Inmate orchestra, Mauthausen concentration camp, 30 June 1942. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Art and Evil: The Fugal Architecture of the Dead

The subject of Todesfuge—the Death fugue—is the Nazi labour camp. The poet, Paul Celan, was a Romanian Jew and a polyglot whose mother tongue was German. For eighteen months during World War II, he was incarcerated in one of the Romanian labour camps, until liberated by the Red Army in 1944. Todesfuge was written in…