“What do you think their thoughts were on seeing this?” We were standing before the very first sight that met prisoners as they arrived at Dachau concentration camp – a black, metal gate bearing the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei‘. Tom, our guide was eager to garner our participation. After a long silence a few hesitant suggestions arose, with the general consensus being: “If you work hard, you will be freed”.
This slogan was sited at the entrance of a number of Nazi concentration camps and after weeks of working to exhaustion under conditions of severe brutality, the motto came to be despised by prisoners as an insulting mockery.
So it was with disbelief that I read about the recent use of the slogan in an online article by the Daily Mail entitled “Why our new legions of unemployed graduates need to adjust their expectations”
The following paragraph was hurriedly deleted after it was brought to light by good, old Twitter:
“The German slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ is somewhat tainted by its connection with Nazi concentration camps, but its essential message, ‘work sets you free’ still has something serious to commend it.
There is dignity to be gained from any job, no matter how menial, and for young people at the start of their careers, there are valuable lessons to be learned from any form of employment, whether that is on the factory floor, on a supermarket till or in the contemporary hard labour camp of a merchant bank or law office.”
What do you think? Can there be any justification for adopting the slogan in this way? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.