The man who is to die in front of us today in some way took part in the revolt. They said he had contacts with the rebels of Birkenau, that he carried arms into our camp, that he was plotting a simultaneous mutiny among us. He is to die today before our very eyes: and perhaps the Germans do not understand that this solitary death, this man's death which has been reserved for him, will bring him glory, not infamy.
At the end of the German's speech, which nobody understood, the raucous voice of before again rose up: 'Habt ihr verstanden?' Have you understood?
Who answered 'Jowohl'? Everybody and nobody: it was as if our cursed resignation took body by itself, as if it turned into a collective voice about our heads. But everybody heard the cry of the doomed man, it pierced through the thick barriers of inertia and submissiveness, it struck the living core of man in each of us:
'Kamaraden, ich bin der Letz!' (Comrades, I am the last one!)
I wish I could say that from the midst of us, an abject flock, a voice rose, a murmur, a sign of assent. But nothing happened. We remained standing, bent and grey, our heads dropped, and we did not uncover our heads until the Germans ordered us to do so. The trapdoor opened, the body wriggled horribly; the band began playing again and we were once more lined up and filed past the quivering body of the dying man.
At the foot of the gallows, the SS watch us pass with indifferent eyes: their work is finished, and well finished. The Russians can come now: there are no longer any strong men among us, the last one is hanging about our heads, and as for the others, a few halters had been enough. The Russians can come now: they will only find us, the slaves, the worn-out, worthy of the unarmed death which awaits us.
To destroy a man is difficult, almost as difficult as to create one: it has not be easy, nor quick, but you Germans have succeeded. Here we are, docile under your gaze; from our side you have nothing more to fear; no acts of violence, no words of defiance, not even a look of judgment.
Alberto and I went back to the hut, and we could not look each other in the face. That man must have been tough, he must have been made of another metal than us if this condition of ours, which has broken us, could not bend him.
Because we also are broken, conquered: even if we know how to adapt ourselves, even if we have finally learnt how to find our food and to resist the fatigue and cold, even if we return home.
We lifted the menaschka on the bunk and divided it, we satisfied the daily ragings of hunger, and we now are oppressed by shame.