By Jean Amery
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France has even found an argot word that nicely plays down a beating by the police. ” Mostly, the public does not prove to be finicky when such occurrences in police stations are revealed now and then in the press. At best, there may be an interpellation in Parliament by some leftist-oriented deputy. But then the stories fizzle out; I have never yet heard of a police official who had beaten a prisoner and was not energetically covered by his su perior officers. Simple blows, which really are entirely incommensurable with actual torture, may almost never create a far-reaching echo among the public, but for the person who suffers them they are still experiences that leave deep marks—if one wishes not to use up the high-sounding words already and clearly say: enormities.
W here docs the strength, where docs the weakness come from? I don't know. One does not know. No one has yet been able to draw distinct borders between the “moral” power of resistance to physical pain and “bodily” resistance (which likewise must be placed in quotation marks). There are more than a few specialists who reduce the entire problem of bearing pain to a purely physiological basis. Here only the French pro fessor of surgery and member of the College de France, Ren6 Leriche, will be cited, who ventured the following judgment: “W e arc not equal before the phenomenon of pain,” the professor says.
A murder is committed, but it is part of the news paper that reported on it. An airplane accident occurred, but that con cerns the people who lost a relative in it. The Gestapo tortures. But that was a matter until now for the somebodies who were tortured and who displayed their scars at antifascist conferences. T hat suddenly you your self are the Somebody, is grasped only with difficulty. That, too, is a kind of alienation. If from the experience of torture any knowledge at all remains that goes beyond the plain nightmarish, it is that of a great amazement and a fnreignnessir^the wflrJd tKat-tiJim otfac compensated by anv sn rtn f snhsequent human communication.