Joy Division took their name from the novel “The House Of Dolls” by Jewish author Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (real name Yehiel De-Nur), an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor (his pen name means “Concentration Camper”, and 135633 was his number). He wrote about the many horrors committed by the nazis. “The House Of Dolls” is about ‘Joy Division’ – Jewish women in concertation camps who were turned into sex slaves for the pleasure of Nazi soldiers. He claimed it was inspired by the fate of his younger sister who did not survive the Holocaust.
The spoken part from ‘No Love Lost’ is taken directly from the book.
This sinister fact , while generally lost on new kids sporting their ubiquitous “Unknown Pleasures” t-shirts — among them Iggy Azalea and Kristin Stewart — has only added to the bands mystique. Other bands from this era might have spouted nihilistic lyrics and quotes from existentialists such as Albert Camus and Jean Paul Satre, 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.” Joy Division did not exploit the nazi era, as so many of its punk peers did. Rather, its members were profoundly and genuinely moved by the holocaust.
It would be easy to view Joy Division’s front man Ian Curtis’ untimely demise as cautionary tale against taking on weighty issues such as the holocaust. The truth can set you free, its often said, but it can also be a dangerous burden. Curtis’ inner turmoil made him both particularly attuned to the suffering of the slaves at Auschwitz and their most unlikely conduit.
Unfortunately, the message ended up killing the messenger. Curtis had a rare gift of being able to address world tragedies and transmit them creative as a legacy that’s both uplifting and humanitarian, most likely the reason why Joy Division’s songs still resonate so heavily.
Distilled emotion is the essence of punk music, and just as Joy Division are perfectly poised between white light and dark despair, so Curtis’ lyrics oscillate between hopelessness and the possibility of, if not absolute need for, human connection.