Wednesday, 3 December 2014

House of Dolls, Chapter 13. JOY DIVISION.

The House of Dolls is the deeply harrowing story of a young Polish girl in Block 24 at Auschwitz concentration camp, where Jewish sex slaves serviced SS guards. The book was originally written in Hebrew, and published in Israel in 1953. 

The author's name is made up from the initials of the German 'Konzentration Zenter', pronounced Ka-Tzet. 'Ka-Tzetnik 135633' was the pseudonym for the Polish-born Holocaust survivor Yehiel Feiner, who took up the Hebrew surname 'Dinur' when he emigrated to pre-State Israel after the War. Ka-Tzetnik's books were instrumental in educating a whole generation of Israeli's about the Holocaust, and House of Dolls, translated into dozens of languages, is probably his best known work. But the sexual content of the book meant that House of Dolls was eventually branded by some Israeli academics as 'Stalag Fiction' - a genre of pornographic Nazi exploitation fiction that mushroomed in Israel around the time of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann war crimes trial in Jerusalem.

Lion Library Edition 106

My rather beaten-up copy of House of Dolls hails from 1957, it's a second printing of the paperback published by Lion Library Editions of New York, USA complete with its truly disturbing cover painted by Dick Shelton. 

Fast forward to June 1978. The release of a four track EP 'An Ideal for Living', the first record by the Manchester-based band Joy Division. Two minutes and twenty eight seconds into 'No Love Lost', the second track on Side 1, Ian Curtis, the lead singer actually reads out several sentences extracted from Chapter 12 of House of Dolls beginning with "Through the wire screen..." 

Ka-Tzetnik opens Chapter 13 with JOY DIVISION in block capitals. Words first written in Hebrew just eight years after the end of WW2, and the horrors of the Holocaust. And the band? The ongoing influences of their music following the tragic suicide of Ian Curtis in 1980, the chart-topping hits of  the post-Joy Division band 'New Order', the critical and public success of 'Control', Anton Corbijn's 2007 biographical film about the life of Curtis, have all helped to elevate Joy Division to a revered status in rock music history.

Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (most likely the number tattooed on the arm of Yehiel Feiner in Auschwitz) died a recluse, in Israel in 2001, at the age of 84...

On the very rare occasions when Ka-Tzetnik explained his reluctance to discuss his past life, he said he had "no right to live - except as a Holocaust survivor, and that all that had gone before had been destroyed..."

lyrics from 'No Love Lost' by Joy Division scanned directly from House of Dolls

The 12" edition of "An Ideal for Living" was released several months after the initial 7" EP. It appears that the band wanted to scaffold over the original cover which had an illustration of a Nazi drummer boy - hence distancing the band from the book and the Nazi-connotations that influenced their name...

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