Take the 2-minute tour ×
Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

According to a number of social media sites, including Reddit:

“If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” — A phrase that was carved on the walls of a concentration camp cell during WWII by a Jewish prisoner.

Is this attribution correct?

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 11 down vote accepted

It's very likely correct. The correct original quote should be:

Wenn es einen Gott gibt muß er mich um Verzeihung bitten.

It is a quote that supposedly appears on the walls of the jails of Mauthausen concentration camp, according to the documentary they show to people at the camp tours.

I have found many anecdotal confirmations of this.

I finally managed to track down a copy of said documentary, unfortunately in Italian, and it does make that claim. Given that is shown in the same concentration camp, I have no reason to doubt it's true.

From a transcript:

Nel carcere del campo, detto bunker, si impidocchiano i detenuti per esperimenti con gli antiparassitari, ma il carcere del campo serve anzitutto per isolare i prigionieri. La Gestapo del campo vuole estorcere confessioni e tiene i detenuti nelle celle, per bastonarli a sangue, per torturarli: per molti questa gabbia è l'ultima tappa della vita.

Mentre, di solito, sulle pareti delle celle ci sono scritte di speranza o testimonianze di uno spirito sveglio che si ribella alla prostrazione, qui troviamo l'ultimo monologo, segno di avvilimento, di disperazione, di morte imminente.

Dio mio perché mi hai abbandonato?

Piegarsi significa mentire

Se esiste un dio, deve chiedermi perdono

Queste scritte sono state ritrovate, dopo il 1945, sui muri delle celle.

(translation)

In the prison of the camp, called the 'bunker', they give lice to prisoners for experiments with pesticides, but the camp's prison serves primarily to isolate the prisoners. The camp's Gestapo wants to extort confessions and holds the prisoners in cells, to beat them bloody, to torture them: for many this cage is the last stage of life.

While, usually, on the walls of the cells there are writings expressing hope, or testimonies of a wakeful spirit which rebels against bowing down, here we find the last monologue, a sign of discouragement, despair, of imminent death .

My God why have you forsaken me?

To bend means to lie

If there is a god, he must ask me forgiveness

These writings were found, after 1945, on the walls of the cells.

The documentary is available on YouTube: http://youtu.be/8r50t7148sA?t=19m20s

enter image description here

Given that the documentary is indeed showing the walls of the Mauthausen jails while this is described by they are (freshly) painted white, I think that the writings are not there anymore, so finding a picture will likely be almost impossible.

There is no proof that these were written by a Jewish prisoner:

  • It is not claimed by the original source. The documentary doesn't say it was a signed message, nor that it was written in Hebrew.
  • It was in the jails, not in the Jewish barracks, which excludes assuming authorship based on location.
  • As mentioned in the comments, only a minority of the Mauthausen inmates were Jews.

Yet it is possible that some of the authors were Jewish:


Update: I've found on the official Mauthausen Memorial web site, a German and English translation of the documentary which is called "Rückkehr unerwünscht (return undesirable)". The interesting part is still at 19m20s.

share|improve this answer
    
Does the original German quote translates to "If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness" exactly? –  Ilya Melamed Jan 1 at 19:47
    
@IlyaMelamed google is your friend –  Sklivvz Jan 1 at 19:52
4  
Google translate isn't a good source to get the "Exact" translation. As many times a phrase or a sentence will have a meaning that is greater than just its literal translation, Something that a human speaking the language may understand but a machine will not, for example "J'accuse" has a far greater meaning than "I accuse" even though they are the same phrase in different languages. –  Ilya Melamed Jan 1 at 20:01
1  
@ChrisW literally: "awake", cf. "vigil". –  Sklivvz Jan 1 at 20:13
1  
@IlyaMelamed “If there is a God, He will have to beg my forgiveness.” is how it's translated in the English-language version of the documentary (presumably by a professional human translator). It's also how I read the German: with possible minor variations e.g. "ask" instead of "beg", and "pardon" instead of "forgiveness" - there are various idioms in English like "I beg your pardon", "please forgive me", "I am sorry" - perhaps a modern non-literal colloquial might be something like "he'll have to say 'sorry' to me". –  ChrisW Jan 2 at 0:26
show 7 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.