Tomorrow night at Observatory, join Mark Jacobson--author of the new book The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans--as he details the story of his journey into the world of myth, madness and history prompted by the delivery of a lampshade made of human skin upon his doorstep.
You can read an excerpt from the book (which will be available for sale and signing at the event) in New York Magazine by clicking here.
Full details follow; hope very much to see you there!
The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New OrleansTo find out more, click here. You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library (more on that here)--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here.
An illustrated lecture and book signing with Mark Jacobson, author
Date: Friday, October 22
Books will be available for sale and signing
Few growing up in the aftermath of World War II will ever forget the horrifying reports that Nazi concentration camp doctors had removed the skin of prisoners to makes common, everyday lampshades. In The Lampshade, bestselling journalist Mark Jacobson tells the story of how he came into possession of one of these awful objects, and of his search to establish the origin, and larger meaning, of what can only be described as an icon of terror.
Jacobson’s mind-bending historical, moral, and philosophical journey into the recent past and his own soul begins in Hurricane Katrina–ravaged New Orleans. It is only months after the storm, with America’s most romantic city still in tatters, when Skip Henderson, an old friend of Jacobson’s, purchases an item at a rummage sale: a very strange looking and oddly textured lampshade. When he asks what it’s made of, the seller, a man covered with jailhouse tattoos, replies, “That’s made from the skin of Jews.” The price: $35. A few days later, Henderson sends the lampshade to Jacobson, saying, “You’re the journalist, you find out what it is.” The lampshade couldn’t possibly be real, could it? But it is. DNA analysis proves it.
This revelation sends Jacobson halfway around the world, to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, where the lampshades were supposedly made on the order of the infamous “Bitch of Buchenwald,” Ilse Koch. From the time he grew up in Queens, New York, in the 1950s, Jacobson has heard stories about the human skin lampshade and knew it to be the ultimate symbol of Nazi cruelty. Now he has one of these things in his house with a DNA report to prove it, and almost everything he finds out about it is contradictory, mysterious, shot through with legend and specious information.
Through interviews with forensic experts, famous Holocaust scholars (and deniers), Buchenwald survivors and liberators, and New Orleans thieves and cops, Jacobson gradually comes to see the lampshade as a ghostly illuminator of his own existential status as a Jew, and to understand exactly what that means in the context of human responsibility.
Mark Jacobson has been a staff writer and contributing editor at the Village Voice, Esquire, Natural History, Rolling Stone. He is currently contributing editor at New York Magazine. He is the author of many books including the novels Gojiro and currently, The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story From Buchenwald to New Orleans, as recently featured in a recent issue of New York Magazine. To find out more, click here.