Many thanks for this contribution, crandc, which is interesting from two aspects.
Yes, what we do, our close relatives and friends, our interests and obsessions are all elements that define who we are and provide anchor points in our lives. I always worry about relatives and friends who lose anchor points, whether it be a job, someone close, a key project, as there is a risk that the individual will face mental trauma, because part of their identity has been lost.
In the case of dancers, their lives are so bound up by their calling that it is believable that it forms a more important part of their identity than for most professions. I'm sure that many of us have known dancers who struggled greatly with the trauma of giving up dancing and enlightened companies have transition schemes in place to help that process and provide a new anchor point. So, in that respect, the story and Bettelheim's interpretation are believable.
However, although the story is striking and would evoke a response in any compassionate reader, several elements had me puzzled;
- for their own mental health, I suspect that the guards would not acknowledge the humanity of the condemned and thus the singling out of one of these tragic figures seems unlikely at that late stage.
- with perhaps hundreds of naked, dirty figures passing by, would it be easy to identify an individual?
Even accepting the above, would:
- dancing naked in the open with guards looking on have really felt like "dancing" to a professional dancer?
- the guard have allowed the prisoner so close
- the prisoner been able to wrestle the gun away from the guard
- the prisoner have instantly understood how to fire an unfamiliar rifle at short range
In searching on google for more on this compelling story, I came across the fierce debate about Bruno Bettelheim and the questions raised regarding many aspects of his work and his own account of his life.
Richard Pollack's biography paints a picture of an inveterate deceiver who heavily embroidered his qualifications, his camp experiences, his research results etc etc:
http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9 ... /finn.html
His successor at the school for disturbed children defends his record and Robert Gottlieb responds in this article:
Thus while there is a "truth" to the sense of the concentration camp story, in the light of the above, I suspect that it may have been one of Bettleheim's embroidered events.
Again, many thanks for providing such a stimulating start to my day, crandc.