What’s Wrong with Torture?
Jean Améry, a Belgian Jew, who was tortured by the Nazis before being sent to a concentration camp, survived and wrote about his ordeals. “[O]n the basis of an experience that in no way probed the entire range of possibilities, I dare to assert that torture is the most horrible event a human being can retain within himself ” (1980: 22). He describes how torture aff ected him: “Th e fi rst blow brings home to the prisoner that he is helpless ” and he loses “trust in the world” (pp. 27, 28). If Améry’s torturers were motivated to produce these subjective experiences, then from his perspective, it worked very well. “Whoever was tortured, stays tortured” (p. 34). However, if the purpose was to obtain information important to the Nazi war eff ort, torture made him speak, but he had nothing of value to say: “I accused myself of invented absurd political crimes … Apparently I had the hope that, after such incriminating disclosures, a wellaimed blow to the head would put an end to my misery” (p. 36).