and write about it.
    Thank you!

  23. Ben_Ralston says:


  24. Ben_Ralston says:

    Absolutely. Joy is an expression of love. It is life itself.

  25. Ben_Ralston says:

    "Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information."
    Kurt Vonnegut

  26. Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Kasia,
    First off, I'd just like to point out that Adolek and his family did this, I believe, for the purpose of political art: His daughter, who made the video, wanted to change the energy of the holocaust, to help promote peace. So what we see on the surface, has an underlying intention which is perhaps not so evident…
    "…Personally I think it's a weird thing to do considering the horror and starvation that was endured there, and thinking of the millions of people that were beaten and died on the very soil they were dancing on makes me feel quite uncomfortable…"
    My advice, for what it's worth: don't think! Just watch a man who has every right to express his joy in this way, and FEEL the energy of that expression.
    With love, Ben

  27. Juliette says:

    I am speachless, this video really touched me deeply. This man ( victim) found strength to get over to one of the darkest time of humanity and spread love and hope dancing!
    Watching the video, I wanted to dance too!

  28. Ben_Ralston says:

    Yes, and he's 89!! Hard to believe huh?
    Love, Ben

  29. MARY CHELINSK says:

    A dance of the graceful spirit – Adolek. A dance of freedom, joy and hope for future generations.
    For me, Adolek was dancing on the grave of Nazism and oppression in any shape or form. Inspirational and deeply moving. I cried a lot………………. 'The aim of the dance is to dance and not to finish' . Ramdas, I believe.
    Thanks Adolek and Grandchildren.
    With love and best wishes, Mary Chelinski

  30. Mayroli says:

    I love the video and my respect to them!!

  31. Hollie says:

    This video is so moving and beautiful.

    I haven't lived through anything near what this man lived through, and I can't imagine the strength it took to live through such a struggle and to not only survive, but thrive. But I have had to learn that if you let abusers kill your spirit, destroy your zest for life, or if you become hateful and bitter, then they have won. To allow them to affect you in any negative way is to allow them to still have control over you and your life. I love that dance is his families chosen form of resistance!!!

    I love the soundtrack and his ability to still dance and celebrate his life even though he has experienced the worst of human un-kind (ee cummings… pity this busy monster man un-kind not).

    What do they say, 'living well is the best revenge'! And yet it is obvious that 'revenge' is not what he was after… and yes, I cried. A lot!

    I also appreciate the article, very thoughtful and honest.
    However, I find it a bit ironic that you first state, "we are conditioned to see things as being black and white; good and bad; yes and no, in this society." Which is a very valid observation. And yet you go on to state, "As if the weight and darkness of what happened silences any beautiful expression." I would caution against the use of the word 'darkness' in this way as this could be seen as racially loaded by some. As you acknowledge, our culture is trained to think in terms of dualities. The old dualistic mode of thinking: right-wrong, white-black, light-dark, good-bad is one of the factors that leads to the demonization and persecution of 'the other'. Let's just call the holocaust what it was, horrific, brutal, hateful, vicious, malevolent, sinister… well, you get the idea!

    Thanks again for sharing this moving video and your thoughtful reaction to it.

  32. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit.

  33. Russell Ayers says:

    Is it really enough to only honor the past, to appreciate those in the present who have Overcome horror and atrocity without seeing such recollections and emergent hope as a reflecting mirror of the atrocities and holocausts that are present in the life and death struggle of so many in so many places THIS VERY MINUTE….aren't there some ironies present lurking in the shadows of this lovely video? So what do we do now?

  34. […] came across the  ’Auschwitz Dancing‘ video while browsing the web this morning and it inspired me to write this […]

  35. Ben Ralston says:

    “Is it really enough to only honor the past”


    “So what do we do now?”


  36. Diane Marie says:

    WHAT WONDERFUL COURAGE! I sob, in honored amazement.

  37. Jess says:

    I have been to both to both of the concentration camps featured in the video- and yes, they are indeed very somber places, where you can almost sense and envision the pain and suffering that once occurred there. It was SO uplifting to see people celebrate life, especially in places where life was so innocently stolen from so many people!!! And like the end of the video says, he didn't imagine he would ever get that opportunity- so my thoughts are, why not take that opportunity now that he finally has the chance to- KUDOS to him for having the courage and life that so many people have yet to understand!!!

  38. Amy says:

    Thanks you. I cried & laughed. It was just what I needed today.

  39. Ben Ralston says:

    It’s so wonderful that the response to this video and article has been almost unanimously positive – both here, and elsewhere. Thank you all for your support, both of Adolek Kohn, and his family, and yes, I who wrote the article.

    I believe that no matter what happens, we always have the power to choose love, celebration, dance, and joy. Always. It’s often not easy: but that’s life!

    The more of us that decide inwardly to choose this path, without pretence, but with honesty and integrity, the sooner the world will be a place that we will be proud to have co-created; and the sooner our children will thank and respect us.

    With love,

    Ben Ralston

  40. WendyG says:

    What a beautiful video, what a beautiful family. It's hard to imagine creating a family with so much love to spread out of the Holocaust but alas, I just saw it with my own eyes and the tears are still coming.

  41. Ben Ralston says:

    Great Ramdas quote – thank you.

  42. Jane Korman says:

    Hi Ben,
    I just came across your email and article again – it's so good to feel that there are like-minded people in the world. Thank you for your your heart felt, strong article, and best wishes to you and your family (and I believe you have a new baby).
    Very best wishes,
    Jane Korman (who did Dancing Auschwitz_

  43. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thank you Jane, I appreciate it! Love to you and your dancing family!
    And yes, my own family has expanded a little since I wrote to you about this 🙂