The Drowned and the Saved
Their work must be afflictive, must leave no room for professionalism, must be the work of beasts of burden—pull, push, carry weights, bend the back over the soil. This too is useless violence: useful only to break down current resistance and punish past resistance. The women of Ravensbruck tell about interminable days during the quarantine period (and before their incorporation in the factory work squads) which they spent shovelling sand dunes. In a circle, under the July sun, each deportee had to move the sand of her pile on to that of her neighbour on the right in a pointless and endless merry-go-round, because the sand ended up back where it came from.
But it is doubtful that this torment of body and spirit, mythical and Dantesque, was excogitated to prevent the formation of self-defence and active resistance nuclei: the Lager SS were obtuse brutes, not subtle demons. They had been raised to violence: violence ran in their veins, it was normal, obvious. It could be seen in their faces, their gestures, their language. To humiliate, to make the 'enemy' suffer, was their everyday task; they did not reason about it, they had no ulterior ends: their end was simply that. I do not mean to say that they were made of a perverse human substance, different from ours (there were also sadists and psychopaths among them, but they were few): simply enough, for a few years they had been subjected to a school in which current morality was turned upside down. In a totalitarian regime, education, propaganda and information do not meet with obstacles: they have an unlimited power, about which anyone who was born and has lived in a pluralistic regime will find it difficult to form an idea.