Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
"Arbeit macht frei" is the macabre phrase most people associate with concentration camps. I used the lesser known "Jedem das Seine" partially because of the historical broadcast of Murrow from Buchenwald. Other than that, it struck me because I am, as most people, familiar with the former motto.

It strikes me because of its cast-iron mockery of Justice. It does refer to an old Greek-Roman idea of Justice, "Justice renders to everyone his due." The basic tenant of Justice is that a person has an identity, is an individual, tried by laws common to "everyone." Yet it is Nazi-Fascism that made it a norm that certain humans did not exist as citizens. They had no legal status. They were "bare life" as Giorgio Agamben has so aptly put it.

As I mentioned in a recent comment to MarekNYC's excellent diary on Holocaust Denial, Hitler made laws of exception a norm with the Enabling Act.

In a (permanent) state of exception zones are created for the "living dead," those same people described by Murrow in his broadcast. As Agamben puts it in his book Homo Sacer

Let's imagine, now, the inhabitant of the camp, in his most extreme representation. Primo Levi described him in camp jargon as "the Muslim", a being in whom humiliation, horror and fear had severed all consciousness and personality, to the point of absolute apathy... Not only was he excluded, like his companions, from the political and social context to which he once belonged. Not only, as Jewish life who did not deserve to live, was he destined to a future not far from death. Worse, he no longer in any way belonged to the world of men, not even the menaced and precarious world of the inhabitants of the camp, who had from the beginning forgotten him. Mute and absolutely alone, he had passed into another world, without memory or regret. Holderlin's assertion applies to him to the letter, "at the extreme limits of pain there exists nothing but the conditions of time and space."

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Jan 28th, 2006 at 05:57:42 PM EST
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