Clifford Thompson at Vox Populi:
It should not be necessary to say that slavery, by its very nature, in its mere existence, is evil; that the gentlest slave owner is at best a morally compromised individual and at worst a sick one; and that we must never lose sight of these facts. But I say it, first, because there are still those who would de-emphasize the evil of slavery if not actually sing its praises (hello, Cliven Bundy), and second, I want no one to misinterpret what I feel moved to write.
Which is: that a (somewhat random) survey of well-known Holocaust memoirs and black American slave narratives would suggest that slavery is to the Holocaust as the darkest, most dispiriting and heart-sickening music is to a continuous, ear-splitting shriek. To experience life in a concentration camp — if it could be called life — was to undergo a uniform process of person-grinding that varied only to the extent that some took longer than others to be ground to nothing. (This leaves out the few who were able to maneuver into positions of relative privilege and the millions who were murdered outright). The world portrayed by Primo Levi in Survival in Auschwitz, by Elie Wiesel inNight, by many of those interviewed by Lyn Smith for Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust is one where escape was neither possible nor hoped for, where one survived outwardly by dying inwardly — cutting oneself off from human psychological need, from humanness itself. Levi wrote that he and those around him in Auschwitz became less than men. (The exceptions here were those few who, like Viktor Frankl, resisted the outer horror through strong inner lives, as Frankl recounted in Man’s Search for Meaning.)