Biblical stories about Hell describe a scene
that is familiar from repetition, but rarely examined.
One where there is 'much wailing and gnashing of teeth'.
I assume the gnashing is from mental trauma,
and is a sign of the most severe and permanent stress.
But I think also that the teeth that gnashed in Hell
were the sufferers own; theirs from their former life,
when they had eaten well to stay healthy,
even as they had behaved worse than badly.
In medieval depictions of Hell
suffering is hierarchical but universal,
and never one-sided, those who goad
others to suffer are always being goaded
towards torturing themselves even more.
The common description made by those
who reached the Nazi camps as the guards fled
is that those arriving saw 'A scene from Hell',
and not being there then-as they arrived-
I gladly accept their description of the suffering.
But given the small portions of thin gruel
issued as rations in the 27 work camps
I would dispute that it was Hell-the nutrition
in the food was insufficient for the workers
to keep their teeth, never mind their lives.
What could they gnash with, as they wailed inwardly?
Inwardly because if as a prisoner
you wanted to help others
then weakness had to be flatly denied.
And in all 11 of the death camps the arrivals
were meant to die, and their overlords live
sumptuously on the sale of their remains.
In the medieval depictions of Hell
suffering was far more egalitarian.
In the depth of the depicted suffering
human life was never as cheap
as the Nazis made it seem,
to justify themselves.