Treblinka

Steiner, Jean Francois, trans. Helen Weaver

Simon & Schuster, 1967

pp. 72 - 73

On rifle shooting of Jewish victims at close range in Poland. “The inadequacies of the system, which were of two kinds, technical and psychological, had to do with the method of execution, namely, shooting. In the first place, shooting produced a low output, and in the second place, it created a relationship between the executioner and the victim which was prejudicial to the former’s morale . . . With a firing squad you never knew who killed whom. The new system, on the contrary, personalized the act. Each executioner had ‘his’ victims . . . [also] a physical proximity, since the executioner stood less than a yard away from his victim. Of course, he did not see him from the front, but it was discovered that necks, like faces, also individualize people. This accumulation of necks–suppliant, proud, fearful, broad, frail, hairy, or tanned–rapidly became intolerable to the executioners, who could not help feeling a certain sense of guilt. Like blind faces, these necks came to haunt their dreams.”