restricted access Chapter 13
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59 13 To Shechem, returning from Teacher Efuet’s cell was like returning from a pilgrimage. What he’d just gone through filled him with spiritual nourishment of the kind that transformed Sanko – cells, grounds, warders, inmates – into a fresh new assemblage of purified sights and presences. Suddenly, every story, every inmate’s account of himself, became different, multi-faced, variegated. Criminals were no longer criminals. It was no longer enough to say such and such a person had committed such and such a crime for that person to stand accused of the crime. There were many Teacher Efuets in Sanko with similarly enthralling stories to tell, stories steeped in the redeeming sanction of biblical truth; many Teacher Efuets in Sanko with similarly enthralling stories to tell, stories shot through with the poisoned arrow of human greed. Sanko was no longer a prison. Under the power of Teacher Efuet’s scintillating memory, the place had metamorphosed into Auschwitz, into a concentration camp where the skeletons of injustice were gathered for burning… Babi Yar. Russia’s own version of Auschwitz. The beginning of anti-Semitism is talk, is hatred – the end is Babi Yar: thirty-five thousand – men, women, children, shot and put down in a ravine to be buried; or then six million – men, women, children, cremated, incinerated, call it what you like, roasted, toasted, burnt. Killed, quite simply. Killed. Could Dan Mowena hear the cry of those victims? Could he smell the smell of smoke rising from the gas chambers? Where did he draw the line between Auschwitz and Sanko, between Babi Yar’s cattle Jews and Teacher Efuet? Was there any line, really? If he could not hear the voices of Auschwitz and Babi Yar, could he at least hear ours? We who were closer to him? We whom he saw and touched everyday? Babi Yar, Auschwitz, Sanko, Robben Island, Tcholire, Kirkuk, Mosul, places of deprivation, places of revelation. Man runs away from himself and goes round the corner and crashes into himself again. It’s not me you imprison. It’s yourself. It’s not me you kill or starve or humiliate but yourself. Now that I see the extent of the atrocities, I feel thoroughly guilty. The Nazi war criminal who made this confession at the Nuremberg trials forgot that proactive guilt would have stopped the atrocities from happening, and that all this talk of guilt after the act was total bunkum. 60 Nuremberg tried white men for killing white people, many of them, millions: Jews from Germany and Poland and Russia; but also Germans and Polish and Russians who were not Jews. And the sight of what they did was ugly, uglier than Rwandan mothers throwing their children into the river to save them from slaughter. Volunteers picked up corpses from the street as one would pick strawberries in the fronthouse garden, and lay them on open carts, then bore them away and poured them into a mass grave where they knocked bones with other ones emptied there in truckloads. At least there one understood the sustaining argument. Hitler wanted to clean up the Jewish mess and create room for Aryan purity. Such a rationale can be understood and even endorsed. It lies on the straight route to racial upgrading. There’s so much trash around, all over the place. Millions of human shapes, the existence of which is thoroughly without meaning. The likes of these Hitler incinerated out of the way in his time. At least there one could understand. The chant of Aryan superiority rang in the ears with such beauty that one could not but succumb to its appeal. And Germans fell under its charm with the hysteria of voodoo faithfuls. Hitler had spoken. Hai Hitler! And the gas chambers churned non-stop, tirelessly, dutifully, to cleanse Germany first, then all of Europe hopefully, of man-shaped zoological impurities. Tragic gullibility! But theirs was not a totally blind faith in their Fuhrer. He had a dream for the German people. A leader who does not dream soon realises that he has no followers. Martin Luther King Jr dreamed; the Mahatma dreamed; Ken Sarawiwa dreamed; the serpent in the Bible sold a dream to Eve. Hitler had a dream for his people. They could see where he was taking them, and how. Death. Each death was a new beginning; each descending building room for a new edifice in the grand manner of the Aryan architectural dream. The Fuhrer was a man of great...


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