All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

~ Edmund Burke

Camp de Concentration du Struthof, photo by Jean-Luc Stadler, courtesy of iStockphoto

Everyone should visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Exhibit after exhibit of heinous crimes remind us of mankind’s depravity when there are no moral restraints. Saddening. Sickening. Despicable.

My uncle was one of the soldiers who witnessed the horrors of those concentration camps. Even as dementia erased his memory, he recalled the vivid nightmares seared into his mind.

The Holocaust remains a sobering testimonial of atrocities perpetrated against innocent people during World War II. Unspeakable crimes. Unthinkable malice. Indescribable anguish.

It’s appalling we let it happen. That’s why the memorial has Burke’s proclamation posted on a wall as the patrons exit. No group of people should be allowed to abuse people created in God’s image like they did.

But what’s more disconcerting is … the Nazis felt justified in their depravity.

  • They claimed that they helped humanity.

One of the memorial’s displays describes how the Nazi scientists experimented on helpless men, women, and children. The tyrants had no regard for their prisoners’ health, or really anyone else’s for that matter. The fiends just tested the limits of human endurance for their own satisfaction.

They tortured by inconceivable means. Toyed with various weapons. They shot some. Electrocuted others. Gassed thousands. Incinerated scores more.

You name it – they probably did it. But we want to focus on just one investigation the perpetrators undertook.

  • They experimented with hanging.

Aufbinden was a form of military castigation intended to discipline soldiers. In the Dachau concentration camp, the assassins extended it to murder.[1]

  • The Nazis suspended the condemned men by various means.

They found that the different methods had varying effects on the human body. What they determined is that they could impact the victims’ suffering and death by what techniques they employed.[2]

  • Dangling of a human body causes extensive muscle spasms (tetany).

Tetany involves muscle groups throughout the human body. Excruciating pain ensues because muscles in the limbs, chest, stomach, and back remain in sustained cramps.

One spectator of aufbinden noted that the corpses persisted in extreme rigidity.[3] Death didn’t relax the convulsed muscles.

  • Suffocation follows the tetany.

Eyewitnesses reported that the victims of aufbinden constantly pulled themselves up to breathe. One observer reported:

After hanging for an hour, this drawing up became more and more frequent, but at the same time more and more feeble.[4]

  • The body fatigued very quickly.

The onlooker recounted that the victims died after about three hours. Sometimes, the Nazis sped up the asphyxiation by tying weights onto the legs to hasten the suffocation. At other times, they spread out the hands to lengthen the process.

  • It appeared that the victims could inhale but not exhale.

Such a process would mimic the disease of emphysema (COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). The lungs would fill with carbon dioxide, which limited how much oxygen could enter.

  • These processes led to progressive suffocation.

No relief came to these individuals until they died.

  • Believe it or not, the Romans had recognized similar effects.

They understood that their techniques of impaling the condemned impacted the time it would take for death to occur. The Persians were the first to crucify enemies, followed by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The latter conquerors perfected its cruelty by extending its torment.

  • Someone who’s crucified would endure these same atrocities.

Jesus suffered similar abominations that these victims in the Nazi concentration camps did. That almost all of these prisoners were innocent Jews produces a startling reminder of what happened when the Romans did much the same thing to Jesus …

  • They crucified the King of the Jews.[5]


What are your thoughts about Jesus suffering the cruel fate that God’s people have since biblical days?

[2] Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Fort Collins, CO: Roman Catholic Books, 1953), 174.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Matthew 27:37.