Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Death by Loose Garment

The whole experience of the victims of the Holocaust, it seems to me, revolved around the fragility of the moment, the overwhelming threat of indiscriminate murder and the abandonement of any sense of future life.

As someone who expects to see tomorrow, and will even dare to expect to see next year, a life lived without the prospect of living is virtually impossible for me to grasp. There nearest I would ever get to this would be to recieve a very acute terminal diagnosis whose prognosis was of weeks not months.

Two accounts were offered to us as we studied this event. One was the account of Roman Frister (author of the book 'The Cap') who testifies to an event in the Camps where he discovered the theft of his cap one day. To me and you, that is an event of little importance or significance, but to an inmate of a Camp, it was tantamount to a death warrant. To gather on the parade ground without a cap would bring a bullet instantaneously. Frister gives an account of how he had to find another cap and steal it during the night so that he would survive in the morning. He tells of the crack of the pistol as the person whose cap he stole was granted the fate he had avoided and was summarily murdered. In the calm of western life in the third millenium, this seems abhorrent - that one man would sacrifice another for his own survival - but we cannot judge, we can never judge anyone who lived in the grip of the insurmountable terror of the Final Solution.

The second account we recieved was more a general account of camp life. Life and death were administered in the most mundane of things - and the distribution of the striped pyjama suits that we are all familiar with, was one such event. You got what you were given - and if you were unlucky enough to recieve trousers that were too large, you would be impeded in your work because of needing to hold them up. This would almost certainly dimish productivity and that would bring a death sentence. Death was indeed brought forth by loose garments. The irony of the discovery of this account when matched up against the modern fashion for mimicking loose trousers prison-style does not escape me.


  1. The tale of the cap is haunting. In the week of Remembrance Sunday we honour those who fought for peace and justice and pray that such attrocities never happen again.

  2. Greetings from Southern California.

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You, ~Ron