Of all places – it happened two months ago in Dachau. A trip which everyone had advised me against. Nazi concentration camp. Torturous roll calls and gas chambers and medical experiments that should never keep the human race beyond the realms of Hell. One of the grimmest places on the planet.
And yet I had to see it, after a sleepless night and a non-existent breakfast and some energy drink bought at the station.
Of course it was all that and more. Outside, a black sign plate advising children under 16 not to enter. Inside, a thin layer of snow and scattered groups of German students wandering about. You only have to close your eyes to see it all in your imagination and in your mind’s eye. 1942. It’s devastating.
Devastated, six hours later, you make your last round inside the museum. And then you see it. A black cat. It’s only now that you notice it, noiselessly creeping through the stands and the doors and the legs of those who had dared to come. Through your legs. This black cat is like a form of some tragic art that will always prevail, despite the hardships and the misery. A reminder. Everyone’s broken conscience. And a symbol.
There is no shame in seeing it. Even if it doesn’t exist and you are blind and it is only a symbol. And then you stand at the bus stop, listening to the final part of Gorecki’s Third Symphony, and there is this cat again, black and lean and aggressive, trying to steal a sandwich from the cold hands of a hungry student.