“All The Dachaus Must Remain Standing”

Joe Wilson is 94 years old. Yet he still has nightmares about what he saw 70 years ago today.

On April 29, 1945, Wilson and other members of the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry Division — which had already endured over 500 days of savage fighting in Sicily, Italy, France and Germany — liberated Dachau, one of the Nazi’s most infamous concentration camps.

Deaths-Head

“Concentration camps.” What a despicable euphemism. They were death factories. They were, simply put, Hell on earth. Just reading about them makes my blood boil. The mind reels to think anyone could willingly inflict such torture and engage in such wholesale slaughter.

Rod Serling had much the same reaction — to put it mildly. And he poured his outrage into one of the most searing episodes of The Twilight Zone ever written: “Deaths-Head Revisited”. It follows the arrival of a former Nazi guard named Lutze (Oscar Beregi) at Dachau in what was then present-day Germany (1961) — only 16 years after the war had ended.

Deaths-Head3

But Lutze isn’t there to weep over his crimes. He’s not interested in begging forgiveness. He’s there to gloat. The “black-uniformed, strutting animal whose function in life was to give pain,” as Serling describes him, wants to relive the good old days.

Serling, however, has a surprise in store for him. Lutze has a welcoming committee, led by a former camp Deaths-Head Revisited Serling1inmate named Becker (Joseph Schildkraut). They’re there to conduct a long-delayed, much-deserved trial.

Lutze won’t be merely hearing a list of his crimes, though. He’ll feel every bullet, endure every blow. And by the end of his ordeal, when he suddenly realizes that Becker is a ghost (having been killed years earlier by Lutze himself), he’s been driven completely, irrevocably insane.

And then Becker delivers one of the most devastating soliloquies of the entire series:

DeathsHeadRevisited

Captain Lutze, if you can still reason, if there’s still any portion of your mind that can still function, take this thought with you. This is not hatred, this is retribution. This is not revenge, this is justice. But this is only the beginning, Captain. Only the beginning. Your final judgment will come from God.

And then, as the authorities take Lutze away, the doctor on the scene (Ben Wright) asks, “Dachau. Why does it still stand? Why do we keep it standing?” To which Serling replies, in one of the most perfect things he ever wrote:

There is an answer to the doctor’s question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes, all of them. They must remain deathshead revisitedstanding because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard. Into it, they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience.

And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone, but wherever men walk God’s earth.

Amen. May we never, ever forget.

***

Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress members can also hit “follow” at the top of this page.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 04/29/2015, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. As you well know, this is one of my favourite episodes. Arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series. And while your post isn’t terribly long, it doesn’t need to be. This post, much like the episode itself, is poignant and presented exactly as it needed to be.

    “Deaths-Head Revisited” speaks for itself. As you said, Serling’s end narration is perfection if ever there was perfection to be found in the written word. As I told you, there’s not a single time I’ve heard/read that ending that I didn’t tear up. This was truly a dark time in our history that’s left an ugly black scar upon humanity, and I don’t think it will ever heal. I applaud Serling for telling us not to forget. That line about becoming the gravediggers… there’s nothing I can really say. That says it all.

    Excellent post, my friend. One that none of us will soon forget.

    • We certainly won’t. Good writing, like good art, stands the test of time, and this one is a true Serling masterpiece. I’ve been wanting to highlight it for a while, and when I saw the article I linked to at the beginning, I knew I had my “excuse.”

      Truly, we must never forget — something that human beings are all too apt to do when it comes to such “negative pursuits,” as Serling puts it. But however painful it must be, we MUST remember. Thanks to Serling’s absorbing and pointed writing, and the excellent acting and production of this story, that’s a bit more likely to happen.

      My gratitude, as always, for your encouragement and for your pics. You’ve made a good post better — again. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for this incredibly powerful post, Paul — not only, of course, for its significant content, but for the way you presented it. You grabbed me with your sentence about “What a despicable euphemism” and didn’t let me go to the end. Amen indeed.

  3. JamesonLewis3rd

    I was 11 in 1961 when I first watched this.

    It’s indelibly etched on my mind: that night in a dark room, mesmerized by what I was seeing on the hulking television.

  4. Thanks for calling this one out, Paul. It’s a hard episode to watch, and rightly so. I just watched this one last week and I had to remind myself that it was written so close to the end of the war. To think that people had already started to forget, or just move onto other things, is hard to believe. We needed this message in 1961, and we still need it today. Your description is very powerful. It compliments the episode very nicely. Good job!

    • Thanks, Dan. It’s a message we’ll always need, alas. It’s hard medicine, but one we can’t forgo. Glad you liked the post.

  5. Dale M. Haskell

    The most searing, powerful thing I have ever seen on the subject of the Nazi Holocaust. No book, no documentary, nothing ever drove the point and the gravity of that nightmare home to me the way this episode did.

    • Definitely, Dale. This episode brings the horror home perfectly in only 25 minutes, and leaves an impression that few books or documentaries could (although we need those as well). God bless Serling for writing it.

  6. This is among my most well liked episodes, but also among the most disturbing, for the same reasons. It truly brought the horror of the realities of that time “home.” Thank you for sharing your very insightful comments about it.

    • Serling certainly specialized in that, didn’t he? He made us think, but somehow did it entertainingly. And for that very reason, you never forget the lessons he teaches. Glad you liked the post.

  7. This one is so powerful. Moving, creepy and is one that lingers in the memory. We are doomed to repeat horrors of the past, if we do not know about them in the present. That is why the camps, and other historical sites have to remain standing today; in the case of the camps, it is so people can see the disgusting things some members of their own species are capable of doing if left to get on with it.

    What I love about this episode is you get a real sense of the horror that Lutze is experiencing. He is finally admitting to himself what he was a part of, and it scares him to death. The Nazis were monsters because their crimes didn’t touch them, they were cold in the sight of murder and suffering. Think for moment what they would feel if they allowed themselves to accept and feel what they had been a part of.

    Excellent episode.

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