I recently paid a visit to Mauthausen in Austria, the former concentration camp. A granite quarry is a stone’s throw away. Simon Wiesenthal who survived and became a world-famous Nazi-hunter after the war was one of its most famous prisoners, and one of the few who survived. However, let’s first listen to some general information from Wikipedia:
Nazi Germany established the Mauthausen concentration camp in August 1938, five months after the annexation of Austria. This provided a men’s camp on Austrian soil in order to secure prison capacity for the planned war. In the end, there were approximately 49 satellite camps in the area. The area around Mauthausen was chosen because of its rich granite deposits for the prisoners to extract for building materials. The quarry was called ‘Wiener Graben’.
A prisoner, who survived Auschwitz and was transferred to Mauthausen, called this camp the ‘pit of hell’ and worse than Auschwitz because of the unspeakable sadistic cruelty. As with the majority of the Nazi camps, the living- and work-environment for the political prisoners in particular, were extremely bad. Every day was characterised by maltreatment, punishment, disease, and hunger. Prisoners were either beaten to death, hanged or shot.
A staircase with 186 steps led to the bottom of the granite quarry, where many people lost their lives. Sick prisoners were either left to freeze or starve, or killed by phenol injection or poison gas. Mauthausen had a gas chamber in the basement, close to the camp brothel. The murdered prisoners were incinerated in two ‘Topf und Söhne’ incinerators or crematoria. Prior to cremation, the bodies were laid on an examination table next to the gas chambers and ovens, where a doctor stripped them of valuable prostheses, such as gold teeth.
There were 197,464 prisoners detained in Mauthausen during the war, because of their political or religious affiliations or beliefs, sexual orientation, their criminals past or as Prisoners of War. Between1500 and 2000 Dutch people were amongst the more than 95,000 people killed in Mauthausen.
The prisoners, weighing barely 40 kilograms themselves, had to carry 40-kilogram self-hewn stones on their backs, climbing 186 rough, uneven steps to the camp. Sometimes, when the steps were crowded, the SS- guards would kick the prisoners who then tumbled like dominoes from the top to the bottom, where many were killed, and others gravely injured, by the heavy granite blocks. Or they were pushed over the precipice of the so-called ‘Parachute Wall’, into the abyss.
A plaque at the foot of ‘parachute’ ravine, written in German, reads:”Many hundreds of prisoners were thrown down this steep wall into the ravine. They were either smashed at the foot of the wall, or drowned in the deep pools. Often prisoners, who could no longer endure their torment, jumped off the cliff. The SS jocularly referred to these prisoners, who were pushed over the edge to die, as ‘parachutists’. The first group of Dutch Jews, who arrived in Mauthausen in the summer of 1942, was thrown down this precipice by the SS.”
Simon Wiesenthal said: “Jews were rarely, if ever, shot in Mauthausen. They were destined for the ‘Wiener Graben – Viennese grave’. In a single day, on March 31st 1943 and in the presence of Heinrich Himmler, 1000 Dutch Jews were hurled down from a height of over 50 meters….! “
NACHT UND NEBEL (NIGHT AND FOG)
Floris Bakel, writer of the book ‘Nacht und Nebel’ (Night and Fog), published the diaries he wrote on small pieces of paper and concealed in the eight prisons and concentration camps he survived. I once accompanied him with a camera-crew to all these camps, and listened to his memories. I shall never forget this experience.
Two things impressed me very much among the many things Floris shared with me: the roll call, and the quarry. Standing through roll call for endless hours, in the burning sun or bitter cold. The bullying and shouting of the guards. The public torture and executions. The middle of hell. And then, all of a sudden, that small plant (maybe even just a ‘weed’) amongst the stones, with that one tiny beautiful flower. And the sudden reality of the majesty of creation and the Creator that dawned upon me. Everything faded and a deep peace remained, he said. Incredible formations of clouds in the skies. No one could take that away from you.
When he was arrested on the 9th of April 1942 and taken away in an open lorry on a pitchdark night – suddenly there was a halo of light, like a bowl of light, above the church tower of Pijnacker, and he ‘hears’: ‘Don’t be afraid, it is Me…’ and an inner conviction came over him: you will survive. Until then Floris was not religious and did not have a religious upbringing. But, suddenly … thís!
On the way to the quarry, he is beaten mercilessly by a guard with a shovel, almost breaking his back. And yet the strong conviction: you will survive. And ultimately he did survive and was liberated by the Americans from the concentrationcamp Dachau. He remembered: some prisoners who stole from the food rations of others, ultimately did not make it in the end. And yet, those who sometimes shared their limited and meagre fare to prevent others from dying, while being extremely hungry themselves, survived in the end.
And then this crucifix. Nailed to a tree in an orchard – as was customary in Catholic areas of Germany. One morning – while marching in a column towards the quarry – Floris removed his striped prisoner’s cap. Respectfully. Within a few days the whole group, communists, atheists and Calvinists, all did the same. The whole group took off their hats and saluted the suffering Christ. Out of respect. Identifying themselves with Him. The guards never said anything about it…
THE STONE WITHOUT HUMAN HANDS
The Bible talks about a stone, a rock too – in Daniel 2:44-45. Looking around us and observing the developments in the world we get the impression that we are heading for the final phases of this phase of worldhistory. We are nearing the deployment of the last world empire. Ultimately an empire of evil. The book of Revelation chapter 13 verse 7 says: …He was given power to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authorityover every tribe, people, language and nation… This final empire will contain everything that in the course of human history was invented and developped by previous empires. It will be the final attempt by the ‘powers of darkness’ to establish a global empire of peace and justice in the name of man. A human enterprise. ‘Babylon’ at its best.
The Egyptian-, Assyrian-, Babylonian-, Medo-Persian-, Greek- (divided among 4 generals), Roman- and post-Roman empires succeeded one another in history. In the end, in this final empire, they will simultaneously re-appear on the world stage, displaying their particular characteristics and attributes. A final attempt to bring in the kingdom of peace and justice in the name of man. Man considering himself to be divine. Just as the devil told at the beginning of Creation in Genesis 3:5 ‘You will be like God’. And God said about ‘Babylon’ in Gensis 11: ‘nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them’. To name a few of these characteristics of these various empires of past history, especially of the empires that Daniel sees as ‘beasts’ in chapter 7 and as a ‘statue’ in Daniel 2: an absolute dictator at the top, the golden head – Babylon. The iron laws of empire of the Medes and the Persians. Greek culture and achievements like Greek Hellenism/humanism, democracy, science and technology, art and architecture, (Olympic) games and sport. The Greeks considered homosexuality as a higher form of love than the love between a man and a woman. Finally the invincible Roman military power by it’s war-machines: the legions.
Although these individual empires all had different characteristics, the Bible says that they are one in their shared hatred towards the Jews. That is the common denominator. The Babylonian Empire, under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and carried the Jews into exile. The Medo-Persian Empire promulgated laws to destroy all Jews, and only by Esther’s intervention and another law issued by the king of the Medes and the Persians that the Jews were allowed to defend themselves thwarted that. The Greek Empire wanted to force the Jews to accept the Greek Hellenism/humanism, or face death. As a result the uprising under the Maccabeans took place and these God-fearing Jews cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it to the service of the God of Israel. Every year the Jewish Feast of Channukah celebrates this victory over Greek humanism. Finally the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, again, and led the Jewish people into worldwide exile.
The statue that King Nebukadnessar sees in Daniel 2 stands in its entirety on its feet when the rock strikes the statue at the feet, and crushes the entire statue. Grinds it into dust that is blown away by the wind, …like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer..., Daniel 2:31-35. The final empire on a worldwide scale that we see develop before our very eyes in our days, contains all the elements of all the empires that in history came one after another. The golden head, torso and arms of silver, abdomen and thighs of brass, legs of iron, feet of iron and clay-like porcelain, baked clay. Daniel says: … While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth…(Daniel 2:31-35).
And then a thought came to me: The worldwide demonic era will, one day, be brought to an end by a large rock, without the assistance of human hands. It will be crushed and pulverize to dust and, like chaff on a threshing floor in summer, be removed by the wind until not a trace remains. And this stone… this rock, will become a huge mountain that fills the entire earth. The Kingdom of God will finally come. ‘Babylon’- the city of man will finally fall, and ‘Jerusalem’- the city of God will fill the earth. Let’s carefully watch the ‘signs of the times’. The promising signs of the true ‘new age’ to come are visible: Israel is returning to the Promised Land. The land, the people and the city of Jerusalem are being restored. The Kingdom is coming, and the King of that Kingdom will come to make all things new forever.