Its been said that more than half of our communication is non-verbal such as use of facial expressions, tone of voice and eye contact. When I see this young teenager dressed in an poorly fitting prison uniform, I see the saddest expression. Her hair had been hastily cut off, dried blood on her lips, and the saddest of eyes staring back at me. This is the the photograph of Auschwitz concentration camp prisoner, Czeslawa Kwoka. From the prison badge, it appears she was likely a political prisoner. She was a 14 year old Catholic girl from Poland.
The camp photographer, Wilhelm Brasse, remembers taking her photographs and describes what took place before the photos were taken:
“She was so young and so terrified. The girl didn’t understand why she was there and she couldn’t understand what was being said to her. So this woman Kapo (a prisoner overseer) took a stick and beat her about the face. This German woman was just taking out her anger on the girl. Such a beautiful young girl, so innocent. She cried but she could do nothing. Before the photograph was taken, the girl dried her tears and the blood from the cut on her lip. To tell you the truth, I felt as if I was being hit myself but I couldn’t interfere. It would have been fatal for me. You could never say anything”.
Czeslawa and her mother, Katarzyna, were deported and transported from their home in Zamosc, Poland and moved to Auschwitz. This ethnic cleansing was all part of the National Socialist Worker’s Party leader, Adolph Hitler, from the start. Czeslawa died about 3 months after this photo was taken.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
A thought provoking scene from the TV comedy show M*A*S*H captures a dialogue between Hawkeye and Father Mulcahy describes the difference between War and Hell…
Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.
Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?
Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?
Father Mulcahy: Um, sinners, I believe.
Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell, but war is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for a few of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.
“…stand ready to do violence on their behalf”