September 22, 2003
A Horrible Story That Saps Any Remaining Warmth or Hope You Might Have for Homo Sapiens Sapiens

You may not know the lower-case g genius Banksy, but his work deserves a lot more than an entry of its own. For now, I was reading his little book "Existencilism," and I found this horrible story that cuts into muscle and bone. Which one does when there's something that has to be removed. It's hard to read, so I broke it into an extended entry in case it's not the time to read something hard.

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The liberation of Nazi death camp, Bergen-Belsen

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywher, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.

It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing could save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit becasue they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.

Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentery which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated.

It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wantering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was amongst the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Source: Imperial War Museum.

Posted by kevin slavin at September 22, 2003 12:52 PM
Comments

I came across this from Banksy's website. As someone who is Jewish and is saturated with talks of the Holocaust so often I was in a way numb to it all. Few situations could actually put the horrific tradgedy of Holocaust in scope because I was so used to hearing about it. In 6th grade, my school trip was to Washington, D.C. and we went to the Holocaust Museum and it hit me there. Years later in my senior year of high school, I went on a program called March of the Living. I was actually at these concentration camps. I was in this place where my people had to suffer for years. Even then it was only for a few moments it would actually hit me. That if I were alive when these camps were operational I would have been in one of these. To experience the raw rage that would inspire me to actually kill a Nazi if I were given the chance. My point is this diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO evokes that sick emotion from me. Indeed his entry and Banksy's art cut me straight to my core. I think that it's good to feel something in my core because so rarely something can have that effect on us, we guard ourselves so well. Thank you Mervin Willett Gonin and thank you Banksy for bringing this out of me.

Posted by: Andrew on March 28, 2005 02:06 AM

True say...

Posted by: Alex Sibley on February 4, 2006 05:21 PM
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