The photograph I have before me shows a man taken towards them. They don’t drag, nor push him. He goes, towards death, alone and naked. His virile member is visible; a white dot between excessive pubes, disproportionate from the bad quality of the print, which accentuates blacks and grays; especially blacks. He is a man so thin, so thin that, technically, he isn’t one any longer. He is a thing. Werner Rolfe is wrong. They didn’t kill Jews, or gypsies, or enemies of the Reich. It is impossible to make out the condition of the man in the photograph. He eyes were huge. Something that leads to a mistake, to the belief that he looks with terror. No, he no longer looked. The dilation of those eyes – produced by hunger and suffering – was a form of blindness. His cheeks were also enormous, rising from his skeletal face. I recall (brutally, disinterested) a sentence of Gabriel Marcel: “Every day we look more like the cadaver we will be”. That man, walking now towards the gas shower, was already the cadaver we would be.
Rolfe was not wrong: they didn’t kill people, they killed things. They killed the dead. Before, much before, putting them in the gas showers, they had broken them as people. They had submitted them to the essential task of the camp: remove their identity, kill subjectivity, and kill them as subjects.
That man, with the enormous eyes, looks at me, because he has seen the camera. He’s seen the executioner who dedicated himself to recording this new deed of our country, and looked at him. I know he saw nothing. I know he could no longer see.
But to me, now, he sees me.
He looks at me.
I don’t have a single answer to give him.
I know we aren’t the only monsters in this world. I know the Bolsheviks kill millions in their frozen camps. I know the Americans made themselves butchers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as efficient as us in our camps. I know that Mussolini, towards the end of the thirties gave us Jews by the thousands. I know the French were pliant to the point of complicity. I know Churchill was hyena in Dresden. I know, then, that no one can judge us. The desert grows, it will cover the earth and nothing will make sense.
I have no one to ask forgiveness from.
But I need to do it.
Labels: The Shadow of Heidegger