A FOREST OF TEARS - a new song - extract from an email from Paul Jarvis to me
I went to the Belsen concentration camp site in 1984 . 'The Animals' was inspired by the horrors of the death camps , but I recently came up with a churning , simple guitar piece which reminded me of being in an oppressive forest for some reason . Then I realised I wanted to write something simpler than 'The Animals' Expressionistic cut-ups about what going to Belsen is like . Reading up about Belsen , it wasn't like Auswitch or Dachau , where Jews were gassed and their bodies burnt pretty quickly ... apparently Belsen was worse because people suffered for much longer . Towards the end of the war , thousands were sent on unimaginable death marches from Dachau and Auswitch to Belsen , as the Allies closed in from the East . The camp commander , faced with an outbreak of typhoid , decided the only way to stop the spread of the disease by infected faeces was " if they don't eat , they won't shit " ... when the Allies reached the camp in 1945 some 75,000 had died , and many were unburied - hence those famous images of skeletal bodies piled high .
Visiting the camp today is a weird experience . It's set in a manicured park ( "don't be surprised if the trees are kept neat" ) , with a Holocaust museum where you can buy postcards ( " oh , there's money in the dying ... " ) . What I'll never forget were all the visitors breaking down ... most were German , consumed with obvious guilt for their fathers as they looked at the photos . As a place of rest for the victims , it works - but with the enormity of what happened there , I wanted chaos , I wanted to be put up against a wall and be screamed into my face "IT MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN" , I wanted to see real blood , dead bodies ... I WANTED TO SEE FOR MYSELF ... And I wanted to feel disgust like I'd never want to feel again - which you don't really get from looking at the photos of the dead . They just don't seem real , and it's easy to kid yourself that it was another place and time - we , now , could never do such a thing ! Oh yes we could - in a heartbeat ... It's really difficult to say without sounding mad , but it really felt like the beautifully sculpted forest was actually trying to hide what really happened there , rather than TRULY representing what happened there ... I think you have to embrace the madness rather than run away from it .