All photographs copyright
© Alan Jacobs.

Latrine in the Women's Camp - BIb

On the wall, "Verhalte dich ruhig" (Behave yourself quiet). Gisella Pearl, an inmate in BIa described in her book the situation the prisoners faced. "There was one latrine for thirty to thirty-two thousand women and we were allowed to use it at only certain hours of the day. We stood in line to get in to this tiny building, knee deep in human excrement. As we all suffered from dysentery, we could rarely wait until our turn came and soiled our ragged clothes, which never came off our bodies, thus adding to the horror of our existence by the terrible smell which surrounded us like a cloud."*

What motivates men and women to treat their fellow humans in this fashion? Places so primitive, so bereft of human dignity, they are really nothing more than what we offer cattle, if that. At least we feed our cattle and protect them from disease. One answer is the SS saw the prisoners as less than human, dehumanized, even not human, merely insects. There was also a dehumanization of the SS accomplished by an insurmountable arrogance, one that supplies answers and disregards important questions, one that believes it has the answer to the riddle of existence. The prisoners were dehumanozed by brutality, and the SS by ideology.

* Perl, G. 1996. In Auschwitz 1270 To The Present, Dwork, D, and van Pelt, R. New York: WW Norton.