Like all Jewish millennials, I have spent my entire life learning about the Holocaust. I lost family members in the Holocaust. My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. I cannot begin to comprehend the evil he experienced. I can hardly imagine the atrocities he lived through – horrors that led to the systematic murder of over six million innocent people.
We must never forget the Holocaust – both in honor of those mercilessly slain at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the despicable Nazis, and in order to prevent such extreme terror from happening ever again.* Yet, every passing generation will have a harder time understanding what happened: Survivors are still alive today, but in twenty to thirty years? It will all be a distant dream.
To keep the memory alive, we must continue to pass on the stories, with all their death, destruction and misery. That is the only way to remember, forever – and that is why 20 Minute Loop’s song “Giftgas,” named after the German compound word for toxic gas, is so important.
There won’t be German on this teletype
if there is do not abide
Sit in the closet and cover her mouth
try not to think about
Last night I saw her in film footage
taken with Hitler (Goring) and all of his staff
He was sensational rolling his Rs
Goring could dream of his mistress’ ear
curled like a shell and full of wax
One night with her and the blitzkrieg flew East
Here she comes here she comes here she comes
Listen: “Giftgas” – 20 Minute Loop
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering “Giftgas,” the sole brand-new track off 20 Minute Loop’s sixth album, Songs Praising The Mutant Race (independently out 2/24/2017). Their first record in eight years is also a twenty-year celebration of 20 Minute Loop, the self-proclaimed “freak-pop” band that formed in San Francisco in 1997. The band’s name alludes to the duration of cockpit conversation recorded by an airplane’s cockpit voice recorder for recovery in the event of a crash or other accident; the band once wrote that it “refers to the lovely repetition of life that can never quite escape its expectancy of death.” In short, bandmates Greg Giles and Kelly Atkins are no strangers to dark topics.
There is such peace when the bombers are heard
shadows of flack in the fleet
The drone of their engines puts children to sleep
right before everything burns
And with every bomb comes
a mistress who rips off her clothing
and smells like exhaust
Sometimes she’ll kiss you and lick every wound
A solemn melancholy befalls “Giftgas” as 20 Minute Loop deliver a poetic narrative of Nazi activity during World War II. The song is unnervingly calm, resembling a folk tune in its light, guitar-led execution. Giles and Atkins sing somberly, their voices sending chills down the spine as they capture a nearly 80-year-old scene. I can’t remember the last artist, independent or not, to publish a song about the Holocaust. It’s a hard subject to do “justice” to; how do you even begin to “entertain” via such an ugly subject?
The profundity of “Giftgas” starts with the name itself. The word ‘giftgas’ doesn’t sound like an ultimate torture weapon that was used for the systematic murder of millions… but it is. “It’s the German compound word for toxic gas,” Giles explains of the song’s title. “Without this knowledge among English speakers, of course, ‘giftgas’ appears to be a strange but rather innocuous neologism, mainly because of the word ‘gift.'”
“I have mixed feelings about even being inspired to write lyrics by something as monstrous and terrible as this, and as a result, I have mixed feelings about this song,” Giles says. “There is always the risk of trivializing the event by creating mere art from it.” But the Holocaust is not trivialized in “Giftgas”; rather, it lives on, surging into the conscious of another generation. All who hear it will surely remember. That, in and of itself, is the ultimate gift.
One of the books that they burned in Berlin
came from his mistress’ shelf
It was about a young girl with black hair
Here she comes here she comes here she comes
Possibly he will allow her to live
if there’s enough in his glass
She’s got the bottle right next to her feet
Offer him more when he’s through
“Giftgas” is not easy to listen to; learning and thinking about the Holocaust is itself a challenge, and it hurts to be confronted so bluntly with the truth. However, as a result of the actions and inactions of humans who came before us, it is our responsibility, as the living, to remember, share, and pass on. “Giftgas” is 20 Minute Loop’s inspired, thoughtful Holocaust commentary, a soft-sung waltzing ballad that hangs heavily in the air, weighing down our spirits with the darkness of millions of silenced voices.
Songs Praising The Mutant Race by 20 Minute Loop is scheduled for release on February 24th, 2017.
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cover: 20 Minute Loop © Teresa Miller