"Death's Head Revisited" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.
"Mr. Schmidt, recently arrived in a small Bavarian village which lies eight miles northwest of Munich, a picturesque, delightful little spot onetime known for its scenery but more recently related to other events having to do with some of the less pursuits of man: human slaughter, torture, misery and anguish. Mr. Schmidt, as we will soon perceive, has a vested interest in the ruins of a concentration camp - for once, some seventeen years ago, his name was Gunther Lutze. He held the rank of captain in the S.S. He was black-uniformed, strutting animal whose function in life was to give pain, and like his colleagues of the time he shared the one affliction most common amonst that breed known as Nazis: he walked the Earth without a heart. A now former S.S. Captain Lutze will revisit his old haunts, satisfied that all that is awaiting himin the ruins of the hill is an element of nostalgia. What he does not know, of course, is that a place like Dachau cannot exist only in Bavaria. By its nature, by its very nature, it must be one of the populated areas of the Twilight Zone."
Gunther Lutze, a former captain in the SS, returns to the ruins of Dachau concentration camp to relive the memories of his time as its commandant during World War II. He revels in the recollections of the torment he inflicted on the inmates, remembering with a cold smile the suffering he was responsible for. As he walks around the gallows and prepares to leave, he is surprised to see Alfred Becker, one of the camp's inmates. As they talk, Becker relentlessly dogs Lutze with the reality of his grossly inhumane treatment of the inmates, while Lutze stubbornly and unemotionally insists that he was only carrying out his orders and had no idea that the Third Reich planned to exterminate Jews. Becker and several other inmates later put Lutze on trial for crimes against humanity and find him guilty. Before Becker can pronounce the sentence, Lutze remembers that he killed Becker 17 years ago on the night US troops came close to Dachau, and realizes that Becker, as well as all the men who witnessed his trial, are ghosts. As punishment and atonement, Lutze is made to undergo the same horrors he had imposed on the inmates. He is not physically touched; rather, he experiences the pain in his mind, culminating near the gate, the gallows, and the detention room, where he screams in agony, having been driven insane. Before departing, Becker's ghost informs him, "This is not hatred. This is retribution. This is not revenge. This is justice. But this is only the beginning, Captain. Only the beginning. Your final judgment will come from God." Lutze is eventually found and taken to a mental institution for the criminally insane, leaving his finders to survey the remains of the camp in wonder and bafflement, wondering how Lutze was driven insane in two hours. As they prepare to leave and take Lutze to the asylum, the doctor who examined him looks around visibly upset and asks, "Dachau. Why does it still stand? Why do we keep it standing?" The episode ends with Serling's closing monologue: "There is an answer to the doctor's question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God's Earth."
"There is an answer to the doctor's question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes - all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God's Earth."
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week, we see what will happen to a world that, with each passing hour, draws closer and closer to the sun. This is a nightmare in depth, in which we watch two doomed women spend their last hours struggling for survival against a fiery orb that moves over the top of a hot, still, deserted city. We call it "The Midnight Sun", and we also recommend it most heartily.
Gordon F. Sander, excerpt from Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man: Serling meted out nightmarish justice of a worse kind in "Deaths-Head Revisited" (directed by Don Medford), Serling's statement on the Holocaust, written in reaction to the then-ongoing Eichmann trial, in which a former Nazi, played by Oscar Beregi, on a nostalgic visit to Dachau, is haunted and ultimately driven insane by the ghosts of inmates he had killed there during the war.
In Popular Culture
The band Anthrax sampled a few lines of the dialogue for the introduction to the instrumental song "Intro to Reality" on the 1990 album Persistence of Time. The instrumental segues into the next song, "Belly of the Beast", which itself is based on the episode's story. The New Jersey hardcore band Rorschach samples some of the lines from the ending narration on the song "Lightning Strikes Twice" from their album Remain Sedate.
- Cayuga Productions
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (in association with)
- Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)