The soup tasted
Jesus and the Holocaust: A Case study
Please read the following:
A week later, on the way back from work, we noticed in the center of the camp, at the assembly place, a black gallows.
We were told that soup would not be distributed until after roll call. This took longer than usual. The orders were given in a sharper manner than on other days, and in the air there were strange undertones.
“Bare your heads!” yelled the head of the camp, suddenly.
Ten thousand caps were simultaneously removed.
“Cover your heads!”
Ten thousand caps went back onto their skulls, as quick as lightning.
The gate to the camp opened. An SS section appeared and surrounded us: one SS at every three paces. On the lookout towers the machine guns were trained on the assembly place.
“They fear trouble,” whispered Juliek.
Two SS men had gone to the cells. They came back with the condemned man between them. He was a youth from Warsaw. He had three years of concentration camp life behind him. He was a strong, well-built boy, a giant in comparison with me.
His back to the gallows, his face turned toward his judge, who was the head of the camp, the boy was pale, but seemed more moved than afraid. His manacled hands did not tremble. His eyes gazed coldly at the hundreds of SS guards, the thousands of prisoners who surrounded him.
The head of the camp began to read his verdict, hammering out each phrase:
“In the name of Himmler… prisoner Number… stole during the alert… According to the law… paragraph… prisoner Number… is condemned to death. May this be a warning and an example to all prisoners.”
No one moved.
I could hear my heart beating. The thousands who had died daily at Auschwitz and at Birkenau in the crematory ovens no longer troubled me. But this one, leaning against his gallows—he overwhelmed me.
“Do you think this ceremony’ll be over soon? I’m hungry… “ whispered Juliek.
At a sign from the head of the camp, the Lagerkapo advanced toward the condemned man. Two prisoners helped him in his task—for two plates of soup.
The Kapo wanted to bandage the victim’s eyes, but he refused.
After a long moment of waiting, the executioner put the rope round his neck. He was on the point of motioning to his assistants to draw the chair away from the prisoner’s feet, when the latter cried, in a calm, strong voice:
“Long live liberty! A curse upon Germany! A curse…! A cur—”
The executioners had completed their task. A command cleft the air like a sword.
“Bare your heads.”
Ten thousand prisoners paid their last respects.
“Cover your heads!”
Then the whole camp, block after block, had to march past the hanged man and stare at the dimmed eyes, the lolling tongue of death. The Kapos and heads of each block forced everyone to look him full in the face.
After the march, we were given permission to return to the blocks for our meal.
I remember that I found the soup excellent that evening…
Elie Wiesel - Night (p. 58ff.)
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