They were the darkest of the late-1970s U.K. bands, skyrocketing to fame after their lead singer hanged himself in 1980 to become one of the most bootlegged bands ever. But Joy Division’s greatest enigma may have been its name — a reference to the brothel at Auschwitz as depicted in the book “House of Dolls” by Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Yehiel De-Nur).
That sinister fact, while lost on the new kids sporting their ubiquitous “Unknown Pleasures” T-shirts — among them Iggy Azalea, Kristen Stewart and the members of One Direction — has only added to the band’s mystique. Other doom-and-gloom acts from the period may have spouted nihilistic lyrics and quoted Existentialists such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, but no one else compared their sense of despair, isolation and self-loathing with that of a Nazi sex slave, as Joy Division did in its first single, “No Love Lost.” Its cover depicted a Hitler youth member beating a drum. The B-side, “Warsaw,” recounted the story of Nazi deserter Rudolf Hess, who fled to Scotland.
So, how did a this handful of young non-Jews from Manchester, England, become obsessed with the Holocaust? Thirty-five years after the band’s breakup, two new books shed light on the odd connection.
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