City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Dachau Guide Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 31 August 2012

Dachau Tour Guide; Robert Johnson.
Show details
Robert Johnson / PBH's Free Fringe
Running time: 
Robert Johnson (writer)
Robert Johnson

This is the story of Robert Johnson’s experience of working as a guide at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp – a job that nobody aspires to.

It seems surprising that Johnston is American, as he admits “Americans don’t emigrate”, but it’s a winding road that has taken him to Dachau. Originally an exchange student he started by qualifying as a more general guide, doing the usual scenic beer and castles type tours. Working at Dachau was not just something he didn’t seek, but actively resisted, not wanting to “sour” himself on Germans. The camp comes closer on a long, hot walk there with his brother, Tommy – a violent and racist skinhead.

Johnson’s telling of the story is given with an uncompromising restless pace, peppered with personal details and historical facts. Accuracy and truth are clearly big things with him and he seems to view the “Never Again” message inscribed on the camp’s memorial as too complacent.  This is in some ways a never ending story. Concentration camps may have started with the prototype Dachau but they didn’t end there and the lessons in being not human echo down the years.

Even for those with knowledge of the Holocaust there are new details and perspectives to be found. What Johnson does is not a museum tour – he manages to place it in context and bring it to life. Some of the detail is so personal as to lessen its resonance but it is his story and therefore unfair to criticise. This is a spoken word piece and to his credit the authenticity of the telling is more powerful than some drama that covers similar issues.  That said, it would tempting to see if a more theatrical approach could wring even more from it.

As he says, he does it “because somebody has to” - all that he asks is that you listen, and then you are free to go.

Show Times: Run ended (4-25 August 2012)

Ticket Prices: Free

Well done for making it to Dachau Guide, Ken! When I spoke to him earlier in the Fringe he said he was not getting good houses. It didn't help that the show wasn't listed in the Fringe brochure. Hope that he was getting bigger audiences later in the Fringe.

Thanks. As you point out, it was difficult to get the show known.  I was the only person there on that particular day (two people came in later), but Robert kindly performed it as usual.  I would hope that the show is picked up and that he is invited to take part in one of the official Holocaust Memorial Day events on 27th January (the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz).